On their fifth studio outing, Lucifer have concocted a sugary sweet witches brew with a taste that’s pretty familiar at this point.

Release date: January 26, 2024 | Nuclear Blast | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Permit me if you will, dear reader, to take you back to the Year of our Lord, two-thousand and ten. An outfit of unidentified, Swedish ghouls had just broken onto the scene to spread their faux-Satanic gospel under the leadership of a velvet-voiced, diabolical, Pope figure, calling himself Papa Emeritus I. Long before their gimmick caught fire and their anthem, “Square Hammer”, hit every mainstream rock radio station in existence, effectively rendering them ‘decidedly not metal’, Ghost dropped their debut Opus Eponymous. Hook-laden and overflowing with that Scooby-Doo brand of occult goodness, Opus Eponymous was an entertaining throwback to 70’s horror and Rock n’ Roll, right down to the fantastic album artwork, inspired by Salem’s Lot. Some time not long after, my interest began to wane in the band. Undoubtedly, they had become more successful than ever, but as their music became more refined and, dare I say, formulaic, it started to lose a certain intangible quality that appealed most to me.

Now, I hear you asking, ‘What the heck does all this have to do with Lucifer?’ I might be grasping at low-hanging fruit trying to compare the sonic trajectories of both bands. And, I must admit that V served as my introduction to Lucifer, so it’s safe to say I’m not exactly a seasoned listener. But I wanted to make sure I did my homework on their back catalog, and in doing so I couldn’t help but notice some similarities in their development.

Since its inception in 2014, by front-woman and only remaining original member, Johanna Sadonis, Lucifer has released five critically acclaimed albums to date. Their debut, I, had in spades that intangible quality I spoke of earlier. A shadowy, dusty combination of Traditional Doom, occult, and 70’s Rock worship, that album had a kind of gloomy tonality that I look for in music like this. By contrast, V leans much more into its spooky, Pop sensibilities, particularly on tracks like “At the Mortuary” and the power ballad-like “Slow Dance in A Crypt”. By the time I reached the overindulgent “Maculate Heart” at the mid-point of the album, I found V‘s brand of “fromage” starting to wear on me. Fortunately, the dynamic does start to shift a little in the latter half of the album, with tracks like “A Coffin Has No Silver Lining”, “The Dead Don’t Speak”, and “Nothing Left to Lose but My Life” introducing a bit more darkness back into the mix.

V feels like the product of a band that has wholly nailed down its sound and formula. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether that’s a good or bad thing, but for me, this record feels much more straightforward, and it’s just not to my palette. That’s not to say the band hasn’t turned in some fantastic performances here that are authentic to the period that inspired them. The production, character, and tones of the instruments are all warm and fuzzy and everything you’d want in a release like this. Johanna’s vocals run the gamut from sensual siren to bewitching belts. Nicke Andersson, of Entombed fame, as well, demonstrates that his well of riffs and melodic hooks and motifs is seemingly bottomless. Everything is done at the highest level here, it’s just nothing we haven’t heard before, and that seemingly magical intangible is missing in action.

As I said earlier, I worked my way backward with Lucifer, and maybe I shouldn’t have focused as much on their previous output when trying to formulate my thoughts on this, their most current release. After all, the band has gone through some big line-up changes over the years, so it’s only inevitable that their sound will gradually change. And there’s nothing wrong with that because bands, like the musicians in them, grow and evolve. Don’t get me wrong; V is a lot of fun, and it has some shining moments. Unfortunately, standing next to its earlier predecessors, however, it ends up lacking some luster for this humble reviewer.

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