On the eve of the vinyl release of their excellent self-titled debut courtesy of STB Records, Brimstone Coven have conjured forth ‘II’, an album that expands on the vintage vibes that the band established on their 2012 release. Rather than simply going through the motions by trying to recreate past successes the band has expanded on their sound by incorporating a wider range of influences and seemingly spending more time translating their tunes into a final recorded product. The end result is that ‘II’ is a richer listening experience reflecting subtle nuances that were not as apparent on their debut. Overall ‘II’ is a more subdued album that foregoes the predominant doom-laden groove of its predecessor in favor of a singular, melancholic mood that is perfect for an autumn day. This isn’t to say that ‘II’ is devoid of heavy grooves—quite the contrary—but the album is masked by a monochromatic filter that produces an all-enveloping atmosphere that is forlorn and distant.
Where the self-titled album had an unwavering focus on proto-doom and 70’s inspired psychedelia—still a priority for the band—‘II’ seems to include within its gaze the entirety of 70’ hard rock and early metal which has yielded tunes that are more complex and varied. Album outlier “The Black Door”, “Blood on the Wall”, and “Vying” are examples of the band’s growth and willingness to experiment. The “retro-future” vocal effect during the chorus of “The Black Door” is a bit disarming at first, but the mesmerizing bassline and layered clean vocals more than make up for it. “The Black Door” is easily the catchiest track on the album due to the pulsating groove and layered vocal harmonies of John Williams who, again, does an outstanding job complementing the songs with a dose of soul. The morose “Blood on the Wall” has a dusty, road-weary feel that fits right in with the overall tone of the album. “Vying”, for the most part, is a scorcher where rhythm section swing is emblazoned with killer leads until the song fizzles to a slow-burn instrumental fadeout.
While the band has clearly expanded on their sound ‘II’ isn’t completely defined by songwriting progression. Brimstone Coven haven’t forsaken the doom and occult leanings that ran rampant on the debut. The second track “Behold, the Anunnaki”, is probably the best tune that Witchcraft or Burning Saviours never recorded. It’s a deceptively simple track that channels the best of 70’s inspired doom with catchy vocals and a shredding finale. Other album highlights in a similar vein include “The Grave” and “The Séance”—a tune that comes crashing in following the gentle denouement of “Vying”. “The Séance” flat-out rocks with an urgency unmatched by anything on the album and despite the fact that it’s one of the shortest tracks it still finds room to take a respite from the riffs for a breakdown that showcases the individual talents of the players. The ominous “Hades Hymn” is a simple, yet effective instrumental that features a lone organ accompanying a thunderstorm. At only a minute-and-a-half the instrumental doesn’t overstay its welcome and builds up perfectly to “The Folly of Faust”, an epic tale of woe and misery that finishes out ‘II’.
What’s interesting about Brimstone Coven’s ‘II’ is that though the songs are more varied, complex, and have greater depth, the album is united by an overarching mood that is cheerless and, at times, remote. And in a good way. While the self-titled album was instantly gratifying and familiar, ‘II’ is densely layered and rewards multiple listens. The band has minimized some of their more overt influences in favor of an all-inclusive approach to their songwriting allowing them to experiment and expand their sonic palette. Not only is ‘II’ a well-rounded, kickass record, but it also stands as a portal that gives a glimpse into the possibilities of prospective recordings. Brimstone Coven have made an impressive leap with their second outing and it will be interesting to see how the band further develops in the future. The vinyl of the band’s debut is about to be released through the excellent STB Records imprint. ‘II’ is available for download through the band’s Bandcamp page and on CD directly from the band upon request.
Words: Steve Miller