by Ryan Meehan
Brimstone Coven is a retro-hard rock / doom band that hails of out Wheeling, WV. They began brewing their own blend of “dark occult rock” in the early months of 2011. Corey Roth (Guitarist) wrote the first five songs, which would later become the band’s self titled album. Roth went on to handpick three seasoned musicians from the local scene. Andrew D’Cagna (Bass), Justin Wood (Drums), and “Big John” Williams (Vocals) were recruited to carry out Roth’s plan for sonic domination. Echoing the eerie reverberations of hard rock heavyweights such as Black Sabbath and Pentagram, mixed with the classic rock style of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Brimstone Coven strive to preserve a vintage rock sound mixed with a style all their own. After many shows, one album, the band added new drummer Dan Hercules, released their second album, simply titled “II”, which was released in November of 2013, and signed with Metal Blade Records! Since signing with Metal Blade, original drummer Justin Wood has returned to the fold and has rounded out the seminal chemistry the band had been looking for. Metal Blade Records will begin their new partnership with Brimstone Coven by releasing the band’s latest album combined with their debut EP, complete with new mastering and brand new artwork. Artwork was completed by Creighton, the same mind behind the band’s first two releases. The newly packaged and mastered set 17 tracks will serve as a solid introduction to Brimstone Coven for new fans. On August 5, the album will be available digitally and physically in North America. Andrew D’Cagna provides the thunderous low end of the soundtrack to their lives, and we’re honored to have him as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you were growing up, which artists did you really enjoy listening to that inspired you to want to get into rock n’ roll? When did you decide that you were really interested in playing bass?
ADC: The first band that truly inspired me was Rush. My sister was dating a dude who played bass/keys and he worshiped Rush, for obvious reasons. And though I was just discovering music I immediately recognized them as intelligent music. They are still my favorite band of all time. I also grew up listening to a lot of traditional death/black metal. Too many bands to count. I’ve been a performing musician for over 20 years but I’ve only been playing bass for 3 or 4. I started out as a vocalist, then a guitarist. I’ve been in a project with Aaron Carey called Nechochwen since 2009, playing session drums/bass. It was Nechochwen that really started my love affair with bass guitar. Aaron’s music is complex and orchestrated, and it really made me realize how hard it is to play something that compliments his music without blindly following a root note.
RM: How did Brimstone Coven come together; and how did Corey convey to you what he wanted his vision of the band to sound like? What is the best way to describe those first few practice sessions?
ADC: Corey approached me in 2011 about this rock project he was working on. Corey and I have jammed together in various bands for years now. I’ve always dug his songs, regardless of genre. He’s just a really good songwriter, got a real knack for it. Anyway, when he initially approached me he was actually looking for a vocalist. He gave me a demo version of what is now The Ancients, minus any vocals. I took it home and demo’ed vocals for it, but I wasn’t really stoked with it. The lyrics and the cadence fit, but I could tell my voice wasn’t quite right for the music. I told him this, And he responded by having me switch roles with the current bassist, John Williams. The first time I heard John sing The Ancients, I knew we had the recipe. I think we started jamming by rocking that one, We Are Forever and a few Sabbath tunes we mutually knew. Even back then, we could tell the chemistry was undeniable.
RM: Brimstone Coven was just on tour with labelmates Mount Salem, and you both seem to be very into the Doom sound that is very reminiscent of Black Sabbath. What interests you in playing doom as opposed to playing much faster, more frantic heavy metal?
ADC: Everyone in Brimstone Coven has been in some form of extreme metal band at some point in our lives. Sometimes at the same point! Justin used to have a thrashy Death Metal outfit called Entropy a few years back and at one time, all four of us were in it. Corey and I were also in Angelrust for years, which was what I’d call melodic death metal. And we’ve all grown up listening to extreme stuff, still do! But there is a very subtle art to playing simple Rock n’ Roll. It seems simple on the surface, but it’s not. The Devil is in the details, ya know? I’ve never had this much fun playing in a band before.
RM: What’s your current bass and amplification setup at the moment? Which part of your setup is the most crucial when it comes to playing the sound that you want to define the low end of Brimstone Coven?
ADC: Right now I am playing a 2013 Gibson EB bass with all the stock options. It rules! My backup bass is a 2012 SG bass. It rules too, but the pickups in the EB smoke the ones in the SG. I use absolutely no effects whatsoever. I am all about a pure and simple signal chain. I plug directly into an Orange Terror head (500w) which drives an Ampeg 810 cabinet. The cabinet has a custom hardshell finish done by myself, as the Tolex was tore to bits when I bought it used. My rig is all white and resembles a giant fridge on stage. I’m 100% in love with my current rig and wouldn’t change a thing. As far as what’s most crucial to the sound, I’d say it’s the total package. I know from experience. The first component I bought was the head. I played it through a Fender 4 x 10 and it sounded “okay”. I think I was playing a Fender Jazz at the time. Then I got the 810 cabinet and it sounded even better with the Jazz bass. But the Gibson is definitely the cherry on top and once I got that, I knew my rig was complete.
