Monday, July 2, 2018

Album Review: Lucifer - Lucifer II

The Oath only lasted for one album (actually, I think they broke up before it even came out), but they made quite the impact. For their short shelf-life, they are fondly remembered for the brand of vintage rock and roll they resurrected, and the bands they formed after the dust settled have gotten plenty of attention. Lucifer's first album was well-received from those same fans and critics, although I will say it didn't do much to impress me. It lacked some of the grit The Oath had, and I felt something was missing without the combination of the creative forces. Now they are back for the follow-up, and there is a shift in the focus, one that pulls them closer to my tastes. So does Lucifer raise a hellishly good time with this album?

This time out, Lucifer is certainly a less doomy, occult band than they were before. The sound is still rooted in the same influences, but the music is freer, and more open to melodic possibilities. This is 70s rock with a hint of darkness and doom creeping in, rather than dark rock with a hint of 70s flair growing aroudn the edges. That means this album is more of a classic rock record than Lucifer seemed possible of before the change in membership.

For a band started by and centered around Johanna Sadonis and her voice, this shift is both critically important, and strangely necessary. She possesses the kind of voice that fits the timeless haze of the music, which makes it a surprise to hear her say this album gives her more room to sing melodically. I'm scratching my head wondering how her own band handcuffed her from using her talents, when she is the focal point of the whole enterprise. Perhaps, like a lot of bands that come after a first success, everything was thrown together too quickly to work the kinks out before being revealed to a large audience.

Whatever the reason, this new incarnation of Lucifer is a different, and better, beast. The music is still dirty and gritty, but it rises out of the muck to deliver moments of melody that are far and away above anything on the first record. Whether it's the laid-back "California Son", or the driving "Dancing With Mr. D", Lucifer is able to give us a record that sound like the catchiest stoner record ever made. The guitar tone is that kind of hazy brand of heavy, but I don't know if I've ever heard it used to make music that wasn't a wandering mess of boring ideas. This is what that genre can be, and it sounds good.

"Lucifer II" is a dramatically better record than its predecessor, which should be all I need to say, but I'll go a step further. Not only is that true, but I'm inclined to believe it's a better record than The Oath's was, which started this hype train rolling down the tracks in the first place. I know this is the sort of record I was hoping The Oath would get around to making, if they had stuck together. Lucifer has risen, and this is their clarion call. "Lucifer II" is a dirty, gritty, and damn good rock and roll record.

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