Thursday, December 3, 2009

Coven - Death Walks Behind You (1989)

Another year and another Coven album, the Washington scum sacrificing a little of their absurdity for a slightly more cohesive and serious affair. Don't be mistaken, there are still some giddy moments on Death Walks Behind You, but I found the band a lot more convincing this time around, if not really improved. While this album certainly sounds cleaner and has a few more overall riffs than its predecessor, it seems to deflate outside of a few better tracks, and the studio sterility robs a little of that grisly charm which identified Blessed is the Black. Jay Clark had tightened up his vocals, but they still possess some charisma and the ability to just fly off the handle like he did so often on the previous album.

This album starts off with one of Coven's better overall tracks, the mighty "Too Late to Pray", with the similar, excess crunch you were expecting. The vocals are on fire, and the riffs transform from a mid paced thrust to some breakdowns (i.e. mosh pit fuel), yet the excitement never slips away. "Ministry of Lies" is an average thrasher, reminding me of something off Sacred Reich's Ignorance only not as dense or pulverizing. "Spellbinder" has an outrageous energy in spite of its simple, flowing riffs, there is a forward momentum which recalls a song like "A Lesson in Violence" from Exodus, and this is definitely one of my favorites for this sophomore album. "Succubus" is another of their slower, rocking tracks, with some sloppy, squirrelous leads and a choppy crunch to the riffing which would not have been out of place on an album like Znöwhite's Act of God. It also has some of their most entertaining lyrics since "Iron Dick" on the first album.

Bitch of death and disease, whore to hell's master of slaves
Slut, going down on her knees, sucking you into the grave
Spreading her legs in air, Succubus weaving her spell
Consumed by her cavern of death
She opens her gateway to hell

The title track is about the equal of the opener, a pulse pounder with a great rhythm, again in the Exodus camp for its juicy cruelty, like a thrash steak simmering on a barbecue afternoon. "Frozen Bones" and "Propaganda" are both solid tracks, the rival of anything else on here except maybe the opening track, and "Justified Suicide" is anchored by a crazy vocal performance from Clark, his range rising and falling like a meat cleaver in a Sorority House. There is a nice breakdown here which should have had any pit in stitches. The serial killer anthem "Ted Bundy" is also pretty good, and unlike Blessed is the Black, the late album ballad here, "Silent Night (Violent Night") has some actual teeth to it, though it stands alongside "Ministry of Lies" as a skippable track.

Death Walks Behind You is truly a more solid lay than its slutty, older sister. It lasts longer, and there is more thrust to it, but it fails to reach the climax that came out of that raw, cavernous volcano of skin. Most of the tracks are as heavy if not heavier, yet you get the feeling it had already been done, and there is very little evolution aside from an obviously superior budget and attention to the mixing process. It's definitely good, just not great. If you enjoyed Blessed is the Black, then it does not deter from that path.

Highlights: Too Late to Pray, Spellbinder, Frozen Bones, Propaganda

Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (he contemplates the price that he has paid)

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