In 1969, Coven combined psychedelic rock with black magic and rose from the darkness of Chicago to pollute the minds of impressionable youth and panic puritanical sensibilities with their debut album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls–which included such songs as “The White Witch of Rose Hall” (based on the story of Annie Palmer), “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” and “Dignitaries of Hell.” The album concluded with a 13-minute track of chanting and Satanic prayers called “Satanic Mass.”
Led by the dark, feminine energies of Indiana native Jinx Dawson, who studied both opera and the occult in the late 1960s, each Coven concert began and ended with the sign of the horns, and the band was among the first to introduce this hand sign into rock pop culture.
According to Jinx, “The Satanic thing actually was something we were interested in and were studying at the time. When you’re younger, you’re looking for answers.”
Thanks to these pioneers of pagan soundscapes and occult rock evangelism, nearly 50 years later the “sonic iconography of the fantastic and satanic” still resonates; wicked women rock-n-rollers traversing the left-hand path continue the tradition of seeking, questioning, and thrilling audiences with their bewitching aural spells and diabolical anthems.
Jex Thoth, a trippy, hypnotic quintet named somewhat after the lead singer, Jessica Toth, calls their music “alchemical doom.” Their sound–a primal blend of swirling psychedelic rock and slow-burning, bygone vibes elevated by Jex’s sweet, soaring vocals–is undeniably transformative.
Mesmerizing mistress of ceremonies and front woman Alia O’Brien of Blood Ceremony notes that this “flute-tinged witch rock” band is “inspired by pockets of knowledge that exist outside of the realm of the mainstream.” Do tales of witch-cult gatherings in wooded glens and pacts made in torch-lit abbeys, accompanied by vintage-style hard rock riffs get your blood up? If the answer’s yes, you’re going to love Blood Ceremony.
Purson, whose name has origins in demonology (a king of Hell who hooks you up with sweet treasures and who “brings good familiars”) is headed by front woman Rosalie Cunningham, who describes their sound as “vaudeville carny psych.” A cross between dusty ‘60s folk and ’70s heavy metal with a soupçon of classic prog influences, Purson brings their own eerie, whimsical aura into the mix and creates a listening experience that is giddy and intriguing and well, fun.
JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES
Finland’s Jess and the Ancient Ones is equal parts acid rock and lo-fi ’70s metal interwoven with jazz, blues, and surf-rock–musically, I guess they sound all over the map, but their witchy lyrics are rooted in the exploration of magical realms beyond the mundane. That along with their memorable melodies and Jess’s passionate Grace Slick-esque vocals pull it all together for a very compelling, occult-flavored listen.
Berlin-based heavy metal/doom blues manifestation Lucifer has all the retro vibes and Gothic atmosphere of its traditional classic occult rock roots. They could indulge in tired cliches or result in cartoony pastiche, but vocalist Johanna Sadonis’ (formerly of the short lived but much loved The Oath) tempestuous, intoxicating vocals weave a sultry, menacing spell that achieves a somber, sincere atmosphere of dark, tender delight.
(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active.)
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