Skip to content

cover-luciferion02

“The Apostate”, the second of two albums that Luciferion released in its decade-long existence, finally arrived nearly a decade after its awe-inspiring debut. It is more of a glorified EP than an actual genuine full length release. While most of the new material of this record was written in 1995-96, it wouldn’t be recorded in earnest until 2001. A few superficialities differentiate it from the band’s musically impressive, but lyricaly rather corny debut of 1994. “The Apostate” in essence is a more refined, polished and ambitious take on what “Demonication (The Manifest)” already did 9 years prior.

On the visual end of things a few notable differences have occured in the interim. The prominent pentagram is removed from the logo in order to emphasize the band’s lyrical maturation. Accordingly “The Apostate” abandons the anti-religious sentiment of “Demonication (The Manifest)”, and replaces it with lyrics about individualism, self-realization and liberation from dogmatic thinking. The lyrics avoid the trappings of the anti-religious ramblings of the previous effort – and are much more interesting for that reason alone. Sprinkled through out the new tracks are samples from the 1998 science-fiction thriller “Dark City”. The artwork, rendered this time around by Dark Tranquillity member Niklas Sundin, is redolent of Salvador Dali’s “Christ Of Saint John Of the Cross”.

2e526d29da53Most of the line-up from “Demonication (The Manifest)” make their return here. The vocals are once again handled by Michael Nicklasson. All guitars, keyboards and backing vocals were done by founder Wojtek Lisicki. Rounding out the line up is bass guitarist Martin Fürangen, an original member of the band who wasn’t able to partake in the “Demonication (The Manifest)” recording sessions due to education obligations in the US. Making his record debut with Luciferion is drummer Hans Nilsson. In comparison the preceding record the keyboards feature more prominently than before, and the increase in speed is notable. None of it ever hampers Lisicki’s musicality or fluency in combining several aspects of different genres at a whirlwind pace. The title track alone is over 9 minutes long, and divided into six chapters. That “The Apostate” sounds impressive would be an understatement, even though it isn’t a fitting eulogy to the band.

The project was put together at Metalking Domain, Lisicki’s home studio, over a four month period during 2001 and 2003. “The Apostate” was completed in various intervals over a three-year period. The drums, rhythm guitar and bass guitar were recorded in 2001, guitar solos and synthesizers followed in 2002, lyrics and vocals were finalized and tracked in 2003. The band split in 2003, shortly after the release of “The Apostate”. After amazing the world with its stunning debut “Demonication (The Manifest)” it is rather unfortunate that Luciferion exited the metal world by what appears to be a contract filler release. “The Apostate” had the potential to be so much more than it actually ended up being. Part new album, and part demo compilation it attempts to be a fan package of sorts, but only when one is feeling particularly charitable. What many fans rightly pined for was a full-blown second album, and not this bit of random odds and ends. The new material of “The Apostate” cannot redeem its archival second half.

LUCIFERIONWojteksolo“The Apostate” consists of two parts. The first are four new songs constituting the “The Apostate” concept. The second and final part is a remastered version of the band’s independently distributed 1994 demo tape. Separating these two chapters is an absolutely terrible and unnecessary rendition of the Celtic Frost classic ‘Circle Of the Tyrants’. This space would have been better used for a new original song. While the new material is impressive on its own the haphazard construction of the record takes away much of the initial impact that the new material has. Luciferion has always had a knack for covering classic metal bands, and the Celtic Frost cover is no different – but it begs the question of whether its presence here is wanted, or warranted. Surely there must have been other avenues to compile these renditions in a more fitting manner. A posthumous compilation of cover tracks, demo – and promo material would have been more than ideal to celebrate its decade-long career, with or without a visual counterpart.

An entire record was written in MIDI format during 1996-98, but it is unclear where that pre-produced material ended up. As internet lore has it the material was too technical, over-the-top and difficult to play for the seasoned veterans Lisicki worked with in past sessions. During the band’s hiatus Wojtek Lisicki had also written and arranged (but not finalized) an astral symfo black metal album in MIDI format. In all likelihood the latter probably was featured on the Against the Plagues’ independent 2007 debut “Architecture Of Oppression” (later re-issued in 2010 as “Decoding the Mainframe”), of which Lisicki was part. It sounds very close to this Luciferion album in terms of music, lyrics and overall imagery/philosophy. Concludingly, Lisicki had for the most part completed a third album, a grindcore album in vein of “World Downfall” Terrorizer, also in MIDI format. What became of that grind-oriented effort remains a mystery to this day.

cover-luciferion01.jpg

 

The debut and, by extent, career of Swedish combo Luciferion is one of unfulfilled potential and a long periods of inactivity due to commitments from its membership. This Swedish all-star death metal band is based around Polish guitar virtuoso Wojtek Lisicki - most famous for his work with power metal outfit Lost Horizon - and members of Dark Tranquillity, Carnage and Liers In Wait. “Demonication (The Manifest)” is one of two albums that Luciferion released in its decade-long existence. While steeped in cliché subject matter it is the creative summit of the Swedish death metal scene, then and now.

