Review Summary: The best tasting leftovers in recent memory.
Releasing a collection of B-sides from a previous recording session, for an earlier album, years after its release is not necessarily considered to be a big career booster. Sometimes B-sides are B-sides for a reason. However, artists have ignored this guideline before to startlingly brilliant or horrific effect. For example, Porcupine Tree’s “Recordings”, B-sides from the Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream sessions, went on to be highly priced, prized and praised collection in 2001. More recently, Cake released B-Sides and Rarities with 35 minutes of rare music and five, different, scratch-and-sniff album covers. The gimmick was nice, but some of the music might have been better off left in obscurity.
Kim Larsen chose a similar path with his 2003 release, Lucifer. The album is comprised of extra material recorded a few years prior, during the :Emptiness:Emptiness:Emptiness: sessions. It is fortunate this music has come to light. Most of it is either on par with or surpasses what made it onto the official album. This album does make sense as a whole as well and follows a clear red thread passed down by :Emptiness:Emptiness:Emptiness:.
Lucifer opens with a song of sympathy for the horned one himself. This title track and its reprise at the end of the album are both bare-bones examples of Kim Larsen’s potent songwriting style. The song opens with sparse echoing electronics before Larsen enters alone, accompanied only by a lonely acoustic guitar. His low, mournful voice and six, warm strings are all that perform this ballad for the devil. Its reprise, at the end of the album, is the same song minus the guitar. Larsen’s sings the same verses alone. An echoing effect, similar to those appearing at the beginning of Lucifer, morphs his voice, giving it a vast, empty feel. In this way, the album closes on the same dark notes that opened it.
Even though it is the title track, the song does leave something to be desired. It is catchy and it is haunting, but it feels like something is missing. It is not until later with songs like “Naer Skog Naer Fjollum,” “Megin Runar” and “Time, Time, Time” where this album shines. These gems along with “Let It Be Ever Thus” rival some of the earlier classics like “Raven Chant” and “I Crave For You.”
The songs on Lucifer center on themes established by the instruments at the beginning of each song. Half of the tracks on Lucifer align their instrumentation behind the interplay between two guitars. This arrangement is far more colorful than it sounds though. “Time, Time, Time” finds a clean electric guitar plucking the broken arpeggio of a decaying melody while the acoustic rhythm quietly strums on, spare and well-timed. Larsen’s words are filled with remorse, lamenting all that is lost and destroyed in the ever passing days.
“Follow Thy Faire Sunne Unhappy Shadowwe” and “Naer Skog Naer Fjollum” are both rather similar in structure, but each is powerful in its own right. "Follow Thy...” quotes the saddening poem by Thomas Campion before a pair of airy, wistful acoustic guitars.
“Naer Skog Naer Fjollum” is backed by a walking-pace chord progression, similar to the title track. The music is beautiful, like a walk in the high mountains. Larsen’s voice sounds as if he were separated from the listener, obscured a grove of trees. All is clarified later, however, by a poignant flute solo.
A couple songs break the twin guitar instrumentation barrier too. “Megin Runar” follows a somber piano line that forms the song’s backbone. Dark synths and chiming, clean electric and acoustic guitars add flourishes and fill in behind Larsen’s ruminating whispers. “Let It Be Ever Thus” boasts the heavy presence of a bass guitar and the weeping voices of both cello and flute. The acoustic guitar sprints behind the low, droning melody, maintaining a driving chord progression throughout the song. Larsen’s last verse here would have served as a perfect closer. “May the raven guard and wand protect.”
Unfortunately, “Reficul II,” a 9 minute sequence of voice loops and swirling droning keyboards, brings about an unnecessarily prolonged conclusion to a fantastic album. The idea is not bad in itself. There is a great sense of mystery that is felt with the track’s onset. The length of the track, sadly, carries the idea out into monotony. It just does not go anywhere. Maybe this was the desired effect, but in the opinion of this listener, the atmosphere is all but lost.
In spite of one misstep, Lucifer is hardly deserving of the B-side's bad rep. Of the eight songs presented here, seven of them are astoundingly atmospheric and undeniably moving. As all good music tends to do, these songs paint pictures in the mind. Larsen has found a way, with a small plate of leftovers, to build a fire within his signature darkness. The fire gives off no light, but its warmth is still felt somehow.