Lüger – Revelations of the Sacred Skull Review

Montreal moshers Lüger have certainly taken their time crafting their follow-up to their 2018 debut, Hellraisers of the Waste. Such a long gestation between first and second albums often brings dark portents—with the infrequent exceptionally brilliant album. What such a gap most rarely brings is mediocrity. Revelations of the Sacred Skull squarely takes aim at Crispy’s heart with its blend of punk, trad, and doom, wrapped together in a delightfully sordid smut package. While all the right influences are there, does Revelations succeed in knocking me stone dead?

Lüger’s palette contains everything from light touches of Pentagram doom to reverb-soaked spaghetti western to a healthy helping of Motörhead sleaze, all tied together with a strong foundation of Tank trad. The key to unifying Lüger’s disparate influences are Alex Bigras’s and Jim Laflamme’s filthy guitar tones ripped straight from mythologized murderous streets in 1983. For his leads, Bigras draws heavily on the chaotic ripping solos from “Fast” Eddie Clarke. While lacking range, Laflamme’s vocals contain enough bite and grit to elevate the choruses on Revelations of the Sacred Skull’s best songs (“Black Acid,” “Motörcity Hellcats”). While overall less gritty than Midnight or Bewitcher, Lüger’s sound retains the requisite filth to do their lyrics justice.

At their best, Lüger effectively conjures a malicious atmosphere, which best emerges when the band gets downright nasty. Opener “Black Acid” uses a delightfully repulsive nihilistic sample from 80’s D-movie “Deadbeat at Dawn” that summarizes Lüger’s witchcraft-and-gore ethos. The fittingly grime-encrusted “Toxic Sludge” wields thick, pounding bass and flanged vocals to drag Lüger’s victims through the much. Elsewhere, Lüger do their best Motörhead pastiche with the effective but on-the-nose “Motörcity Hellcats.” Among Revelations’ best, these three tracks are a solid soundtrack to shiv and get shivved by. The band’s pursuit of atmosphere does lead to some puzzling choices, particularly with the delay-drenched spaghetti western atmosphere (“Vipère,” “The Rise of Witchcraft”). I’m intrigued by the idea of an occult urban spaghetti western that Lüger is going for, but the first hints of spaghetti western come far too late to make thematic sense. Unfortunately, the disparate strands the band pulls on never come together.

Revelations of the Sacred Skull fails as a coherent album because of confounding sequencing decisions, several voluminous tracks, and one throwaway instrumental. While the aforementioned “Black Acid” and “Motörcity Hellcats” blast Lüger’s sophomore album out of the barrel at high velocity, subsequent rounds are squibs. Although Revelations weighs in at a relatively svelte 42 minutes, the decision to sequence the album’s three longest tracks all in a row entirely kills the album’s momentum. This sequencing choice is bad enough, but even more damning is that none of these tracks (“Night of the Serpent Woman,” “The Sacred Skull,” “Filthy Streets”) justify their length. Each of the mini-epics kicks into a higher gear far too late to salvage them. Most frustrating is the nigh-title track, “The Sacred Skull,” whose air raid siren-cum-martial drumbeat intro drags deep into the track’s six-minute run time. While there are truly great nuggets in each of the would-be epics—Bigras’ guitar work and Laflamme’s choruses deserve particular mention—they’re buried under ponderous songwriting. “Toxic Sludge” attempts to reclaim some of the album’s lost momentum, but the disposable instrumental “Vipère” quickly drains the remaining life from Revelations. Given the instrumental’s staidness and its natural thematic pairing with “Bloodmoon,” one wonders why the band chose to separate out “Vipère” as its own track instead of yet another overlong intro.

Revelations of the Sacred Skull ultimately makes for a tempting yet frustrating listen. The Canucks are able to craft captivating songs when they stick to their 4 minutes or less guns. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to stand out in a crowded blackened speed metal scene. Despite a ritual five years in the making, Revelations is a misfire.

Rating: ​1.5/5.0
DR:​ 8 | ​Format Reviewed:​ 320 kbps mp3
Label:Heavy Psych Sounds
Websites: lugerband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/lugerheavymetal
Releases Worldwide​: February 10th, 2023

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