The debut LP from the group Coven is noteworthy for reasons more historical than musical. That is not to say it is a bad record; it is more of an interesting record that is unique and listenable. With an elaborate package released on Mercury in 1969, a good trivia question can be made of the fact that bassist Oz Osborne performs on this album, whose opening track is “Black Sabbath,” while John “Ozzy” Osbourne of Black Sabbath was allegedly busy playing bass in Magic Lanterns, hitting the Top 30 in 1968 with “Shame, Shame” (Ozzy listed as Mike Osbourne with Magic Lanterns! ). That the group Black Sabbath formed in 1969 when this album was issued seems to indicate that Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls may have had more than a little influence on the more popular heavy metal band. Also notable is the fact that the majority of the songwriting on this disc is by guitarist Jim Donlinger, who a year later in 1970 would move on to drummer Michael Tegza’s reincarnation of H.P. Lovecraft, known simply as Lovecraft on its Reprise recording. The lyrics are all included in a second gatefold, in script of course, while the first gatefold is a photo of a “black mass.” Jinx Dawson’s vocals are distinctive, and tunes like “White Witch of Rose Hall” and “Wicked Woman” are almost on target.
The band was for real, eventually hitting the Top 30 around Halloween in 1971 with “One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)” from the movie Billy Jack. With the “evil” prayers during “Coven in Charing Cross,” Coven get a bit heavy-handed; the group goes over the top trying to push the black magic stuff. “Pact With the Devil” is written “Pack With the Devil” on the label, and the 13-plus minute “Satanic Mass” is more of a curiosity piece than musical adventure; it’s no “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” and that’s the flaw with this unique album. Had there been a song to hold onto or had “Satanic Mass” possessed the musical individuality of the Seeds’ “Up in My Room,” this disc would be more than just a novelty. “Choke, Thirst, Die,” which ends side one, is actually one of the best performances on the record, though it also suffers from its excesses, with Jinx Dawson acting like a satanic Ruby Starr when she should have gone in the Wendy O. Williams direction. A decent enough attempt, but the group Black Sabbath emerged one year later doing it much, much better. Just compare the Oz Osborne/Coven opening track “Black Sabbath” to Ozzy Osbourne’s song “Black Sabbath” by his group Black Sabbath to see the difference.
-Joe Viglione, allmusic.com
Coven-WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND REAPS SOULS (1969)