Luciferian Light Orchestra – Luciferian Light Orchestra ALBUM REVIEW

You guys ever listen to 70s classic rock and think “I really wonder what this would sound like if it was done by now middle aged goth kids trying to relive the years where they didn’t need arthritis medication? Also I really want them to mention satan more, I feel that there’s a lack of devil worship in this Rolling Stones song.”? Well you’re in luck, because Christofer Johnsson, from the symphonic power metal band Therion, has created just the band for you! You see, Johnsson has been writing a bunch of songs for years that he’s felt were too retro and too edgy for Therion, and in 2014 formed a band with a so far unknown group of people to make these songs an actuality. A power metal frontman making 70s rock songs about satan? What could possibly go wrong?!

The common answer to a self asked question like that is usually “absolutely everything”, but I’m actually going to let the review answer that question rater than just type it straight out. How else am I supposed to get to over 1000 words? This review isn’t going to really be about the actually music, at least as far as notes and technical skill are concerned, because that isn’t really the issue here. What really needs to be talked about is everything around that, the vocals, lyrics, and the overall image the band projects, and in what way. Do they succeed in creating the atmosphere and image they want to create? I think pretty much anyone can guess what I’m going to say based on what I’ve written so far, but I’m an asshole who likes to waste your time, so I’ll explain it in the least brief way possible.

The first thing that stood out to me about this debut was the contrast between the vocal style and the music style. Luciferian Light Orchestra (I’m just going to call them LLO from now on, I’m not typing that out each time) is by no means the first band to do something like this, however that doesn’t mean the other bands that do this are successful. Contrast between music and vocal style is really easy to mess up, because what often happens is you give the listener conflicting messages on how you’re supposed to feel. On the one hand, we have this hard blues rock playing, and on the other hand, we have these soft female vocals. The vocals evoke this mystical temptress, luring you into the sinful joy of satan. On the other hand, we have the music your dad listens to when he tries to dance with your mom, attempting to rekindle the feeling they felt when they first met at the biker bar in ’74. The problem is they don’t realize you’ve actually entered the room, and you did in-fact witness that assgrab, making an extremely awkward situation for everyone when they see you. Now imagine that same situation, except your parents are actually all dressed in black, wearing crosses, and proclaiming satan while appearing to drink blood from a wine glass (it’s actually tomato juice, blood has too much salt for your mom’s diet). And yes, you still see the assgrab. That’s pretty much what this album is like, it’s awkward.

Of course being fronted by a power metal man, there’s going to be a bit of goofiness in it. I mean the entire atmosphere of the album is a little goofy, that’s pretty much guaranteed to happen when you combine Led Zeppelin with diet-satanism. But it goes a step further in including stuff that would be silly on any album. There’s these whispered, raspy vocals that are used on occasion, sort of sounding like a wimpy attempt at atmo-black vocals, combined with what the bad guy sounds like in a typical rock opera. Again, power metal background, it’s to be expected, it’s still bad. On the completely other side of the spectrum, they also use this booming, semi-operatic, imitation Gregorian chant voice at seemingly random times throughout the album. The good news is that it’s most used during the two songs that are mostly doom metal. The bad news is any other time it’s used. It’s not really the concept that’s bad, as much as the execution. I feel like I’m listening to some sort of amateur viking metal album every time it comes on. I really feel like a deeper, male voice (or at least a harsher, more hardcore punkish female voice) would’ve suited this album much better than the style they choose. But I also feel that once you pick a vocal style, you can’t just go to a different one whenever you feel like, especially when it’s so drastically different. Otherwise it creates not only disorganization, but a sense that the artist has no clue what the fuck their doing. Remember, randomness in music is always bad, unless it’s intentional.

Beyond vocal styles, the actual content of the vocals are pretty cringe-worty as well. They read like someone put a bunch of occult sounding words (satan, blood, sabbath, devil, sin, etc.) into a hat, drew them, stuck them to the tip of a bunch of darts, taped a sheet of the lyrics onto the wall with the nouns blanked out, and then threw the darts at those blanks, calling them the lyrics. Kinda like a frat party version of mad libs, except if everyone were drunk someone would probably get hospitalized for an eye injury. So basically just like a frat party version of mad libs. They don’t really seem to say anything significant, and are at times nonsensical. An except from Eater of Souls, reads

“Shadow scales, hissing noise
deepest down below
No return from darkness
Eater of all souls.”

It reads like a collection of phrases vaguely related to the topic rather than actual lyrics. Black metal can get away with this, because nobody can hear, nor do they actually care about the lyrics. LLO puts the lyrics at center stage, making them very audible and clear. Think of it this way, if you’re going to get naked on camera, you better hope you have nice penis. LLO has a 4 inch, hairy dick that for some reason they thought would look good with a prince albert. I think my favorite part of that excerpt is “hissing noise”. Like someone on the band thought that writing something in TV closed captioning language would make a good lyric.

As another small thing, LLO is going for a retro theme, yet decided on an extremely clean and modern production. It makes the album sound much more like a cheap imitation of 70s rock than the real thing. It creates this uncanny valley effect, where it sounds neither modern nor retro, and overall quite tacky. Of course, that isn’t saying that much, considering you could point to just about anything about this album and call it tacky.

So far I have only mentioned relatively small details about this album, and while the devil is in the details (which I’m sure is also a future LLO lyric, it has the word devil in it after all), in the big picture, this album still is flawed. The main issue I take with this is mostly in my own inhibitions, particularly in my inability to know whether this album is serious or not. Another uncanny valley on a much larger scale, it’s goofy enough to question it’s sincerity, but not nearly goofy enough to turn that questioning into serious doubt. The single best word I can describe this album with is probably “edgy”, however as we all know in the metal world, edgy is a prerequisite. The difference here is in it’s musical tone. Just like how whenever people talk they have a certain tone to their voice (sarcastic, angry, happy, etc.), so does music. The conflict is that the subject matter is quite dark and potentially serious, however the way it is presented is in a very not dark or serious way. The problem is that it doesn’t crossover into either enough. To reference a scale I made up just now, musical tone is broken up into 3 basic groups: Serious – Non Serious – Parody. This is neither serious nor non serious, nor does it float in an in-between. Instead it floats back and forth between the two, without ever being in either. So I don’t know whether to appreciate it’s light hearted take on a serious subject manner, or to take it’s message at face value. And it doesn’t ever go into the parody realm, until you actually take a real deep look at a 33 minute album with 31 ratings on RYM that was limited to 1000 copies, but only a loser with no life would do that. And even then, there’s no indication whether any of it’s goofiness was intentional or not.

It’s all around an album with a truly confusing message, which makes it so hard to judge. I can’t really rate this as low as I want to, because while I do think that all the things I’ve mentioned are bad, the surface level sound of this album is actually pretty ok. Part of that is because I don’t know that much about 70s blues rock, so I can’t really judge their playing or musicality, and another is because there are times where if you ignore the lyrics and vocals, this album sounds pretty groovy. As far as I can tell these are good musicians, which again, makes me wonder if this album is a serious or non serious album. I’m leaning towards serious, which means the rating is going to have to suffer.

If you just scrolled down to see the rating and don’t feel like reading all of this text, you’re in luck, because all you have to do is look at this picture of the band and you’ll understand everything I wrote without ever having to read it.


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