There is a sense of insanity to Destiny of the Gods, the new album from Detroit metallers Coven 13 (also known as just Coven), an almost schizophrenic intrigue and unpredictability to its invention which is just compelling. It has flaws and is wildly undulating in its persuasion at times but equally there is something which works away with a deceitful seduction that makes you want to return to its manic lair, and often. The band is tagged as doom metal but that is also a falsehood of sorts as though that essence does offer a loud whisper at times it is no more vocal than the gothic rock and certainly classic metal side of things, with post punk and numerous more extreme flavours also making their presence known. The result is a sound and release which at times seems unsure of its direction whilst simultaneously being confident, actually wanton in its intent and journey. It just adds to the magnetism wrapping the release and with several needed encounters Coven 13 ultimately makes a uniquely enterprising persuasion.
Coven formed in 1985, the line-up of bassist Roger Cyrkeil, guitarist Todd Kreda, drummer Brian McGuckin, and vocalist David Landrum coming together over a short time to write and create music with influences from the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden and themes inspired by Celtic and Nordic themes. Their well-received debut album Worship New Gods was self-released on their Crom Records in 1987 as the band built a formidable fan base in Detroit and beyond. A name change followed when approached by the original band Coven (of One Tin Soldier fame) which saw 13 added to the name. 1991 saw the release of Ragnarok again on Crom as a demo cassette and though again well favoured it failed to match the success of its predecessor. The same year saw the departure of Cyrkeil and though the band continued for a short while it came to an end in 1992. In 2005 the band reformed for 4 acclaimed reunion shows which was followed by a hiatus of sorts for Coven 13 until 2011 when the original members came together working on new material. The line-up also saw the addition of Richie Karasinski who had been a long-time friend of the band and who Cyrkeil has tried to enlist in Coven 13 from the start but could not due to the guitarist’s commitments and projects. Entering the studio last year the band have stormed back into action with the Shadow Kingdom Records released Destiny of the Gods, a record which has uncertainties taunting thoughts but still makes for a generally riveting and enjoyable exploration.
A harsh atmospheric climate draws in opening track Thor’s Twins, the song breaking the scenery with an instantly gripping dark bass and guitar beckoning. It is a gentle coaxing which erupts into a charged gait veined with a combination attack of guitar and bass with a prize-fighter hook which seals an immediate submission from imagination and emotions. There is also a punk breath to its lure whilst the entrancing vocals of Landrum add a gothic rock lilt alongside the dark group harmonies. Alongside a dark heavy metal stirring it all makes for something unexpected and enthralling, like a union of Sisters Of Mercy, Danzig, Joy Division, and Venom which excites and awakens a strong appetite.
That anticipation is soon diminished a little by the following Winds of Revelation, a track which is straightforward classic metal for the main with none of the mystique and hypnotic adventure of the first track. Mid paced and certainly well-crafted, guitars and rhythms firmly making it a more than decent proposition, the track lacks the spark to ignite any real passion and a lot is down to the vocals of Landrum. On the first song he was forceful and a perfect fit for the sounds but here stretching whilst his boundaries and tussling with numerous notes it simply deflects form the strong sounds around him. He is certainly a more than decent vocalist in certain scenarios as shown on the album but has obvious limitations which this time around leaves doubts a strong reaction.
Elfstone opens with a pulsating heavy bassline and another irresistible groove which is right out of the eighties gothic rock songbook. Once again a hunger is sparked even with the wandering vocals which at times excel and in others dismay. Like Iron Maiden meets The Mission, the track and album has the listener back in its hands ready for crawling intensive drama of Walpurgisnacht and the brilliance of Isle of Man. Both have a doom presence not always open across the album, especially in the first of the two but also further potent varied spicery to favour the appetite. Isle of Man though stands wide apart from the rest with ease, the track a broody and bustling tempest of dark punk and gothic imagination. It is a masterful beast of sound and predation, at times reminding of Southern Death Cult and Theatre Of Hate and in others Type O Negative and Fields of Nephilim It is virulently contagious with Landrum outstanding and takes top honours with ease, the only complaint being it is less than two and a half minutes long.
The thrash fuelled Frost Giants keeps the album thundering along with skill and intensity whilst Witches Kiss brings a little southern heat into is seventies keys clad presentation, variation upon Destiny of the Gods another certain success. The song like its successor She Rides the Dawn do not reap the same strong responses as others, again a lack of that spark and the vocal discrepancies though the guitar inventive grooves and solos impress.
The album ends on a high through firstly the excellent Cult like Solitary Days and a quite enjoyable and surprising cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Spellbound. The band make a very satisfying fist of the song, yes Landrum is no Siouxsie Sioux but holds his vocals to add expression and flair to the song whilst McGuckin without creating that rolling pulsating hypnotic slavery which Budgie made his own, brings the track into an anthemic and dramatic tempting for the passions. With keys adding a delicious elegance to the stomp the track is an excellent conclusion to an overall enjoyable release. Yes Destiny of the Gods is a bit of mixed bag, falling flat when venturing into the classic/heavy metal stance and excelling when employing a much wider experimental array of styles and imagination, but one which makes the return of Coven 13 very welcome.
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