March 20, 2020 Lucifer – Lucifer III (Album Review)
With their previous effort still under two years old, Lucifer are set to release Lucifer III on Friday, March 20th through Century Media Records.
Coming just five years after their regnal debut, their third album continues a pace set by early Rock and Metal heroes like Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult. Counting the lone album from The Oath in 2014, Frontwoman Johanna Sadonis now has four acclaimed albums in six years, keeping her rooted in that same busy era when bands released albums near-annually.
Relative to other album gaps, the time between 2018’s Lucifer II and Lucifer III has been somewhat cool, lineup-wise: returning with Sadonis is Drummer/Co-writer/Husband Nicke Andersson (Entombed, The Hellacopters). Guitarists Martin Nordin and Linus Björklund joined soon after Lucifer II was completed, as did Bassist Alexander Mayr, who has since been replaced by Harald Göthblad.
As fans may recall, 2015’s Lucifer I was riddled with doom and gloom, due in no part to the heavy influence of former Cathedral Guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings, as well as Drummer Andy Prestridge, who also rose from the ashes of The Oath. Sadonis then looked for a change of pace, and the influence of Andersson helped make Lucifer II more of a Rock-n-Roll black mass, a vibe which continues with Lucifer III.
This all in mind, from down-tuned opener “Ghosts,” which doubles as the first single, straight through the sombre closer “Cemetery Eyes,” the album mixes a raucous Rock-n-Roll feel with dreary lyrics and soaring vocals. The guitar work here is particularly memorable, with licks and solos fitting snugly into their tunes without standing out for attention’s sake. The spinning guitars that close the album are applied with such largesse that the listener cannot help be feel surprise that things are over so quickly.
Paradoxically, as the music becomes more upbeat with each release, the lyrical themes take a darker, introspective turn, meeting, and at times passing, the dark and gothic tone of earlier releases. A track like “Stay Astray” includes tambourine, organ, and deft bass playing that form a tight stage for the lead guitar and vocals to find their way to tap the veins of listeners, all while telling the subject’s target that the speaker is better off alone.
Even the bleak softness of “Leather Demon” melds dense, layered vocals from Sadonis with a slight brightness on guitar to create a meandering track that dips from sappy ballad to salty rocker; Sadonis is callously admonishing the lyrical subject as much as she is showering praise. There is the second single, “Midnight Phantom,” described by the band as “Autopsy and Blue Öyster Cult [in] four minutes,” combining a painfully infectious guitar riff with vocal magic. This is while “Coffin Fever” employs a creepy, methodical approach as it dips between whispered vocals and another bubbly guitar riff.
While it took progenitors (and clear influence) Black Sabbath no time at all to record and release a self-titled track—side one, track one of their eponymous debut—the discipled in Lucifer waited until midway through their third album to notch the achievement. This rollicking track is a toe-tapping gem, with another addictive bass line that keeps the pace for everyone else. However, one of the few flat notes comes with “Pacific Blues,” which features a crafty guitar hook and some tasty solos to close things, but its vocals are a little strained and formulaic.
Just under forty minutes, Lucifer III is the band’s shortest work to date, but it also feels like the thickest. Without receding to the shadows, the potent rhythm section leaves plenty of room for Sadonis and the guitars to work; this will not surprise fans of Andersson’s other work, but having a strong low-end presence leaves an indelible mark on the album. The band has never shied from showcasing its varied array of roots and influences, and Lucifer III sees them combine a bit more Rock and Psychedelia, while also keeping the doom that has kept a cold, dark hand on proceedings since the band’s debut. As Sadonis told Cryptic Rock in 2019: “I didn’t want Lucifer to be only dead serious. It should be a fun Rock and Roll band.” This album delivers on that promise, and Cryptic Rock is pleased to give it 4 out of 5 stars.