Johanna Sadonis might best be described as dynamic. After abruptly leaving her former band, The Oath in 2014 she quickly moved towards creating Lucifer. No time or efforts were wasted as ex-Cathedral riff master Gaz Jennings came on board to help create their classically proto-doom debut which won widespread acclaim. However, it was not too long after that Gaz moved on paving the way for a crossing of paths with Nicke Andersson, whose enviable credentials with Entombed, The Hellacopters and Imperial State Electric has lead to a natural and blossoming songwriting partnership with the Lucifer mastermind. Fans of the first album needn’t necessarily expect a continuation of that Cathedral injected vibe as this follow up finds the band crafting edgy hooks into a tapestry of sounds still rooted in the foundations of early hard rock and heavy metal but given some extra gloss to help them shine.
Opening track, “California Sun” is a fair summation of their new sound with its’ raw, garage rock screams. The foundations upon which Lucifer’s sound lies really are Sadonis’ silky vocals. Full of a blues rock groove, this is a hip-shaking celebration of the riff with more than enough musical nouse to garner broad attention. Coupled with the beautifully crafted “Dreamer”, this is an attention grabbing introduction. The chiming start gives way to a pumping bass driven rocker. Completely accessible but without losing a sense of self, this feels like where the band’s strengths lie. More modern references point to the soulful beauty of Blues Pills and the grittier bite of Graveyard. Hooks are in abundance and the fact that the tune immediately implants itself firmly in the grey matter is testament enough to the songwriting skills on display.
None of the tracks are overblown with each developing enough twist to keep the listener refreshed. The psychedelic turn on “Phoenix” with catchy 70’s inspired hard rock melodies shifts into a vibe more latterly expressed by Purson’s Rosalie Cunningham. Shades of Blue Oyster Cult appear highlighting a band whose musical palette is broadly inspired but there’s always a shadow of doom that lies at the heart. A cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Dancing With Mr D” has a slippery, blues soaked groove mixed with a glam rock aura before the album’s second stanza where Lucifer up the ante. A Led Zeppelin meets Black Sabbath strut and swagger appears on “Eyes In The Sky”, but it’s tracks like “Before The Sun” where the vocal strengths come to the fore; a Big Brother & The Holding Company styled wail provides the bass driven platform for Sadonis’ soulful croon. The band save their true doom for last on closing track “Faux Pharoah” with its’ menacing aura and wah-wah fuelled lead guitar. Neatly constructed and texturally rich, it fades away leaving expectations high for album number three.
Lucifer might well have found their true essence on this second LP. Certainly, the partnership between Johanna Sadonis and Nicke Andersson has gelled nicely. The whole album feels complete and is balanced nicely between traditional heavy tones and some smart pop-rock hooks that will be sure to broaden their fan base.
(8/10 Johnny Zed)