RM: Why was it so crucial for you to get Justin back in the band to play on the new disc? How did the conversation about him re-joining the group begin? Did he contact you guys or did the band contact him?
ADC: This is kind of a long story, but here goes. Justin was our original drummer. We never wanted him to leave, that was a decision he made. He had valid reasons, being in another band at the time as well as becoming an expecting father. I think he took all these things into consideration, and felt it would be unfair to both us and his family to spread himself so thin. So he bowed out and offered up the drummer in his other band as a replacement. It was a strange situation for us. We didn’t want to lose Justin as a drummer, but we also didn’t want to have to search for a new drummer and possibly lose the momentum we had built up as a band. So we welcomed Dan into the fold. And though Dan is an extremely talented drummer, the chemistry we so effortlessly conjured with Justin was immediately missing. Dan played all the parts more than adequately, but deep down was more of a hard hitting metal drummer. We all felt this way in the camp but continued forging on, so as to maintain momentum. We wrote the majority of the 2nd record with Dan, and he performed the drums on the recordings of those songs. When the Metal Blade deal was offered to us, we started to re-prioritize things as a group. We felt the issues we had with Dan needed addressed, and it was now or never. That’s when we contacted Justin, told him what was going on with the band and asked if he’d be interested in returning on drums. By this time he had a much better grip on things as a new father and agreed to come back. We welcomed him with open arms, and the once lost chemistry is now back in full force.
RM: What was your initial reaction when you discovered that you would be working with Metal Blade Records; and why did the band decide to release the first EP along with the new songs that you had recorded?
ADC: We were all shocked initially, for various reasons. Number one, we hadn’t even sent out press kits yet. We were in the process of it, but had not mailed anything out. Number two, it’s freaking METAL BLADE RECORDS, ya know? Who gets presented an opportunity like this, at this stage in our careers? I mean, we’ve been active musicians collectively our entire adult lives, but this band has only been around a few years. And number three, we got the first email from the label on Christmas morning! How legendary is that!? BEST. GIFT. EVER. It’s still really sinking in on us as individuals. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity, but part of us still doesn’t know how to act, you know? We’ve operated on a DIY basis for so long, it’s hard to believe that someone you don’t know believes in your craft enough to bring you under their giant, legendary wing. As far as releasing both recordings as one package, that was ultimately the label’s idea. We kind of always considered the first recording as more of a demo, so we were blown away that the label thought both the material and the production were strong enough to fly under their banner. Some of our favorite songs are on the first recording, so I’m personally stoked that the rest of the world gets to hear it.
RM: Which song on the new record is your favorite and why?
ADC: Boy, that’s a toughie. But if I had to choose, I would say “Behold, the Annunaki”. I dig everything about that song. The lyrical theme is awesome to me, as I’m very intrigued by ancient civilizations. The main riff is simple, but incredibly effective and comes off like a lumbering beast about to crush your skull and it sticks in your head like glue. My favorite thing about it are the terrific vocal harmonies. They weave in and out perfectly and compliment our respective timbres very well. It’s also one of our best translated songs when performed live, it sounds pretty much exactly the way it does on the recording. And I must not be in the minority for choosing this song, as a lot of our fans request it at shows.
RM: What can fans expect to see when they go to a Brimstone Coven show? Do you have any pre-show rituals or warm-ups that are worth noting?
ADC: We can our live performances “rituals”. It’s obviously another reference to the occult, but it does carry some validity for us. Whenever possible, our stage is graced on either side by two candelabras, shaped like giant brimstone symbols (black sulfur) . There are five candles on each one. Lights are dimmed and candles lit. We also burn temple incense every show. We don’t wear any particular uniforms or special garb. We like to retain our individuality and do not want to come off as a novelty band. Everyone in the band gives their all, and we are all very animated on stage. We are definitely NOT a statue band. We also try and get the crowd involved personally with us as much as possible. We encourage clapping in time with the music, singing along with us and employ a little call/response from time to time. No one in the band really does any warming up prior to performing. Unless you consider alcohol consumption and inhaling sacred smoke “warming up.”
RM: What’s up next for you guys in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
ADC: No one can predict the future, but I can safely say that we’ve got some big plans in the Brimstone camp. We’ll stay on course, continuing what we do as normal but on a more fevered scale. Lots of gigs booked in the coming months, with aspirations to do modest national touring with label mates and hopefully hitting European shores sooner than later. We are also well into the writing process for the third recording. There’s about eight or nine songs that we’ve been slowly working into the live set, but have yet to be recorded. The new record will be at least 50% analog (bass and drums) and we plan on employing nothing but vintage gear in the signal chain to capture sounds properly. To us, the sky is the limit and there’s nowhere to go but up. I hope you got your running shoes on, ‘cuz we’re gonna be a hard band to keep up with in 2015. Cheers!
Official Website: http://www.brimstonecoven.com/
Brimstone Coven on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brimstonecoven
Brimstone Coven on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrimstoneCoven
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