(Live Review) LUCIFER + COVEN + EARLY MOODS - Chicago, 11/23/23
The Beard & Little Johnny
We finish off Doom Metal Week here at The Mighty Decibel with a review of a recent doom show penned by the esteemed The Beard and his ever active sidekick, Little Johhny ...
Tonight marks the final show in the long 2023 The Reviews Never Stop Tour. This will be show #69 and bands #294-296. Sidekick extraordinaire, Little Johnny, asked who was on the final bill for 2023 and The Beard informed him that this evening we would be witnessing Germany's own Lucifer. Backing them up would be The Black Queen (Jinx Dawson) and the historical very first rock band dedicated to Satan, COVEN, and from Los Angeles California, doom artists Early Moods.
Called, The Satanic Panic Tour, this unholy trio of bands would be making their Chicago stop at The Bottom Lounge. Johnny correctly remembered they made decent chicken wings there and the Beard was agreeable to his suggestion of an early arrival for some food and pinball.
Openers Early Moods are still touring behind their debut self-titled release from last year. Singer Albert has the look and sound of longtime Candlemass vocalist Messiah Marcolin, which is to say some rather “serious” hair along with his serious voice. Meanwhile, guitarists Eddie and Oscar merged doom, NWOBHM, and classic 70’s sounds into something all their own.
When Albert first hit the stage, Johnny leaned over and asked if he had just gotten electrocuted. Nope, that is his regular hair.
Early Moods had that mix of NWOBHM and classic Sabbath kind of thing going on, especially in the guitars and rhythm. Albert’s infectious headbanging though soon had Little Johnny hopping and banging along. Their second number, (from the EP), showed Albert could indeed produce those Marcolin style vocals which sound grandiose as well as just plain heavy. Sounding like Sabbath meets Candlemass is a firm winner in the Beard's book and I knew a CD from merch was going to be mandatory.
We got a taste of what Early Moods has in store for their next release (due in March) with the track “Early Hour.” That one had a Witchfinder General sound, but with much faster and more aggressive guitar leads. These guys hit all the right buttons by adding early doom to their mix of already great sound. They finished with another Candlemass worthy slab called “Blood Offerings.”
When they finished Johnny high-fived me and said “$&#% yeah Beard. They were great.”
Agreed little dude. We are each cracking a cold one and giving Early Moods a high score of 94/100.
During the first band changeover, the house PA blasted “Bloody Roots” and I thought Johnny was going to jump out of his shoes. Apparently I need to get the lad to a Sepultura show, (if they ever play around here again.)
Next up, Occult Rock Progenitor Coven has a history that stretches over half a century. Beginning in 1967, singer Jinx Dawson would join with bassist Greg “Oz” Osbourne (Nope, not THAT Oz Osbourne), guitarist Chris Neilson and Drummer Steve Ross to form the first openly Satanic rock band releasing the seminal album Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls. This album’s side two contained a 13-minute segment of what is allegedly an actual Black Mass ceremony using Jinx as the naked alter. (A picture was/is contained within the album sleeve.)
While certainly sensationalistic, that piece (The Black Mass) was musically a dud and certainly the most boring part of that album. Side one though contained songs such as "The White Witch of Rose Hall" (based on the legend of Annie Palmer), "Dignitaries of Hell", and "Black Sabbath". (Again, not THAT Black Sabbath.) In fact, several things claimed by Black Sabbath were in truth first credited to Jinx and Coven.
In 1970, the band Earth changed their name to Black Sabbath a year after Coven had released their song titled "Black Sabbath" (containing completely different lyrics). Next, John Osbourne took the stage name Ozzy, (admittedly owning the moniker in heavy metal history forevermore), but, in truth, at least a year after the bassist in Coven was already using a similar name.
Even the Devil Horns hand gesture, (the universal sign of metal today), could be seen being done by Jinx on Coven’s first record back in 1969. Credit for said gestures invention and use in metal is claimed in biographies by Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio, and Gene Simmons (who to be fair also claims to have invented everything else including air.) While even John Lennon could be seen as early as 1969 using the symbolic gesture, evidence supports that, (specifically as a symbol of Satan), Jinx did it first.
Admittedly, while Black Sabbath would take over the heavy metal universe, Coven faded from view after they became embroiled in an article by Esquire magazine in 1970 linking the occult to the Manson murders and mentioning Coven’s album by name, (which caused the record company to pull the album from circulation.) Jinx would rise again in 1971 as the singer of “One Tin Soldier” for the counterculture hit movie “Billy Jack”. That song in the movie credits was attributed to Coven from their self-titled second album and reached #26 on the billboard hot 100 chart.
