PICK OF THE WEEK: Lucifer rises from The Oath’s ashes to create spellbinding, alluring debut ‘I’

Ester SegarraEvery year is full of garbage news that goes along with all the cool stuff that also happens in metal. But sometimes those lousy moments outweigh the really great ones, and that’s how I felt about occult rockers The Oath dissolving before they really got started last year.

The band’s self-titled debut and swan song was our No. 24 album on the 2014 best-of-the-year list, and it was a collection that was enrapturing right from the start. But the union of vocalist Johanna Sadonis and guitarist Linnea Olsson apparently was doomed from the start, and the announcement of their end was shocking. And sad. But Sadonis didn’t let that disappointment define her, and soon afterward, she announced her new band Lucifer, whose first record was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015. How could it not be? Sadonis’ vocals and words are alluring, haunting, and disarmingly evil, and the way her singing carries like a spooky fog make her one of the finest voices in the occult and doom field. We finally got to hear what Lucifer had in store when their 7-inch single “Anubis/Morning” star dropped in January (it was a particularly noteworthy find on one of my vinyl journeys this year), and it certainly whet my appetite for what would come next.

Lucifer coverWe now have what’s next in our hands with Lucifer’s debut record “I,” seemingly a purposely titled album that should signal this will not be their last. Sadonis, again, is a revelation on this album, showing different sides to her voice and once again commanding your attention. But she has one hell of a helping hand with Gaz Jennings, guitarist from the legendary Cathedral, as well as recently surfaced Death Penalty, and his work on these eight tracks pack a serious punch. Drinking deeply from ’70s and ’80s doom rock (there is a ton of Sabbath influence here), these tracks wrap Sadonis powerful voice with muscular riffs and shadowy darkness that this band hammers home with expertise. Along with Sadonis and Jennings in Lucifer are bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestridge (Angel Witch and a former live member of The Oath), who hold down the bottom end and give these awesome cuts a nice deal of grit.

The album starts fittingly with “Abracadabra,” which rollicks to life with boisterous drums, a killer riff, and Sadonis’ fiery voice, where over the chorus she prompts, “Say the magic word.” Later the song shifts into classic metal territory, which makes for a pretty cool change, before rounding back. Damn catchy opener. “Purple Pyramid” makes me think back to metal bands I’d find on “Headbangers Ball” in the mid-1980s, especially with the guitar work. The vocals dig a little deeper on this one, with another strong, but somewhat understated chorus. The show of muscle later in the song is a nice touch, as it gets kind of blistering, but it all goes back to the front again, which helps tie the song together. “Izrael” is one of the tracks the band released as a single, and it has nice, textured leads, another masterful vocal performance, and promises such as, “Spread my wings to carry you, I will set you free.” The song has a fantastical feel, but also a moodier one, and it was a pretty good choice as a lead song to lure people into the album. “Sabbath,” well, it won’t be too hard to figure where this song took influence. The riffs are smudgy and doomy, the bells chiming add a sense of ghostly ambition, and the cut bleeds slowly as it should, with Sadonis vowing, “I will sacrifice myself to you.”

“White Mountain” also has a distinct Sabbath feel, with a touch of Dio for good measure, and Sadonis’ vocals work as a seduction tool, pulling you into the humidity so you can become prey. The melodies can be mesmerizing here, and toward the end of the song, the guitars catch fire and fill the final moments with smoke. “Morning Star” has a reflective quality to it, with slower verses and guitars that help create a vortex effect. The chorus punches up a little more, with Sadonis hailing the “unholy daughter of the night,” and the guitar work could burn the hair off your arms with its heat. “Total Eclipse” is a fun one, with the tempo pushing hard and the melodies stomping your guts in a slow-driving fashion. Like many of the other cuts on here, this one changes its face later, bringing more intensity and magic to the proceedings, all going out in a storm of ritual. Closer “A Grave for Each One of Us” begins clean and glimmery, almost as if it’ll be a doom ballad, Sadonis notes, “You live ’til you die,” around a mystical field of sounds. But later, the intensity picks up. The guitars start mauling and tearing at you, and the emotions caterwaul from there, as the sound reaches a crescendo, the music feels like it is preparing for the end of the world, and Sadonis declares her lack of fear over death, almost bringing it on as a challenge as the album closes.

Lucifer feels like a logical next step away from The Oath, as the spirit remains in place but the music goes into some darker corners. It’s great to hear Sadonis totally in control of her fate and unleashing a voice that could contend with anyone in metal. “I” is a great first step for this band, and hopefully this project keeps morphing further into the horrors well into the future. Pretty sure anything they do from this point automatically will catapult to the top of that respective year’s most anticipated list.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/luciferofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/