Album: Lucifer II
Label: Century Media
Countless bands in the past (Led Zeppelin, Queen, Van Halen etc.) titled their early albums chronologically with Roman numerals, and doomy heavy rockers Lucifer have continued this tradition with their debut (Lucifer I, 2015) and now their sophomore album, Lucifer II. However, a big change occured in between the two records, as every member except for frontwoman Johanna Sadonis exited the group, and she started working with Nicke Andersson (guitars, drums) of Entombed and Hellacopters fame and guitarist Robin Tidebrink. It’s time to see how Lucifer’s second coming turned out!
Listen on Spotify here:
Lucifer first caught my attention when they opened for Paradise Lost in Helsinki 3 years ago, and I actually preferred their set to the headliner that night. Their debut was an enjoyable dose of old-school doom metal, but things got quiet for a while after that. Finally, it was announced that the lineup of musicians around Johanna Sadonis had changed completely. Such a radical shift could make or break a band, but having just one album under her belt, Sadonis didn’t probably have as much pressure from the outside as many others would. Besides, the addition of Andersson and the switch from Rise Above Records to Century Media was bound to bring some more attention from the metal scene.
What really strikes you on first listen is that Lucifer has pulled an Avatarium; in other words, the doom factor has been pulled back in favor of stronger 70s hard rock influences, but the guitars still have a very gritty edge. The new direction feels like a middle point between The Oath – Sadonis’s previous band – and the debut. There’s also not as much occult mysticism in the lyrics, as shown by titles such as “California Son”, although it hasn’t been abandoned by any means. Additionally, the album includes a cover of “Dancing with Mr. D” (the Devil in this case, supposedly?) by the Rolling Stones, but the heavy arrangement fits in so well that at first I didn’t even realize it wasn’t an original song. Lucifer truly made the tune their own!
The up-tempo “California Son” is a cool way to open the album, and the Scorpions-sounding “Phoenix” is a nice mid-paced rocker that briefly turns oriental in its middle eight. The highlight of the album, however, is the ballad, “Dreamer”, which has been boldly placed as the second track in the running order, but works very well nevertheless. The song has a great atmosphere, and both the vocals and the guitars sound very soulful. “Eyes in the Sky” includes some intricate bass fills and distant wailing, while the bluesy “Before the Sun” showcases Sadonis’s sensual low register very nicely. The biggest shortcoming of the record is that the Black Sabbath influence is a little overly obvious on the doomiest songs: “Reaper on Your Heels” sounds similar to “A National Acrobat” and the lead guitar phrasing is pure Tony Iommi, while “Aton” has a “Sweet Leaf” vibe. “Faux Pharaoh” is a successful throwback to the debut, but just as things are starting to boil up, the song (and the whole album) ends with a fadeout, which feels like a lazy way to wrap things up.
The mix of the down-tuned, dirty guitars and the rocking material makes Lucifer II an interesting listen. The retro-style production also sounds surprisingly authentic, which is not common these days, and the band has used piano cleverly to accentuate the guitars. However, while the rocky tunes are very good, the riffage in the doomy songs come across as rather derivative compared to Gaz Jennings’s imaginative guitarwork on the debut. On top of that, the record is quite front-loaded, as most of the better tracks are heard in the first half. It remains to be seen whether this ends up being a transitional album that leads to an even more rock-oriented Lucifer III, but for now I prefer the first record.
Rating: 7/10, 3½ stars
1. California Son
4. Dancing with Mr. D
5. Reaper on Your Heels
6. Eyes in the Sky
7. Before the Sun
9. Faux Pharaoh