Discogs is not a perfectly accurate reflection of music history. Because its data is user-generated, it reflects those users’ preferences and the limitations of their knowledge. So, for example, while Discogs asserts that the German occult rock band Lucifer, whose third album Lucifer III is out now, is the 37th act to use that name, the first person to claim the name “Lucifer” on the site was some electronic musician who released an EP of covers of horror movie themes in 2005. A far more famous Lucifer was electronic composer Mort Garson, who released the album Black Mass in 1971. (Metal-Archives.com lists nine bands named Lucifer, and a total of 51 once you include variations like Lucifer’s Friend, Lucifer’s Child, Tomb of Lucifer…you get the idea.)
Anyway, let’s deal with what’s in front of us. This Lucifer is a hard rock band with occult trappings formed by singer Johanna Sadonis following the dissolution of The Oath, her band with guitarist Linnéa Olsson that made one well-received self-titled album in 2014. The original lineup of Lucifer included guitarist Gaz Jennings (formerly of Cathedral), bassist Dino Gollnick, and drummer Andrew Prestridge. They were all gone by the band’s second album, at which point Sadonis was joined by guitarist/drummer Nicke Andersson of Entombed and the Hellacopters (who’s also her husband) and second guitarist Robin Tidebrink. Various other folks fill out the lineup for live shows.
Given the complete lineup change between the first and second albums, it’s no surprise that Lucifer‘s sound has evolved, too. On the debut, the songs were all between five and six minutes long, and the slower ones had a swaying, incantatory quality. They were a little bit hookier than the smoky occult atmospheres conjured by bands like Jex Thoth, Jess and the Ancient Ones, or Sabbath Assembly, but still rooted in a Cathedral-esque doom style. (I know “female fronted” is not a genre, but “women wailing about Satan over big riffs” is absolutely a specific niche sound.) The only constant is Sadonis’s voice, which is extremely powerful. She’s not a crooner, though she can go soft when the moment requires it. She’s a belter, almost on the level of Heart‘s Ann Wilson.
Three years later, on 2018’s Lucifer II, things were different. The album’s opening track, “California Son,” made that very clear. Instead of slow, crunching doom, this was a hard-charging three-minute rock anthem. Most other tracks were either two-fisted rockers or bluesy ballads. Even the lyrics were different; on the debut, Sadonis had sung explicitly of Satan and dark rituals; on this album, she opted for Ronnie James Dio-esque nonsense poetry like “The world is yours, don’t hide below/Don’t you know, you’ll reap just what you sow/You gotta stand up to your fire.” Andersson’s production gave the album plenty of hard rock crunch, somewhere between Blue Öyster Cult’s Agents of Fortune and the first Danzig album. The group even essayed a cover of the Rolling Stones‘ “Dancing With Mr. D” and made it work.
Lucifer III, which came out last week, features more new musicians. Andersson is strictly the drummer now, joined by guitarists Linus Bjorklund and Martin Nordin, and bassist Harald Gothblad. The music has more or less the same Seventies hard rock sound as on the previous album, but with even more hooks; the single “Midnight Phantom” features prominent backing vocals (overdubbed by Sadonis) and even handclaps.
Amazingly enough, it’s only on this album that Lucifer have gotten around to writing and recording a song called “Lucifer,” thus finally completing the Black Sabbath trifecta (including a song called “Black Sabbath” on an album called Black Sabbath). It’s a fast, punchy rocker, and the chorus is, in part, “Lucifer/Fallin’ for me,” but the way Sadonis sings it, it sounds like “Lucifer/Fine with me,” making the song seem like a mirror image of the Doobie Brothers‘ “Jesus is Just Alright With Me.” Other songs have the mix of occult lyrics and fist-pumping riffs that marked Roky Erickson‘s The Evil One, as well as the best material by Ghost. And Sadonis’ vocals are as powerful as ever; on a track like “Coffin Fever,” she really soars.
Lucifer aren’t going to change the world, but their music is much catchier than it needs to be (standards are pretty low in the doom/occult rock scene). Each of their albums has been a slight improvement on its predecessor, and on this one, they sound more than ever like a real band with an organic relationship between players.
Stream Lucifer III: