Review Summary: Very tasty Doom metal that's also disarmingly melodic.
There’s a lot to love about Lucifer. Their very retro brand of European metal doesn’t fit neatly into Doom Metal sub-genre they so often get tagged with. Sure, there are plenty of crushing diabolical licks woven into the fabric of their songs, but there’s an almost subversive pop sensibility to their hooks. Lucifer distills the essence of those dark and evil sounding Sabbath and Mercyful Fate riffs while leaning into some classic 80’s Euro Metal grooves. The ominous vibe of their music makes them heavy enough to share a bill with your standard doom metal act, but their music is a bit more melodic and accessible than most bands in that genre.
It’s hard not to focus on Lucifer’s mesmerizing front woman Johanna Sadonis as she is very central to her band’s image and sound. Her relatively soft vocal tone and more melodic singing style seems almost disarming at first for such a dark sounding metal act as this. But it’s also refreshing and a key ingredient to their take on this genre.
It’s hard not to think a little of Jinx Dawson and Coven when seeing another flaxen haired woman fronting an occult rock band. They were pioneers for this genre and there’s no doubt what they were doing in 1969 with their album WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS & REAPS SOULS was much more shocking and controversial than youngsters now might be able to appreciate. It’s true that Johanna Sadonis is probably having an easier time fronting a band named Lucifer in 2019 than Jinx was in ’69, but it’s still brave and not exactly the most commercial path one can take. Like Coven, the sinister image and tone of Lucifer's music belies a somewhat softer underbelly. For one, their lyrics here mostly wistfully sad observations on life and death, rather than any overt praises to the horned one.
There are lots of really melodic sounding doom riffs weaved throughout the songs on this album. Some of my favorites include “Eyes In The Sky”, the bridge section in “Dreamer” and the bruising closer, “Faux Pharoah”. The doom laden power ballad “Dreamer” is an obvious single which instantly transports me back to the 70s or early 80s when I hear it. “California Son” opens the album with a strong, heavy groove that’s reminiscent of early Uriah Heep. Their cover of The Rolling Stones ’73 cut “Dancing With Mr. D” is well chosen and offers a nice change of pace while still remaining true to their style.
My main issue with this collection of songs is that half of the songs seem to fall short of their full potential. Songs like “Phoenix”, “Before The Sun” and “Aton” contain some really interesting riffs, but feel somewhat diluted by their decision to incorporate more laid back and melodic verses. Most of the songs are at least somewhat enjoyable, but these creative peaks and valleys throughout the journey are evident. It’s as though the basic ingredients of their songwriting formula aren’t always as smoothly blended as one might want. But there enough aural rewards here to warrant some patience with these lesser moments.
LUCIFER II is notable improvement over their less consistent debut. Their style is much the same, but the songs are have greater potency and are more memorable to me this time around. The production is also much improved here. It’s a very good album that becomes more enjoyable upon further time spent with the songs. Having seen them perform here in Atlanta this past spring, I’ll also testify that these songs sound even stronger live. A very promising band indeed.