The word “timeless” is sometimes used to describe music appealing to a broad audience. Stockholm’s Lucifer have captured the sounds and sights of their music in a nice, custom-made capsule emanating the best musical strengths of the ‘70s with mysterious hints and wayward shadows from the ‘60s.
Delivering a mixture of horror cinema, the occult, dark symbolism and Gothic elements lyrically and on screen, their music celebrates both modern hard rock and the best of its infancy. Showcasing the artistic beauty of B&W on film while painting the mic with dark narrative, it’s the best of both worlds for any age range. The brooding black of Danzig mixes with hints of the trippy ‘60s and visuals from the esoteric magic of the ‘70s. No pentagrams are seen, but they’ve definitely left something lingering and witchy.
With their third record III, the five-piece outfit uses collective inspiration, creativity and perhaps help from a few written incantations to deliver a sound heavy in mood and atmosphere with positive grave results.
With vocalist and lyricist Johanna Sadonis working the mic, guitarists Martin Nordin, Linus Björklund and bassist Harald Göthblad make the seductive strings sing unison with her. Many words can be used to describe Lucifer’s sound. Music from decades past is often described as vintage or retro, but they simply enjoy the music of the era and the visuals around it. “I personally would never use the term, vintage, throwback or retro,” drummer Nicke Andersson says. “This is what I like. This is what I’ve always liked.”
He likes the output of the ‘60s and ‘70s, “That’s where I think sonically rock hit its peak and I think it never got better. It’s not a conscious thing to sound retro. It’s what I think is the best. I say classic instead of cliché, and timeless instead of retro.” In his opinion the sounds of the ‘70s will hold up for future generations. “I have a feeling in 40 years if you listen to something contemporary today, it’ll sound outdated, where as the sound of the ‘70s would hold up.”
Stoner rock is another description Andersson has heard used, though he considers it a magazine term. “I guess Kyuss, maybe Fu Manchu, but I never heard them calling it stoner. It doesn’t really say anything about the music. Rock, heavy rock or hard rock, that’s good enough.” Occult rock is another term used for what Lucifer does. “It’s funny, if you look and compare them to other bands labeled occult rock none of them sound the same. The only similarity is maybe the lyrics, the rest is totally different. I love the occult in entertainment. I think the imagery’s really entertaining. I love Venom. I’ve played death metal for a large part of my career. Venom was the first extreme metal I got into and still like them. It holds up today, they had really good songs.”
Regardless of classification, they’re turning on younger fans to the beginning of hard rock. “If that happened it would be amazing. If I didn’t know about that and got turned on to it I’d be very happy.”
Andersson joined the band after the first album. “I was really happy to join a band called Lucifer. I thought why hasn’t anyone…I think there was a punk band from Holland in the ‘70s, maybe an occasional underground extreme metal band. Other than that no one has really used it and I thought it was genius. Why not? I thought the name was really good.”
If they’d been around in the ‘80s they might’ve gotten attention from protesters and bullhorns along with fan praise. The truly dedicated may have brought torches including the PMRC and various TV evangelists. “It’s hard to irritate people these days,” Andersson admits. “We haven’t heard a lot about the name to be honest. Over here, no one cares. Some people think we’re a black metal band but they’ll soon find out. Do we sound like Venom? No, Johanna doesn’t sound like Cronos at all.”
The video for Midnight Phantom is a modern take on classic TV band appearances, mirroring The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, also reminiscent of what Paranoid could’ve looked like modern day. “We did think about those TV performances. Paranoid was one of them. Being on the square and circular risers, I always thought that was cool. Without The Beatles there’s no Black Sabbath.”
III’s third track Leather Demon was intentionally shot in B&W. “I don’t know anyone in any band that likes doing music videos, especially if you’re performing in it,” Andersson says. “You’re trying to show off as if you’re playing to an audience but it’s just a camera there. When we’re done, I kind of erase the experience from my mind. I think we thought B&W, because the other videos with it worked. I really like it.” The reaper is a mystery acquaintance of the band with a horse named Death.
The sound of III is definitely how they wanted it. Fans and critics have compared the sounds of all three records. “I’ve had equally as many people say this one is heavier than the one before. It’s pretty subjective, I suppose. I haven’t made the comparison myself because this is where we are at the moment. This is what we came up with and I’m pretty happy with it. The next goal is to make something we think is even better.”
Andersson writes musical sketches of songs with Sadonis giving them vocal melodies, lyrics, phrasing and structure. “It’s a 50/50 collaboration. While she’s working on lyrics, I’m working on something else. It works for us.”
Sticking with numerical order, it’s hard to tell if they’ll ever hit the number of the beast. California Son is III’s ode to biker movies with grindhouse green screen. “We needed to do a video quick and had that idea. I thought about us riding bikes against the screen. I thought it was funny. It was fun and a little tongue in cheek but I like the imagery, we all do. I think it fit the mood of the song. Izrael is an earlier thematic gem from their debut with dark imagery, theatrical elements and a ‘60s cult film feel. Eye of the Devil meets a backwoods haunted house movie. “It does have that nice, Hammer horror movie feel,” Andersson remembers. “I really like that one. It’s probably my favorite because I’m not in it. It’s easier to watch.”
Classic horror aside none of the members are slasher or gore fans. “For me the greatest horror movie of all time is The Exorcist. I know Johanna’s favorite is Rosemary’s Baby, which I love. I’m also a sucker for ‘70s zombie movies. For horror fans Dreamer brings together the swampy, backwoods feel of the original Last House on the Left and the White Horse elements of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. At fast glance, minus the black dress, Sadonis and her steed share a passing resemblance to the ghostly Sheri Moon Zombie. The crew found some cemetery gates to jump over and load in equipment, instead of getting a permit. “They probably wouldn’t have given us one, if we asked,” Andersson laughs. “Hey, yeah we’re a band called Lucifer and we…you know. We thought it better not to ask.” The location was just outside Stockholm. Though small, it worked for their guerilla-style needs. “We had a police car drive by and thought, oh no. We’re only halfway through this thing.” They expected sirens, a sharp pullover and a hasty pack and leave with a fine. “They missed us, they must have had their eyes on something else but they totally missed us.”
There are different graveyards in every video. “In other bands I’ve done videos without graveyards. In Lucifer it’s been a graveyard in every one. We have to make a tradition of it.”
Andersson’s taste for visuals comes from early inspiration in KISS. “That’s what got me turned on to music. I saw a picture of them. I liked Star Wars and dinosaurs and then I saw KISS and I was hooked.”
They’ve toured in the U.S. four times so far, one trek for the first album and three smaller ventures for the second. He says American audiences sometimes show more appreciation for the band being there. “Sometimes, we have crowds in Europe that can be a bit stuck up. In America, people seem really happy to see good rock shows, so that’s awesome.” They do a few covers at shows with some Sabbath, ZZ Top and Motorhead. Though ZZ may seem like a strange choice Beer Drinkers and Hellraisers is their choice cut, because hearing Legs after Leather Demon would just sound weird.
Andersson looks forward to getting back on the road and encourages everyone to check out all three volumes. “Lucifer will rise again.”
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