Lucifer’s Grasp Clutches SLC

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Photos: Ester Segarra

Johanna Sadonis channels her spiritual essence into a rising beast—one that thrives on the creative brainwaves and talents of fellow musicians Gaz Jennings, Dino Gollnick and Andrew Prestidge. The combined efforts summon a formative master that shall soon take the world by a storm of hellfire—the doom metal master, Lucifer. The band’s Salt Lake City debut will rattle the walls of The Complex on Aug. 7.

Sadonis’ musical journey originated in the realm of black metal, and as the sands of time gradually eroded away the rough edges, she came to embrace the smoother sounds of heavy metal. Her previous brainchild, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) band The Oath, met an early demise in 2014. In only a few months’ time, her love for creating music inspired the formation of a beast of a slightly different nature. “My concept for Lucifer was to put more weight onto my influences of heavy rock music from the 1970s and doom,” Sadonis says. “I wanted Lucifer to be more eclectic, defined and deeper—less raw.”

Lucifer combine the power of Jennings’ memorable, crushing doom riffs with Sadonis’ unmistakably powerful, pristine voice. Sadonis seldom uses gruff delivery and focuses instead on interlacing harmonies that carry the listener through each song. She takes advantage of her range and varies her melodies verse to verse to ensure an intriguing listening experience. Lucifer’s lyrics relate to magic, death and other occult themes, and Sadonis reflects her spirituality and belief in duality through imagery and metaphors. “The inspiration comes from within,” she says. “The lyrics are very personal. Certain episodes and key figures of my life are represented by images, metaphors and symbolic figures.”

The band’s logo is strikingly reminiscent of that of Rush, and their sound is stylistically founded on sounds from classic acts such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple—influences similar to The Oath. However, that’s not to say that Lucifer are a re-imagination of Sadonis’ past endeavor. “From the beginning, Lucifer was meant to be an entity of its own,” Sadonis says. “The music you hear is what naturally flows out of us as musicians. Sure, certain elements and influences shine through, but they remain just that—influences that are channeled through you. You should always find your own language as a musician.”

When Lucifer’s talents are united, they forge a refreshing blast from the past. Jennings deviates from the melodically barren landscape of other modern stoner doom guitarists, combining ripping guitar solos with pounding rhythms. Gollnick’s meaty bass tone fills out the sound and almost makes you forget there’s only one guitar. Prestridge’s drum fills beef up a song, especially accented by his mighty use of crash cymbals. “Music runs in our blood,” Sadonis says, “and you can tell, when we are in a room together playing, that this is where all of us want to be.”

Lucifer press photo
Lucifer’s shadow looms on the horizon: Dino Gollnick (bass), Johanna Sadonis (vocals) and Andrew Prestidge (drums) will make their Utah debut at The Complex.

In the early stages of Lucifer’s creations, Sadonis had both Gollnick and Prestidge—the current drummer for the legendary NWOBHM band Angel Witch and former throne sitter for the fantastic NWOBHM ensemble Tytan—in mind for Lucifer’s rhythm section. “Andy played with me in The Oath already, so I knew what a killer drummer he is, and the same goes for Dino, who actually was in the talks to become the bassist of The Oath back then,” Sadonis says. Although Sadonis opened the gates with a clear vision of Lucifer’s sound in mind, Jennings, formerly of doom stalwarts Cathedral and current guitarist for heavy metallers Death Penalty, loaned his unique style of playing to elevate Sadonis’ initial concept to a higher plane. Sadonis says their debut full-length album, Lucifer I, would never be what it is without him.

Released by Rise Above Records on May 25, Lucifer I was conceived in both Jennings’ London home and Sadonis’ home city of Berlin. “Gaz and I wrote the entire album by sending files back and forth between each other’s little home studios until we had finished demos of the songs,” Sadonis says. A week before recording the album, the full band met up in Berlin to spend a few days rehearsing prior to entering the studio. The band routinely convenes in either London or Berlin for both recording and show rehearsals.

Vinyl pressings and packages are soon to come. “We will have several different versions of the album released on vinyl,” Sadonis says, “including two different diehard editions that come with extra 7”s, including two bonus tracks plus a few extra gimmicks: an Angel Witch and a Rattles cover.”

The band showcased their new material in Berlin when opening for Pentagram in the end of May, and Sadonis says supporting the U.S. doom metal pioneers was amazing. “They are one of our big influences. Bobby [Liebling] watched our show standing first row, and our bands ended up hanging out until 6 in the morning. It was a memorable night!” Lucifer looks forward to spreading their shadowy grasp on the road. The heat of July will accompany the searing hellfire that Lucifer is set to unleash on America with High on Fire and Pallbearer on a month-long tour. They will take Salt Lake City by storm at The Complex on Aug. 7, followed by their first London gig.

Keep a steady eye on the horizon and beware the lurking evil. Magicks shall soon fill the air, preceded by Sadonis’ soaring vocals dancing on the furious wind. The time has come—master Lucifer has arrived.