Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love
Masterpiece, or ambition as a force of evil
dB rating: 8/10
Release Date: February 17, 2016
Label: Hells Headbangers
In the first half of Arthur Machen’s “The White People,” an elderly scholar argues that man is only truly evil when he “tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall.” Murder is not truly evil, he says, although sometimes the genuinely evil man is also a murderer, as with Gilles des Rais. It’s an argument I’m reminded of while ruminating Cultes des Ghoules’ latest opus, Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love.
Before hearing Coven, I knew the album was to be some sort of black metal opera. Coming from just about any other band that would equate to an instant pass. But in the hands of the corrupted Poles who brought us Häxan and Henbane, a black metal opera piques my curiosity like the dagger pricks the thumb. And still Coven took me completely by surprise.
Neither concept album nor simply a black metal opera, Coven is revolutionary. The adversary to Jesus Christ Superstar, it is a Satanic rhapsody, a tale of dark ambition spanning five tracks herein called scenes. For all its imperious duration, pretentious atmosphere and wild interludes, Coven remains convincingly occult and frighteningly enthralling. It is black magick metal, and the spell won’t just go away. At times Mark of the Devil’s versatile and hydraheaded vocal performance threatens to overthrow the bass-heavy, driving score, but that never quite happens. It is a perfect album that is not simply an album. For Coven aims to be more than it should, and is evil because it achieves that sinful endeavor.
— Dutch Pearce
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