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3.31 | 13 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1969

Filed under Proto-Metal


1. Black Sabbath
2. White Witch of Rose
3. Coven in Charing Cross
4. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
5. Pact With Lucifer
6. Choke, Thirst, Die
7. Wicked Woman
8. Dignitaries of Hell
9. Portrait
10. Satanic Mass


- Jinx Dawson / Vocals
- Oz Osborne / Bass
- Chris Neilsen / Guitar
- Rick Durrett / Keyboards
- Steve Ross / Drums

About this release

1969 - Mercury(US) gatefold
2003 - Akarma(Italy) CD: Digipak
2003 - Akarma(Italy) LP: gatefold

Thanks to Certif1ed for the addition and cannon for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
The history of evil as the subject matter of music stems all the way back to sounds of the violin in classical music and eventually the term was attributed to all of jazz music for its ability to interfere with the orthodoxies of the established musical paradigm so it’s no surprise that evil themes and deviant sounds would find their way into the rock world only a decade after the genre’s nascent birth pangs. The first sign of evil themes in music was the appearance of Aleister Crowley on The Beatles’ landmark “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” which opened the flood gates for not only more experimental musical ideas that led to more progressive forms of rock music but apparently also gave permission for artists to dabble into the more occult themes that had hitherto been eschewed in lieu of feel good pop culture or psychedelic escapist dreams as the late 60s came into its own.

Black Sabbath is rightly acknowledged for giving birth to the whole doom fueled darkness that would blossom into the greater heavy metal universe but the English band wasn’t the first rock band to delve into the darker world of the occult. That honor wouldn’t emerge on British soil at all but rather in Chicago, USA and initiated by the band COVEN who in 1969 debuted many themes and attributes that would become synonymous with metal despite actually being a psychedelic acid rock band that sounded more like Jefferson Airplane than Sabbath, Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. The band boldly dropped their debut occult themed debut on an unsuspecting public in the form of WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND REAPS SOULS in 1969, the year before Black Sabbath debuted their own darkened themes set to music. Add to that, COVEN invented the metal salute of the sign of horns, displayed inverted crosses and reveled in the phrase “Hail Satan.”

The band was the creation of lead vocalist Jinx Dawson and bassist Oz Osbourne who were in a previous band named Him, Her and Them and after hooking up with drummer Steve Ross, COVEN was born in 1967 and paid their dues by playing alongside late 60s acts like the Yardbirds, early Alice Cooper and Vanilla Fudge. The band’s overt occult symbology and lyrical content naturally generated much controversy and caught the attention of Mercury Records who was eager to cash in on the growing popularity and enthusiasm towards the occult that was sweeping the world. Despite the interest in this sort of underground rock as it was called, the album was quickly removed from the market after its release but became a cult classic due to its completely unapologetic use of occult characteristics that would soon be adopted in the world of hard rock and heavy metal.

Despite the wickedly evil themes and lyrical content that deals with the expected themes of witchcraft, Satanic worship and other occult subject matter, the album is actually characterized by a rather standard psychedelic pop rock sound that most closely resembles the West Coast psychedelic rock that was made popular by Jefferson Airplane. Even Jinx Dawson’s vocal style and phrasing emanates the great Grace Slick with the sultry feminine bravado and charismatic drive that caught everyone’s attention. The first eight tracks on WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND REAPS SOULS were characterized by a heavy psych sound that was found Dawson backed by heavy distorted guitars, bass, drums and the classic 60s organ sound. Despite the actual songs’ lyrical themes, it’s perhaps the final track that got the album banned and that which made it stand out from any other release in recording history. Track ten titled “Satanic Mass” concluded the album with a bona fide 13 minute black mass which displayed ritualistic chanting, chimes and Satanic prayers.

