Lucifer’s second coming glows with psychedelic power, bluesy swagger on vintage-smeared ‘II’

Photo by Peter Beste

Life, apparently, was not meant to be easy. That’s a statement that can stand before we even dig up the roots of filthy politics and the way people treat one another, especially those different from them. Anything worth doing is meant to have its share of hard times, and those who see them through have a better chance of ending up satisfied at the end.

It’s no secret that the creative life of Johanna Sadonis hasn’t been the smoothest of rides lately. Her incredibly promising union with Linnea Olsson in The Oath disintegrated after only two years together and a great debut record in 2014 that seemed to signal the beginning of a band that would twist heads into the future. Afterward, she formed Lucifer alongside Andy Prestidge, though he would exit the band in 2017. She teamed up with guitarist Gaz Jennings (formerly of legendary Cathedral, now of Death Penalty and Septic Tank) to create their debut effort “I,” but he also left in 2017, leaving Sadonis to pick up the pieces again. However, into the fold came Nicke Andersson (Entombed, Hellacopters, Death Breath) to work with Sadonis, and fucking magic formed. The resulting LP “II” sounds far more like music Sadonis was made to make. No offense to “I,” but it was lacking and didn’t seem to match Sadonis’ great power. On “II,” the music is more psychedelic, bluesier, and has a dusty, vintage evil essence. Filling out the remainder of the outfit are guitarists Robin Tidebrink (he played on the record as well) and Martin Nordin, as well as bassist Alexander Mayr, who, hopefully, are the spine of the band for the foreseeable future.

“California Son” is an absolutely ass-kicking opener, the ideal introduction to this band for any newcomers. Sadonis is in complete command, while the music swaggers and she calls, “You’re only an ocean away.” Tremendous track and catchy as hell. “Dreamer” gets more mystical, and it’s a song I could imagine if Ronnie James Dio still walked among us, he may wonder if this hadn’t been pulled from his storybook. “What have you done with your life?” Sadonis prods, while mid-tempo pace begins to crunch as the song closes. “Phoenix” has a tasty psyche-washed start, with classic metal riffs cutting in, and a super catchy chorus where she demands, “You’ve got the stand up to your fire.” I think. I don’t have the lyrics, but that’s how it sounds. “Dancing With Mr. D” is a terrible song, a huge misstep, and it could have totally derailed this record. The band sounds like they’re having fun with it, but it’s just not good. So, let’s move to “Reaper on Your Heels” that steadies the course with attitude-splashed rock n roll and great singing, as Sadonis sees the end, noting, “When you used up all your time, and the flame in you is gone,” before blasting to the grave.

“Eyes in the Sky” has burly riffs, great leads, and psyche-drenched vocals that power the way. The track rips into a shuffle and then hits the gas pedal, punching harder and faster, with an electric solo blazing toward the song’s end. “Before the Sun” is a dose of ’70s-style folk rock, as Sadonis foresees people approaching their fall and misfortune. The song has a “Remember Tomorrow” vibe to it, as it sends chills to the more nostalgic cells in your body. “Aton” is crunchy as hell, with a sweltering pace to match these hot summer days, and steamy singing. More great soloing emerges before the whole thing bleeds into the night. “Faux Pharaoh” has doomy riffs, Sadonis singing about “paranoia and decay,” and the atmosphere taking on more pressure. The guitars gain intensity, strings rise up, and the track comes to a raucous end. Closer “Evening Wind” pushes through, bringing psychedelic dreams, bluesy bits, and a pace that goes from haunting ballad to scorcher. The guitars are thick and rich, setting fires, though that eases back, as the track closes with spirited “ah-ah-ah” calls and a disappearance into mystery.

This record sounds like Lucifer at its ultimate state, save for that one track, and hopefully whatever magic needs to be conjured to keep the “II” lineup together can be drawn to this Earth. This is a fun record, a perfect collection for the summertime when things are hot and sticky, and music like this goes down easily. This rivals that Oath debut for the best work Sadonis has done so far, a record very much brimming with her occult charisma and power.

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