Now is the summer of my discontent. Not only because the sun incessantly threatens to ignite my beard, but having reviewed too much of one thing, the urge to consume an entirely different animal has reared its ugly head. Borne atop a moldering mound of lesser reviewers by those most metal of saints, I spied a beckoning light in the recesses of the perdition manifest we affectionately call the promo pit. Said bastion was none other than German-based doom/rock act, Lucifer, and their compactly titled second album, Lucifer II. Having been a huge fan of the debut, I have learned to expect only good things from Johanna Sadonis, but as is often the way with an entirely reconstructed line-up, it promised to be something of a gamble. Fortunately, although the band’s general oeuvre has also seen a facelift, that chief rebel angel remains in fine form.
Oddly, the Sadonis name has become somewhat synonymous with quality, despite the fact that she appeared — seemingly conjured from approximately fucking nowhere — overnight to cement her status as rock goddess with the incredibly brief project, The Oath. In an apparent answer to that band’s dissolution, Sadonis joined forces with Gaz Jennings, formerly of doom royalty Cathedral, to form Lucifer. What followed was a record bursting with great songs and Jennings’ Sabbath-souled riff slinging. But, it seemed to me that a little too much was made of his inclusion, as it was always Sadonis’ exceptional vocal work that truly brought the material to life. Now, accompanied instead by ex-Entombed and Hellacopters mastermind, Nicke Andersson, Lucifer flees the ice once more to take new flight in a form apparently much more in line with the band’s original intention,
The name of the game is now unapologetically retro rock. The heft of the riffing from the debut has been replaced by a distinctly 70’s sound, which casts a come-hither glance at bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Fleetwood Mac and occasionally even Free. Bursting into life, “California Son” throws its cigarette to the floor and proceeds to swagger all over the fucking place with an instantly infectious riff. Plenty of those classic guitar lines that have imprinted themselves on our collective DNA pervade, Hammond organ-enhanced and ready to ride. It’s not until the song ends and “Dreamer” rolls around that I’m reminded that, even on the debut, the most memorable moments were those that chose to slow things down and allow Sadonis’ voice to prevail. Immediately, it’s apparent that, while the band’s strength has always been their capacity for compelling songwriting, it’s her sultry vocals that lead the charge, a delivery which now feels notably more liberated as Sadonis employs more and more of her impressive range.
While straight rockers “Phoenix” and “Aton” advance with their Heart worn proudly on their sleeve, Lucifer never truly abandons the doom influence entirely, fitting much of the material with a psychedelically enhanced somber mood. Although the Paul Kossoff-by-way-of-Iommi guitars easily commit themselves to memory, the album’s pacing is a little muddled, with the majority of the introspection occupying the center of the track list. While each song passes on its own merit, the central malaise detracts from the established pace and somewhat lost my attention for a while. It perhaps also speaks volumes that, while the songwriting is still adept, the one track that looms most large is “Dancing With Mr. D,” a Rolling Stones classic…
The sense of enjoyment in the writing process is evident, and the material is certainly more exuberant for it, but the fact remains that somewhere in the transmutation process, the gravitas afforded by the riffs of the debut is noticeably absent. Closer, “Faux Pharaoh” teases a more cogent combination of doom and bluesy occult rock, perhaps yet to be fully fleshed on a third volume. Until then, while I’m not entirely sure I can recommend this above 2018 releases by Black Moth or MaidaVale, Lucifer II has little problem in furnishing me with a fine array of summer listening, insistently beckoning me to come, come into its coven, to become Lucifer‘s child.