Live report by David Araneda
The international retro-rock ensemble LUCIFER, featuring musicians from Germany, Austria and Sweden, came to pay us a visit on a cold and snowy January evening, in the context of their four-date Finnish tour to promote their newest album called Lucifer II. After a mayor line-up change between albums and the marriage between singer Johanna Sadonis and drummer Nicke Andersson, the band has finally settled in Sweden. The place chosen for their Helsinki gig was the legendary Bar Loose from Annankatu, which is currently celebrating its ten-year anniversary. This bar has become a landmark for rockers and metalheads in the Finnish capital, with local and international bands performing on a regular basis.
Last year, LUCIFER released their second full-length record, signing a deal with Century Media Records and getting a lot of attention and recognition from both fans and critics globally. The promotion of Lucifer II took the band in a long tour, with highlights such as Hellfest, Las Vegas and KISS Kruise. With such credentials, the stakes were up in the sky for this wintery evening. The tickets went sold out for a few weeks before the show, with many people trying desperately to find a second-hand ticket. The band was surprised by the warm welcome they received in the smaller Finnish cities they visited earlier this week, Jyväskylä and Vaasa. But Saturday was the big night, Bar Loose was packed and the spirits were very high.
The Finnish heavy/doom band MUSTA RISTI were the ones in charge of warming up the audience. With a forty-minute set, they showed the best bits of their repertoire, based mostly on their eponymous LP. With songs like “Moottoriritari”, “Kelmeät silmät”, “Tule esiin tuho”, “Verikoirat”, “Tuhkaviitta” they succeeded to put an entertaining show. “Peto” deserves some extra credit, with its high-pitched maniac vocals. The fact that their songs are in Finnish makes them more relatable to the local audience, but at the same time this limits their international potential. While we were waiting for the main act, Dj ASTRO made sure to keep the right atmosphere with rock and metal classics.
LUCIFER came to the stage at ten PM sharp, starting their show with the powerful Black Sabbath-inspired riff of ‘Faux Pharaoh’, waking up the audience instantly. Johanna’s haunting voice sounded strong and clear, and so did the rest of the band. Then they indulged with one of my favorite songs from their first album: ‘Abracadabra’, which is as catchy and doomy as they get. ‘Eyes in the Sky’ is a more melodic tune, showing the new direction of the band after the line-up change. The up-tempo change in the middle section made everyone shake their heads to its contagious beat. ‘Dreamer’ is one of their biggest hits so far and the crowd responded accordingly, singing along at the top of their lungs.
The evening continued with ‘Phoenix’, a danceable song in the vibe of Jefferson Airplane, showing how versatile this band can be. The energetic and mesmerizing stage presence of Johanna kept drawing my attention, as she managed to conquer the audience without any problems. The party mood went on with ‘Dancing with Mr. D’, a cover version of The Rolling Stones, one of their favorite bands. ‘Aton’ brought the proto-metal heaviness back with its strong guitar riff, nevertheless there is also a lot of melody in the vocal line. ‘Purple Pyramid’ went even deeper into the heavy side of LUCIFER, making evident the shift between their two albums. I must admit that I prefer this darker, occult side of their music.
‘Morning Star’ is yet another example of this tendency, with a rawer sound and a more aggressive style. I’m very happy they have kept some of this more primitive material on their set. Then it was time for Johanna to pay tribute to one of her heroes with an impeccable cover version of ‘Take Me Away (Together as One)’, originally by Paul Stanley, which suited very well the band. Next, one of their excellent feel-good hippie tunes from Lucifer II, ‘Reaper on Your Heels’, which made everyone enjoy themselves. Towards the end, they took us by surprise with a fast-paced finale. They left the stage for a little break, with the audience cheering and asking for more.
After a couple of minutes, the encore started with ‘Anubis’, a single released even before their first album, not included in it. This song also reflects how heavy LUCIFER can be. To keep the balance between feel-good and doomy moments, bassist Alexander Mayr and drummer Nicke Andersson switched places to perform ‘Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers’, originally by ZZ Top, with Nicke also helping with some lead vocals. The final guitar solos by Linus Björklund and Martin Nordin were delightful. Then they took us for one last motorcycle ride with their biggest hit ‘California Son’, driving the crowd crazy. An apotheotic way to close a nearly perfect performance. The band thanks the audience once more and disappears into the shades.
To sum up, this was a magnificent evening, full of nostalgia for 70’s rock and heavy music. Bar Loose was the perfect location for this intimate show, where you could really feel close to the band. What makes LUCIFER stand out within this wave of retro-rock bands is the charm of Johanna, together with their writing skills, musicianship and professionalism. They excel when it comes to keep a balance between catchy melodic rock full of positive energy, but without forgetting to add that little touch of darkness, which makes their music so enjoyable and entertaining. Many of their songs gain a lot of strength and when performed live, so don’t miss your chance to see them if Mr D. comes to your town.
Words and pictures by David Araneda (Pomelo Rocker Photography)
See more photos from the show, here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskMMXFcD
Eyes in the Sky
Dancing with Mr. D (The Rolling Stones cover)
Take Me Away (Together as One) (Paul Stanley cover)
Reaper on Your Heels
Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (ZZ Top cover)