Lucifer is the ultimate artistic success story. In this late hour of heavy metal's existence, there's a seemingly limitless selection of nostalgia-driven styles. Unfortunately, most of the practitioners add little of interest to their chosen styles, at best putting a very good spin on an already established canon. But Lucifer is different — this is a band that combines several styles from the late-70s and early-80s and makes something totally their own. In the process, they iron off the rough edges of the source material and refine it down to something truly special.
Don't get me wrong, Lucifer V still bears a distinctly vintage vibe, similar to the scene in Halloween when the girls are driving around listening to "Don't Fear The Reaper." But it's all presented in an updated form that takes the best from bands like Blue Öyster Cult, Heart, UFO, Uriah Heap, and Coven and crafted into a rich and consistent package.
However, I'm happy to say that, for the first time since the band's stellar first album (not to mention Johanna's previous band), notable metal influences have conspicuously crept back in. Echoes of Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and Mercyful Fate can be heard across the album's nine tracks. After all, Nicke Andersson is in the band. Astute listeners may even be reminded of the slow section of "Left Hand Path" while listening to "Slow Dance In A Crypt." Maybe that's just me.
The songwriting is so strong on this album that it virtually plays like a greatest hits album. From the raucous metal fury of "Fallen Angel," to the contemplative rocker "At the Mortuary" and the anthemic "Riding Reaper," the album just supercharges you right away. Johanna's voice, while reminiscent of the Wilson sisters, has a power all its own that acts as a perfect anchor for the rest of the band. Additionally, her vocals are channeled through catchy and infectious melodies that stay with you long after each listen. This is especially true of "Slow Dance In A Crypt," that "so we begin" delivery is just so haunting and satisfying that you can't help but join in the dance.
This song is followed up by the similarly-themed "A Coffin Has No Silver Lining," a track that immediately recalls peak-era Ozzy, Kiss and Queen in their heavier moments (think "Hammer to Fall"). It just rocks! It rocks in a way that barely any music still does nowadays. In a just world, Lucifer would be playing stadium-sized crowds in a 2024 equivalent of Live Aid, as this song would fit in perfectly. Likewise, "Strange Sister" would be perfect just as the sun starts to set on the crowd and things start to get really wild.
The album's epic closer, "Nothing Left To Lose But My Life" shows every band member shining as brightly as possible. In particular, the song contains the most guitar-hero worthy licks from Linus Björklund, who totally rips it up here. But that's not to exclude the work of Martin and Harald, who play their guts out throughout the album as well.
I was a huge fan of Lucifer's first album, and that one will probably always be my favorite ("Purple Pyramid" remains undefeated). There were cool parts on the band's second and third albums, but I still found them somewhat middling in comparison. The fourth album showed the band's hard rock bonafides taken to their logical culmination, an absolute triumph of an album. But I think Lucifer V stands tall as one of the best hard rock or classic metal albums of the last 15 years. In fact, I might prefer listening to this over many of the band's influences. They've got everything I could want from their style, and no filler. At the very least, it's an early entry on my albums of the year list.