With a name like Dark Star Coven, it's no surprise that the band specializes in what they deem “old school blackened occult fueled death crust.” If you aren’t familiar with metal music, it’s a complicated way of saying this band is heavy and outside of mainstream inclinations.
The Pensacola-based five-piece features, Eric Dee Blackwell (guitar), Shane Reneaux (vocals), D. Ed Lee (drums), Eric Sisk (bass), and Jerry Dunn (guitar).
Due to planning an upcoming music video, Reneaux and Sisk met me in Destin to talk about influences, how the band formed, and tales from Pensacola’s varied underground music scene.
“Dark Star Coven has been together for about three years,” begins Reneaux. “Guns to Fire had broken up, which was like a punk band with D. Ed Lee and Blackie (Blackwell) in it, and at the time I was in Wulfshroud and ended up joining them after Wulfshroud kind of imploded.
“A lot of us have been in a lot of different bands. We are all a little seasoned.”
To which Sisk replies with a laugh, “No rookies involved.”
Dark Star Coven are quite a few years removed from teenagers worried about fads. I first met Reneaux seven years ago when he was still fronting Parabellum, but their history in the music scene goes even deeper.
“We’re all a bunch of dudes who have played in other bands and figured, we all kind of had the same idea of what Dark Star Coven was going to sound like,” says Reneaux. “It created its own thing, like crusty punk meets black metal and old school death metal. It oozed out.
“We used to all go to shows together. I (snuck) into the Handlebar (to see) Suicidal Tendencies and Black Flag back in the day.” Other shows included the Melvins before they became underground darlings, and R.E.M. before MTV made them a household name. They also traded pirated punk cassette tapes with Green Day.
When it comes time to ask about their influences, underground metal like Hellhammer and Venom— along with underground punk like Discharge—are quick to be discussed. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t fans of other genres.
“When you grow up in a house where Mom is listening to the Ventures, Dad’s got Dolly Parton on, your older sister has R&B, and your brother has (Black) Sabbath, it’s a pretty well-rounded mix of opportunities to hear stuff,” says Sisk. “I think I got a lot from my brother. He was doing Zeppelin and Skynyrd, and then some crazy new wave crap. And then the surf punks came, and he was all Mr. Joe Surf Punk.”
“I used to go to Eric’s house, and he would throw Judas Priest down our throats and we would throw Suicidal Tendencies back at him,” Reneaux shares of their teenage years, “We all have played in different styles of bands, but all listen to some of the same shit. Like, my sister got me into KISS, so I blame her more than anything. Blame my sister for my rock ‘n rollism.”
As for the band name, it was borrowed from a 1974 episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker that left a lasting imprint on Reneaux, “In that episode, Kolchak walks in the door and the police chief says, ‘It must be a satanic cult called the Dark Star Coven.’ From that point on, I always thought that was a cool name. When it became band name time, I had a list of crap and a bunch of us threw different names in and everybody seemed to like the Dark Star Coven thing. And that’s where it came from—me being a horror fanatic most of my life.”
“Besides, we are metal,” says Sisk. “We’re supposed to have kind of a scary name, right?”
The band recently released a four-song EP to tease for a longer vinyl record that’s in the pipeline with Kaos Music Limited. Reneaux calls the release “fishing a little,” and he’s looking forward to releasing all 10 songs.
“We have a term with our recording, warts and all. It’s nice that the technology has advanced where you can get really good quality stuff DIY,” says Sisk. “We didn’t go back and do overdubs—a lot of the tracks are one shot, one take.”
When it comes to seeing a show, it can feel a little daunting to trudge off the beaten path. But Reneaux’s advice is “don’t be scared of it. You don’t have to get in the pit or stand in the front. Work in baby steps, but have a little adventure. Don’t be vanilla all your life.”
To follow the band, keep up with their vinyl release date, and learn more about their Halloween show (a long-running Pensacola tradition), visit www.facebook.com/DARKSTARCOVEN.