I recently noted that I hadn’t had the opportunity to review that many German bands in my time at AMG, despite being the resident German here. And then I go and unwittingly pull another one out the cesspit promo bin. Originally the solo project of German vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Equinox, Lucifuge is now a four-piece, having picked up a guitarist and bassist from Ancient Emblem and a drummer from Cruz, both Spanish outfits. Borrowing their name from either Danzig’s second album or Lucifuge Rofocale, the head of government in Hell, appointed by Lucifer himself (apparently; although I’ll confess that I didn’t know Hell had such advanced political structures), The One Great Curse is Lucifuge’s third full-length in three years. It follows a 2018 debut, Ride the Beast, and 2019’s Der Antichrist. If you are thinking that Lucifuge’s choices of band logo and cover art — not just on this record but on previous outings too — point towards them being fans of the old black metal guard of Venom, Celtic Frost,and Bathory, you’re spot on. And these tastes are reflected, to a significant degree, in the music, too.
The One Great Curse is a 40-minute thrash-fuelled piece of old school black metal, very much in the Venom and Under the Sign of the Black Mark-era Bathory vein. Somewhat more straightforward than Lucifuge’s previous outings, particularly their debut, The One Great Curse is, above all else, a fun listen. There is a real energy to the record, which you feel the moment the first thrashy riff drops about a minute into opener “Among Dead Gods.” For the first half of the record, there’s little you can do to stop your head from banging along to the dual guitar attack, while the simple but effective work on drums from Xavi pounds away beneath Equinox’s gravelly, barked vocals, which have a heavy dollop of Quorthon about them. As combinations go, this is a hard one to argue with.
As The One Great Curse progresses, it gradually slows its initially frenetic pace, reaching a pleasingly chugging groove by halfway point, “Conjuration of Destruction.” Into next track, “Sons of Belial,” and we’re down to an ominous and insistent mood but any thoughts of grinding to a halt one track at a time are dispelled as we accelerate into “Chambers of Lust” and highlight “Clouds of Death,” which has more than a bit of Wraith’s punky attitude about it. The acoustic, picked intro to “The Final War” is as unexpected, particularly following on from the pure Bathory worship that is “Diabolically Divine,” but is a nice change of pace and mood from the rest of the album.
For anyone familiar with Lucifuge’s back-catalog, this record is very much a continuation, and indeed honing, of the direction begun on Der Antichrist, rather than the more symphonic, progressive and Opethy debut, Ride the Beast. There is undoubtedly more originality to the songwriting on Ride the Beast but The One Great Curse is undeniably more fun. For the most part, it also sounds a lot better than either of the previous outings — the debut, in particular, sounded like it was recorded in a cave and an underwater one at that. I do have an issue with the cymbal sound The One Great Curse though, which manages to be both hideously tinny and slightly like they may be made of glass, and this grated more and more on repeated listens.
Is The One Great Curse a masterpiece? No. But I’m not sure its creators set out for it to be. Lucifuge play an old school brand of thrash-tinged black metal that owes pretty much everything to the old titans of that genre, and they play it well. The record is fun, consistent and has (just) enough changes of pace and mood to avoid slipping into repetition. It’s not going to be winning any originality awards but, for what it is, it’s very enjoyable.