Sound — 7
While it is tempting to compare Coven's debut album to the mighty Black Sabbath, they deserve to be viewed as a separate entity. While Black Sabbath pioneered a new sound known as Heavy Metal, Coven perverted the hippie rock and roll genre for the glory of its main protagonist, Lucifer. To start the story of Coven however one does have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Released in 1969, the very year of the forming of Black Sabbath (as Black Sabbath as opposed to Earth), with bassist Oz Osbourne, and the opening track, "Black Sabbath," it certainly seemed the voice of the Devil was strong in this year, as Satanic themed movies and occultism was at an all-time high in pop culture during this period. This is where the similarities begin and end. Where Black Sabbath posited a fear of damnation and hellfire, singing cautionary tales and going even to the Christian side of things ("After Forever"), Coven absolutely revel in Satanism and conjuring evil.
Lyrics — 9
Coven's approach musically on this album feels very much like being in the hot Midwest, the deserts of Nevada, and acid freak outs. Written in more of a standard way, the music works well and has points of compositionally standing out ("Portrait," "Dignitaries of Hell," "White Witch of Rose Hall"). The shining star of this band however is undeniably Jinx Dawson, who's booming and commanding voice adds an ethereal, spooky and powerful element to the somewhat restrictive music. Lyrically the album tells many stories of sacrificing women and children to Satan, pacts with the Devil, and direct praise and worship of The Morning Star.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine a band as overtly pro-Devil Worship as this managed to actually get released, and with shows known to culminate in actual Black Masses in which Jinx would be laid naked on an altar, they pushed boundaries even further than their English counterpart ever would. Even though it is true Coven were never reinventing the wheel, rather they placed the wheel inside a blood drawn pentagram, and for that they deserve a more serious look at. If you can dig early '70s/late '60s psychedelic rock this is a thoroughly enjoyable album, with the lyrics creating a more unique listening experience, rather than talking about the Big Government, drugs or love. Aside from love for Satan that is.
Overall Impression — 8
On the side of the music, credit must be given to the fiery guitar licks and compositional talent of Jim Donlinger, the smooth bass of the aforementioned Oz Osbourne, and the restrained yet impactful drumming of Michael Tegza. Last, and of course not least, it is worth mentioning the closing track of the album, "Black Mass." This is not a song, but rather a literal except of an actual Black Mass being performed. Chilling and at times uncomfortable, what you hear is what it would be to go to an Alistair Crowley mass, give or take. With a bell chiming the beginning of the mass, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that consciously (or less likely) subconsciously, the Mighty Black Sabbath may never have gone the direction they did without the influence and daring of Coven. Turn the lights down, light a pentagram of candles, open a book of H.P. Lovecraft and let the breath of Lucifer pour over you.