Although Coven would release one more album in the 1970’s, (Blood on the Snow 1974), it found little traction and the band faded from view until around 2007 when internet interest revived Jinx from the dead and the grand old witch released an album titled Jinx in 2013, (returning to her Satanism origins) and a box set (Half a Century of Witchcraft) in 2021. This will be the Beard's third viewing of Coven since 2019 and Johnnys second.
As she had in the past, Jinx emerged from a coffin on stage. The ancient Sorceress knows how to make an entrance. Also, (as in the past), Jinx used low dark lighting, gloves, and a witchy cloak along with her long blonde hair to keep attention from her detailed appearance. (Although for 73, she certainly doesn’t look bad.)
Opening with “Out of Luck” from her 2013 album Jinx, the old witch showed that a half century may have slowed her voice a touch, but it has most definitely not silenced it. Hits from 1969’s “Witchcraft” album would follow with "Black Sabbath", "Coven in Cherry Cross", and "Wicked Woman". Coven’s backing band is solid, but also keeps largely to the sides of the stage. They know who the star is. Coven’s music has become almost as “ceremonial” as it is musical with plenty of bells, screams, moans and of course the ritualistic blood drinking from the skull during the song “The Crematory.”
Coven wants us to feel the ever-present invisible web being woven about us. Jinx stuck with tracks from either Jinx or Witchcraft until her final number ending with the title track from Blood on the Snow (which was an odd choice I was not familiar with.) Jinx finished by walking along the stage and flashing the horns to each portion of the crowd.
I elbowed Little Johnny saying, “That’s where Horns Up began little man.” Coven delivered a solid 87/100. So far tonight an excellent show through the first two bands.
Headliners, and relative newcomer in the occult rock genre, were Berlin, Germany’s Lucifer. Forming in 2015 out of the ashes of The Oath, band front women Johanna Sardonis was influenced by 70’s acts like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Blue Oyster Cult, but her voice added a liberal dose of Fleetwood Mac, or maybe Heart making their output less heavy, but still unique in its sound. Lucifer has released four albums bearing the uninteresting titles of Lucifer I, II, III, and IV.
Lucifer is occult rock with emphasis on the rock part. Within the first three songs, “Ghosts” & “Midnight Phantoms” (both from Lucifer III), and “Wild Hearses” from their latest Lucifer IV, I could pick up traces of Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly. Johanna has an extraordinarily strong voice, and a lot of stage moves, (perhaps reminiscent of the Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac influences). Joking aside, she can sing well and does belong in the upper end of the occult rock genre. In fact, the entire band works together to create a show that is polished and professional, although I would have liked a bit more front lighting.
On one song, I caught a Motley Crue “Looks that Kill” guitar riff. Just a small one, but it was definitely the same. Lucifer continued with a heavy dose of their last two albums over the next six songs including “Crucifix", "Leather Demon", "Coffin Fever", "A Coffin has no Silver Lining", "Mausoleum", and "Bring Me His Head” before ending the initial set with a couple old ones “Dreamer" & "California Son” (both from Lucifer II).
For the encore Johanna brought out Albert from Early Moods for a duet on the Pentagram cover “Forever My Queen” (which was quite good). The band finished with their big one from Lucifer II, “Reaper on Your Heels.” There is clearly a joke about not fearing him in here, but this review has run on long enough. Essentially, all the songs had a catchy hook, and the set was fun. If Lucifer is how our 2023 ends after 296 bands, that is fitting, we both had an enjoyable time tonight and all year long. We are cracking a final cold one for Lucifer with a 90/100.
That’s it folks, the year for us is over and no one can say we did not run hot and heavy through it all. From our first show of March 3rd to our last one November 23rd, we covered 296 bands in 265 days. A torrid pace to be certain. That is why we are the best new writers for Mighty Decibel in 2023.
So, remember to read us every Wednesday & Thursday, and do not miss our December top 40 live sets countdown. This year both The Beard & Little Johnny will have their own listings and you can find out if you are more a Beard or Johnny fan.
Remember also to check out our TIKTOK site where you can see hundreds of videos covering all the bands we reviewed this season. Just search,
Thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny
Finally, check out the Mark McQueen Facebook site for sneak previews of upcoming Reviews and Metal mayhem.
Until we are back for more in 24, this is your Metal Reviewing Team, The Beard & Little Johnny saying...