Jan-Simon : For some reason almost all bands that do so-called occult doom rock have a front lady. Of course this has a historical background, as this genre was invented by the highly overrated Coven. So since then the blueprint for this type of music has been a heavy Jefferson Airplane with an Aleister Crowley fixation and other witchery. This certainly has led to interesting results and especially in the case of Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth the student has surpassed the master. This is not always the case and more often we see bands in the ‘occult rock’ genre coming and leaving without much ado. They fail to make an impression because they all sound the same in their Coven-worship and do not have the song material to make a dent.
In some respects, Juniper Grave from Edinburgh is one of those many bands. It is more than obvious whose footsteps they are following: Jinx Dawson’s. But there is also a difference. While the standard formula prescribes a gracious female singer accompanied by a couple of sturdy, often longhaired and beardy menfolk, Juniper Grave is a 75% female band with only on the least sexy position (drums) a guy. It is telling that this is still worth mentioning. Could it be that there are simply less women aspiring to be rock stars?
Another, more important difference is that this Scottish band is simply far above average. Juniper Grave makes a valiant attempt to revive the somewhat stagnant witch / occult rock genre with their debut ‘Of Hellions & Harridans’, containing seven strong and recognizable songs. Recognizable in the sense that there is hardly any surprise or deviation from the occult rock norm among them; a song that immediately sets Juniper Grave apart from the competition. Singer / organist Jenni has a powerful voice that has a nice witchy sound. Sweet with a devious sharp edge, just what is needed to be convincing at the Sabbath. Although this not really clear in the first songs, ‘Of Hellions & Harridans’ turns out to be a slow starter. As the album progresses it gets better and song number six ‘Lunar Calling’ is the one in which everything falls in its place: the singing and the ominous sounds from Jenni’s vintage organ, the wonderful second and third vocals (that is something with which Juniper Grave differs from the occult doom mass: more female singers!) and great Sabbathian guitar riffs. Closing track ‘Rest With Your Dead (Faoiltighearna)’ offers more of this. A worthy finale with guitar solos, choirs and everything that is needed to make the listener want to push the (re)play button as soon as the last chords have faded away. As long as there is no new Blood Ceremony record, Juniper Grave will be the first point of call for any doom rocking occultist.