As metal fans, I think we are all, to some extent, treasure hunters; we love to discover new music. After all, finding new metal to listen to is most likely the reason you come to this site. Even those of you who come here to bitch about how we fucked up the score on an album you were going to buy regardless of what anyone said about it have probably stumbled upon some review here that piqued your interest.
Even more than discovering new music, though, we metal fans love discovering old music. There is something a little more special about discovering some great band that has for years avoided our ever-questing ears. Record labels know this, and, no offense intended, they will friggin’ reissue anything. Sometimes the results are spectacular: Relapse did the world a favor in compiling early Pentagram tracks with its two Last Daze Here albums, and Oracle Records struck, well, probably not gold, but at least copper, by introducing Pagan Altar to a new generation of metal fans. The fine folks at Shadow Kingdom Records have made hay in their own way, with excellent re-issues from the likes of Manilla Road, Iron Man and Revelation. Worship New Gods, the long lost 1987 debut (and swansong) from Detroit’s Coven (not that Coven; no, not that one either), is not likely to rank among the label’s triumphs. I could be wrong, though, because one of the principal reasons that labels will re-issue anything is that metal heads will buy anything. Go ahead: Tell me you don’t have an Iron Maiden live album laying around that you’ve only spun twice, or maybe you have the cherished 663rd copy of some shitty black metal seven-inch you bought on eBay for a price tantamount to rape that’s been collecting dust for a decade. How about a greatest hits album or boxed set full of material you already own, one that you bought for two unreleased tracks of dubious quality and a shitty poster? But, I digress…
Shadow Kingdom describes Coven’s music as “Candlemass / Sabbath Doomy Heavy Metal with a Mercyful Fate/ Celtic Frost / black metal charm to it.” Such a description is bound to make a classic metal fan like myself as giddy as a thirteen-year-old girl at a Justin Beiber concert. However, even allowing for a little puffery on Shadow Kingdom’s part, its description of Coven’s music is a bit of a stretch. The Frost, the Fate or any sort of black metal I do not hear in any amount worth mentioning. Black Sabbath and Candlemass, though, are appropriate stylistic touchstones, but quality-wise, Coven is not even in the same ballpark as either band.
It would be accurate to say that Coven plays a mix of doom and traditional metal. Along with the aforementioned Candlemass and Black Sabbath influences, I detect some Manowar and Manilla Road, particularly in the lyrics, which make reference to swords, battles, Norse mythology, ancient history and such.
Coven’s problems are numerous, but for the moment, I will focus on the positive: Vocalist David Landrum sings like he means it. I am not saying he is necessarily great, but he is giving it the old college try. His vocals are often awkward and repetitive, but Landrum can, for the most part, carry a tune, and, not unlike Witchfinder General’s Zeeb Parkes, he possesses a quirky charm and enthusiasm that, at least in part, makes up for his shortcomings.
The sad fact is, flawed though he might be, Landrum is the one working hardest to keep these songs afloat. The instrumental portion of the Worship new Gods has problems on two fronts. First, the band itself is under-talented, both technically and compositionally. The songs generally have a decent framework, and Coven can muster some atmosphere, but there is precious little embellishment. The riffs are primarily just strummed power chords with no real guitar interplay, no extra melodies or harmonies, no interesting rhythms; and the solos, at best, are merely passable. There is nothing, really, aside from the vocals, to give these songs character, nothing that actually reaches the ears anyway, which brings us to the second problem: Worship New Gods is hamstrung by piss-poor production. The guitars are thin, indistinct and washed out in too much chorus or some other shitty eighties-sounding effect. The drums are similarly weak and slightly muffled, and the bass, of course, is nowhere to be found.
Despite all its short-comings, Worship New Gods does display some potential. “Riddle of Steel” lurches along with convincing menace, on the back of a classic sounding doom riff; “Ruler” features a decent groove and the gang vocals in the chorus give it some extra punch, and Coven manages a nice slow burn with somber intro to “Kiss Me With Blood”. On the whole, however, the bad, or at least the mediocre, outweighs the good.
If Coven had a little more seasoning and a producer with a clue, perhaps Worship New Gods could have been something special. As it stands, this record is no treasure; it is fool’s gold.