Ultimately the band was unjustly associated with the murders of Charles Manson and other deviant behavior of the time and was also lumped into the entire counterculture as a scapegoat for antiestablishment behaviors. Ironically the album’s first track is titled “Black Sabbath” which may or may not have inspired England’s godfathers of the metal universe with their debut album that emerged the next year but it does reflect upon the unveiling of the occult world that had never found its way into popular music. Ultimately COVEN’s debut is more of a curiosity than a bona fide outstanding album. The music itself is well performed but nothing out of the ordinary for the 60s and definitely not the best the era had to offer and while the ending “Satanic Mass” is an interesting aberrance from the status quo, it really isn’t that interesting and utterly a waste of time after a single listen. COVEN will remain in the history books indeed for initiating the first signs of Satan in popular music but i rather doubt that anyone will remember them for the music itself.
The decision to include a 13 minute spoken word rendition of a "Satanic Mass" (blatantly play-acted and cobbled together from diverse sources, including Anton LaVey's own tedious brand of commercialised Hollywood Satanism and Dennis Wheatley novels) perhaps overshadows any other aspect of Coven's debut album. The fact is that whilst its inclusion was controversial enough at the time to get some temporary publicity for the band, the album's reputation has suffered in retrospect for the inclusion of 13 minutes of embarrassing and often tedious Satanic ritual which goes absolutely nowhere.

It's a crying shame, because if you actually ignore the last track there's some solid psychedelic rock with progressive moments on this album. Thematically more reminiscent of Dennis Wheatley and Hammer Horror movies than anything more sinister, the tame Satanism offered here would look wimpy next to even the (still quite cartoonish) antics of Venom or Mercyful Fate in the 1980s, let alone the extremes the black metal scene would reach in the 1990s, but it does offer a precedent for acts such as Blood Ceremony, Uncle Acid and even Electric Wizard, with Blood Ceremony in particular coming close to the Coven sound in their more psychedelic moments. But at the same time, we can't pretend that the band didn't offer up an album with an unforgivably high proportion of filler in the form of the Mass. Three stars seems fair.

Members reviews

I always found this album rather underrated. OK, from a metal standpoint, I should probably give this a two star rating, as it isn't particularly metal. But I enjoy the album still the same. Just because it has Satanic themes doesn't automatically make it metal. But there's two strange coincidences on this album. The bassist is named Oz Osborne, and the opening song is called "Black Sabbath", which has nothing to do with the British band in any way, shape or form (or the song "Black Sabbath" from Sabbath's debut). It's doubtful the Coven album ever made it in the UK, so I can't imagine Ozzy Osbourne owning a copy of Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls. What you have here is psychedelic rock that's not miles away from Jefferson Airplane. Replace hippie themes with a Satanic theme, and that's what you have here. Jinx Dawson sounds something like a more evil Grace Slick. I really like Jinx's voice, and if any of you are wondering, this is the same group, two years later, who scored an AM hit with "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)". The Witchraft album gets some songwriting help from two members of Aorta, Jim Nyholt, and James Vincent aka Jim Donlinger. It's a bit strange that James Vincent would agree to write material for this album given he's Christian. Anyways, there are many songs I really like here, including "Black Sabbath", "Coven in Charing Cross" (which features some sinister chanting), the jazzy "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", "Choke, Thirst, Die", and "Wicked Woman". Then at the end you get treated with a Satanic Mass, in which a priest initiates a lady (presumably Jinx Dawson) and I get a kick off how the priest demands, in a very angry tone of voice, to "Kiss the goat".

Like Black Widow's Sacrifice, this album was a center of controversy. A scandalous article in the March 1970 issue of Esquire Magazine called Evil Lurks in California mentions Charles Manson, as well as this album in the same article. Mercury Records aware of this article, not wanting further negative publicity, pulled this album out of circulation.

I guess the reason this band is included here, is much the same Black Widow is included here, the occult themes had a big impact on many metal acts to come even if this isn't particularly metal. And on this album there's that Black Sabbath speculation one can talk about until their face turns blue.

So if you don't mind venturing out of metal, and you fancy the idea of Jefferson Airplane-like psychedelic with a Satanic twist, give this a try.

Ratings only

  • Necrotica
  • sonparo
  • Unitron
  • sauromat
  • adg211288
  • luanpedi
  • Pintos
  • Sheavy
  • cannon
  • Tlön

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