|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Years active||1968–1975, 2007–present|
|Labels||Mercury, Warner Bros., MGM, Buddah, Nevoc|
Coven was composed of vocalist Esther "Jinx" Dawson, bassist Greg "Oz" Osborne (not to be confused with Ozzy Osbourne), guitarist Chris Neilsen, keyboardist Rick Durrett (later replaced by John Hobbs), and drummer Steve Ross. They are recognized as being the band that first introduced the "Sign of the Horns" to rock, metal and pop culture (as seen on their 1969 debut album release Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls.
Dawson and Osborne, after playing together in the group Him, Her and Them, formed Coven with Ross in Chicago in the late 1960s. In 1967 and 1968 they toured, playing concerts with artists including Jimmy Page's Yardbirds, the Alice Cooper band, and Vanilla Fudge. Dawson began and ended each Coven concert with the sign of the horns. Coven signed with Mercury Records and released their debut album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls in 1969.
The music on the album was considered underground rock; what made it distinctive was the heavy emphasis on diabolical subject matter, including songs such as "The White Witch of Rose Hall" (based on the story of Annie Palmer), "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", and "Dignitaries of Hell". The album concluded with a 13-minute track of chanting and Satanic prayers called "Satanic Mass" (written by their producer, Bill Traut, of Dunwich Productions, and described as "the first Black Mass to be recorded, either in written words or in audio"). This Satanic Mass was also the first time Latin phrases such as "Ave Satanas" (Hail, Satan) were used in occult rock music, and later Satanic and Black Metal bands continued this innovation (see List of songs with Latin lyrics for some examples). Also included inside the album, was Coven's infamous Black Mass poster, showing members of the group displaying the sign of the horns as they prepared for a Satanic ritual over the naked altar.
Unwanted publicity came to the band in the form of a sensationalistic Esquire magazine issue entitled "Evil Lurks in California" (Esquire, March 1970), which linked counterculture interest in the occult to Charles Manson and the Tate-La Bianca murders, while also mentioning the Witchcraft album and its Black Mass material As a result of this unwanted publicity, Mercury withdrew the album from circulation.
Dawson recorded the vocals for "One Tin Soldier", the title theme for the 1971 film Billy Jack, which was credited as "sung by Coven". The song, which went on to reach number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, was written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter and was originally released by The Original Caste in 1969. Coven's version also reached the top 10 in Cash Box and was named the Number 1 Most Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by American Radio Broadcasters.
In 1972, the band released a self-titled album that included "One Tin Soldier" which was rated as a hot pick in Billboard and Cashbox. By this point, the occult posturing was toned down to just one spooky black cat and a band member surreptitiously flashing the sign of the horns on the album cover.
An ad hoc version of Coven was assembled to back up Dawson and Ross for the 1990 film Heaven Can Help.
After multiple unlicensed CD releases of the Witchcraft album over the years, it was officially released on the band's own Nevoc label in 2007.
The following year, Coven released Metal Goth Queen: Out of the Vault 1976–2007 on Nevoc, an album composed of previously unreleased recordings. Guest musicians on the album include Michael Monarch, Glenn Cornick (an original member of Jethro Tull), and Tommy Bolin, in some of his last recordings.
Jinx, an album of new recordings, was self-released on Nevoc in 2013.
- Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls (1969, Mercury)
- Coven (1971, MGM)
- Blood on the Snow (1974, Buddah)
- Metal Goth Queen: Out of the Vault 1976–2007 (2008, Nevoc)
- Jinx (2013, Nevoc)
- "Have you heard this new album?" says a Strip hippie. "It's called Witchcraft. Destroys minds and reaps souls it says on the jacket...full of Black Mass stuff." Esquire, March 1970, page 119