The occult has a long history in rock music with some of the most well-known bands dipping their toes into it. This is nothing new for some cult bands that either ended before they went bigger or never went big but are still around. One band out the 1960’s gave us some groovy Satanic psychedelic rock: Coven.
Hitting the scene in 1967, Coven was headed up by vocalist Jinx Dawson. Actually, Dawson is still involved with Coven which is now more like Jinx Dawson and friends. Formed by Dawson, bassist Oz Osborne, and drummer Steve Ross in Chicago, the band opened for several larger acts.
Coven came at a period where the 1960’s—psychedelic rock’s hottest period—was coming to a close. Not only that, there was some stiff competition. When you’re dealing with an uphill back to get over with fans, you need something to set you apart from the pack. It doesn’t have to be a gimmick but something unique to your act has will help.
The band had a triple whammy to help with this. First was the lyrical direction of Coven centering on old school Satanism. The other was the fine lead singer throwing the horns. As a matter fact, Jinx Dawson is considered to be the first to use the horns in rock music—an issue that has seen clarify her use as well Ronnie Dio’s use. Dawson also spoke of Gene Simmons’ misuse and desire to own it.
The third was the Satanic imagery of the band. On top of that, it was authentic to them. Rituals were done before shows, the original, core members had a dislike of organized religion and a true love of the occult.
While mild considering what has come after them, their on-stage theatrics, lyrics, and their frontwoman made for a band you couldn’t ignore but you could shut out. Because of this third element, Coven had a hard time really steamrolling forward when it came to recording companies.
It did bring them to the attention of Anton LaVey and the band had a post as the Church of Satan’s band. Supposedly, the ultimate goal was to host a kind of Woodstock or Monterrey Pop Festival that built up into LaVey holding an audience with concert-goers. This was said to have been scrapped as a result of backlash.
Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls
Coven would pick up steam with their debut release Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls from 1969. While very much a psychedelic album, it was unlike anything else in the scene. Many of the albums coming out with a similar sound had deep folk and blues roots. Soon these moved toward a harder rock and progressive sound when bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Iron Butterfly showed up to the dance.
Even though Coven isn’t usually counted in such company, their debut album is one of the heavier ones out of early psychedelic rock. Gone were the political and drug references and in came the devil worship, witchcraft, and a little history. With an even ten tracks, it kicks off with “Black Sabbath” and it never lets up.
You’ll find yourself in some pretty familiar mid-tempo psychedelic territory one minute and find yourself in one hell of a gallop the next. The lyrics—mostly handled by guitarist John Dolinger—are actually years ahead of a lot of the stuff out at the time.
There really aren’t any weak songs on the debut outside of the final track “Satanic Mass”. This track—clocking in at over 13 minutes—was promoted as the “first recorded black mass”.
Overall, this is a strong album. The actual musical tracks are short with only three of them going over four minutes and only of those three nearing five (“For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”). Coven definitely wasn’t the only occult rock band out at this time but it is the pioneer and America’s contribution to a genre that has recently made a comeback.
Coven had one hit with “One Tin Soldier” for the film Billy Jack in 1971 which was more of a Dawson hit than the band. Around this time, Coven also served as the house band for the Church of Satan. By 1975, the band ended and there wasn’t much known about the members until Jinx resurfaced and revived the band in 2007. In recent interviews, Dawson touched on the band’s image, approach to music, and filled in some of the gaps post-1975.
Coven’s most recent album was JINX, released in 2013. I’ve got to say, it’s a solid album but there isn’t much that beats the classics. Enjoy a cult classic in Coven’s “Black Sabbath.”
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