July 2, 2018 Lucifer – Lucifer II (Album Review)
Lucifer are back with their second full-length album, Lucifer II, set for release on Friday, July 6, 2018, through Century Media. For reasons both positive and negative, it is hard to believe that four years have already passed since the quick appearance and disappearance of The Oath, the sludgy dynamic duo of Vocalist Johanna Sadonis and Guitarist Linnéa Olsson.
Forming in 2012, the band released their self-titled debut in 2014, a record which would very quickly become the band’s parting gift, as news fell that the band members were headed in different directions. Olsson, known previously for work with Beastmilk and Grave Pleasures, returned to Sonic Ritual and started a new outfit, Maggot Heart. On the other hand, Sadonis, having materialized seemingly from ether, had no prior projects to exhume, instead opting to formulate a new project, one closer to the image of a solo project, dubbed simply Lucifer.
After recruiting a handful of new musicians, most notably former Cathedral Guitarist Gaz Jennings, the German vocalist quickly released a handful of songs that would ultimately end up on the band’s somewhat eponymous debut, Lucifer I. Drinking deeply from early Black Sabbath and similar Heavy Metal precursors from the late sixties and early seventies, the album launched memorable tracks such as “Sabbath,” “Morning Star,” and “Total Eclipse,” to name a few.
After successful touring, the band’s lineup began to waver. The departure of Jennings was the most disruptive, as Sadonis was now without her chief writing partner. A close encounter with friend Nicke Andersson helped repair and replace the creative spirit for Lucifer going forward. Well-known for his early work drumming for Entombed and his more recent output fronting and playing guitar for The Hellacopters, the native of Sweden was accustomed to writing songs by himself, and so was unsure how well a collaboration would pan out.
That in mind, Sadonis was also eager for a new challenge with an old friend, and so the pair worked and recorded together in Nicke’s studio, The Honk Palace, in Stockholm, with Sadonis handling vocals while Andersson handled drums, bass, and some of the guitar work. The two were soon joined by Lead Guitarist Robin Tidebrink, and Lucifer II was finished in the summer of 2017, with Swedish Producer Ola Ersfjord handled mixing duties at Cuervo Recording Services in Madrid, Spain. For live performances, Andersson assumes drum duties while Martin Nordin joins on guitar and Alex Mayr handles bass, with Sadonis on vocals and Tidebrink on guitar.
Earlier this year, the band released a prescient music video for the opening track, “California Son,” in which Sadonis, Andersson, and Tidebrink are riding motorcycles in a loose V formation, leaving wide swaths of landscape behind them; a fitting metaphor for a freshly retooled band seeking to leave behind the vibes and direction put forth in the earlier Lucifer I. This sophomore album may not be a bold departure from the band’s previous work, and for all intents and purposes, the personnel changes were amicable, but the meaningful leap between the two efforts is hard to ignore. Where Lucifer I could be described as quickly assembled in the wake of the sudden breakup of The Oath, the sophomore recordings captured in Lucifer II seem much more relaxed and thorough.
The opening track also features some strong bass and drums, no doubt aided by the deft hands of Andersson handling both in the studio. Still, the bass here, much like the work of Geezer Butler and other seventies moguls, announces itself with bravado without ever showing off, nor does it quickly fade away or resume it’s all-too-common place in the background. Second track “Dreamer” is the closest thing to a ballad, a bold move this early, with its lyrics starting with almost sarcastic encouragement before shifting slowly toward earnest improvement. Later, with “Before the Sun”, the band again attempts to craft a ballad, but can only get as far as the verses before losing their minds for the the choruses.
“Dancing with Mr. D” has a bit of a goofy premise, but the track simply moves across space with the same gripping guitar riff grabbing, keeping, and carrying the listener’s attention throughout. “Reaper On Your Heels” is a pleasant mixture of a basic head-banging progression, clever riffing from both guitarists, and high vocals from Sadonis, all mixed with clever keyboards during the chorus.
Picking favorites is a difficult task, but “Aton” subtly emerges as one of the top tracks on display, with strong keyboards backing the defiant opening guitar riffs, taking a shift into near-psychedelia with dueling guitar, before the track eventually fades away with a quieter, swirling guitar solo. “Eyes in the Sky” takes a Sabbath-esque tempo detour about halfway through its path, with Sadonis almost hitting American Country techniques as the guitar struggles to keep pace, before the initial vibes return to close the track.
Penultimate track “Faux Pharaoh” is the closest thing to a Doom track. But even amongst the down tunings and sagging keyboards, the Rock-n-Roll is impossible to ignore, particularly during the song’s breakdowns and guitar solos, and the track fades itself out with almost high spirits as the guitars and keys elbow each other aside aiming for higher pitches. “Evening Wind” plays out with impressive lead and choral vocal work by Sadonis matched by howling exit guitar.
Compared to Lucifer I and its handful of singles, Lucifer II has a much more organic feel. The main instruments (vocals, guitar, bass, and drums) each take a fare share of the listener’s focus, rather than the feeling of being bolted together that may have existed previously. Oddly, the voice of Sadonis feels stronger here on Lucifer II, even though it is no longer mixed as the centerpiece. The tracks average just under five minutes, but none of them ever feel either rushed or, worse, drawn out; if anything, they seem to end too quickly.
Inevitably compared to the Black Sabbath catalog, Lucifer II dips into the third, fourth, and fifth albums, where Rock-n-Roll begins to overshadow the slow, plodding, (brilliant) dirges of the bands’ earlier works. The overall musicianship here feels deeper, and yet looser, and the music shines through in ways that were less apparent earlier. That is why CrypticRock is pleased to give Lucifer II 4.5 out of 5 stars.