Above all else, and certainly beyond its corny Satanic lyrical fodder, it is a truly masterful combination of death -, thrash – and traditional metal. “Demonication (The Manifest)” sounds like a fusion of mid era Death, “Ride the Lightning” era Metallica and a healthy dose of US death metal in the vein of prime era Deicide, Morbid Angel and Vital Remains. The most striking aspect of the recording is just how fluent, and seemingly effortlessly, composer Lisicki combines all these various influences not only in memorable and catchy songs, but how nothing of it ever becomes disjointed, or feels contrived during the album’s duration. Clearly a lot of effort and care was put into its conception, and this is reflected by the reputation of its high-profile membership.

1013_photoOn this album the band was fronted by Dark Tranquillity member Michael Nicklasson, who also doubles as bass guitarist. His vocals are reminiscent of “Blessed Are the Sick” era David Vincent. The throbbing bass guitar can be heard, but in general doesn’t do much to warrant attention. For this session the drums were manned by Peter Andersson. The leads/solos by Wojtek Lisicki are worth the price of admission alone. Next to doing most of the guitar work, he handled the vocals on the Sodom cover track ‘Blasphemer’ next to doing all the synthesizers along with keyboardist Johan Lund. As the entire project was envisioned by Wojtek Lisicki his hands-on approach isn’t very surprising, nor is the fact that Luciferion serves to show off his impressive chops. Even though it is Lisicki’s show each of the members gets equal attention in the songwriting.

The ‘Intro’ is a three-minute invocation of sorts. The fragments of a supposed black mass (invocation of various of Satan's names) in ‘Intro’ are taken from the ‘Black Mass’, which is culled from the 1969 "Witchcraft (Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls)" album by occult hard rock band Coven. ‘Graced By Fire’ is a fiery death/thrash cut that sounds as a more spirited take on what Deicide and Morbid Angel were doing at the time, including far better solo’ing and lead work, and at a far higher pace. The sample in ‘Rebel Souls’ was taken from “The Exorcist III”. ‘The Manifest’ has a very brief bass guitar intro, some exquisite solo’ing, and a finale that recalls the best of “Ride the Lightning” era Metallica. ‘Hymns Of the Immortals‘, ‘The Manifest’ and ‘The Voyager’ are probably the three most technical tracks of the album. The intro and the outro were arranged by lead guitarist Wojtek Lisicki with Johan Lund assisting. They mix Melek Tha's ritual part, Braun Farnon's / Robert Small's classic part and the duo’s own concepts and ideas to create a poignant composition. The keyboards merely function as atmospheric enhancement, and are not vital to the actual compositions. They do enhance the overall feeling a lot.

Heavily inspired by early Deicide, Morbid Angel and Vital Remains. The riffing is redolent of Deicide (“Legion”, “Once Upon the Cross”), the chord progressions are reminiscent of “Let Us Pray” Vital Remains and the overall atmosphere recalls “Blessed Are the Sick” by Morbid Angel. The technicality that permeates the entire record recalls mid period Death, while the refined soloing betrays a lineage in classic thrash – and traditional metal, especially the likes of Metallica and Iron Maiden. On the whole it formed somewhat of a tribute to the American - and European death metal scene of old which was on the verge of being usurped by a younger generation of more technically inclined bands for whom songwriting became secondary. As such the song ‘The Voyager’ is dedicated to Deicide and Immolation. The regular edition counts 10 tracks, the reissues include 4 bonus covers by Slayer, Morbid Angel, Metallica and Mercyful Fate.

The album was recorded at Studio Fredman with Fredrik Nordström and Johan Carlsson producing. Unlike a lot of more contemporary products from the facility the production here is bass-heavy, crunchy and weighty without sacrificing any clarity or depth. A point of criticism to be leveled at the production is that the drum kit tends to sound digital and a bit on the plastic end of the spectrum. The artwork was created by Kristian Wåhlin, a scene veteran of early death/black metal unit Grotesque, which can possibly be called one of his greatest canvasses in a repertoire of consistently fantastic work. Despite the mastery on display the band fell into disrepair shortly after. Luciferion was put on hold in 1996 after doing a limited number of shows in support of the album due to the members’ commitment to their main projects. While Sweden has no particular shortage of strong death metal bands Luciferion is one of the overlooked and forgotten ones. That is a pity because the two albums they did are worthy of the accolades they tend to get.