LUCIFER
"Lucifer IV"

(Century Media)

1. Archangel Of Death
2. Wild Hearses
3. Crucifix (I Burn For You)
4. Bring Me His Head
5. Mausoleum
6. The Funeral Pyre
7. Cold As A Tombstone
8. Louise
9. Nightmare
10. Orion
11. Phobos

RATING: 8/10

LUCIFER have never been shy about proudly wearing their influences on their sleeves. The European group's latest record — simply titled "Lucifer IV" — sees vocalist Johanna Sadonis, drummer Nicke Andersson (THE HELLACOPTERS/ex-ENTOMBED), and returning guitarists Martin Nordland and Linus Björklund once again filtering those inspirations in a manner that capably overlays an aura of dark gloom while still managing to replicate the infectious warmth of the past. It is that mixing of atmospheres that keeps the group's wicked brew from coming off as mere regurgitation. The band's fourth record does have an extra layer of garage rock grime to its production, but their songwriting prowess combines with Sadonis's ever-entrancing croons resulting in another enthralling slab of darkness-infused heavy rockers.

The album contains multiple master classes that show off the group's ability to twist the past's songbooks just enough to pay homage while also weaving a fresh spin. Nods to early years BLACK SABBATH riffs are initially "Wild Hearses"'s main driver, but the band layers in additional touches of swaggering guitars and super-smooth bass lines as the track transitions into a hypnotic coda of melodic blues-rock and Sadonis's layered vocal harmonies. "Bring Me His Head"'s guitar tones and upbeat tempos could match the catchiness of a 1970's KISS performance on the "Midnight Special" television series, though the more sinister bent of the lyrics keep the track shrouded in darkness. "Louise" evokes the powerful trudge of DEEP PURPLE's forays into boogie-rock and punctuates the song with a hearty helping of Southern-rock guitar.

Nordland and Björklund's guitar work — each now making their second appearance on record with "Lucifer IV" — also feels more confidently woven into the band's sound. The duo proves to be a rare breed with their ability to generate a feeling of comforting warmth during every peak and coda, even during moments of shrieking shred. Solos that may sound jarring and out-of-place in lesser hands end up adding to "Archangel Of Death"'s garage-doom feel and complementing "Mausoleum"'s devilishly ominous organ/keyboard work. The duo's proficiency in palatable guitar work also lends an especially satisfying backdrop for Sadonis's beautiful comedown croons on the album-closing "Phobos". All while Andersson and Björklund's combined production forces result in an organic "live" feel that enhances the proceedings of the entire album as a whole without overpowering and drowning the band's innate chemistry in layers of muddy sound.

The way that LUCIFER's lineup has evolved from their 2015 debut has assisted in fulfilling their first record's promised potential. The thrilling rock put forward on "Lucifer IV", combined with what appears to be a more permanent stability in band personnel, is a reassuring document of what will hopefully continue to come from the group moving forward.

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