Gaz Jennings fancies his Occult Doom at present. Last year’s largely well-received Death Penalty project is followed by another female-fronted band of sinistras, this time headed by former vocalist of The Oath, Johanna Sadonis. Initially Lucifer I (Rise Above) sounds as if Black Sabbath have gone more up-tempo, and recruited Agnetha Faltskog to the mic, though with eerie harmonies flying through the dancing, patchouli-scented riffs of opener ‘Abracadabra’, the feel of ‘Goat Doom’ is still here if not quite the density.
There’s a curious tone to Sadonis’ voice, often laconically delivered yet soaring then swooping with a powerful, aching beauty. The brief harmonising in ‘Purple Pyramid’ is delicious, the odd sparse area lit up by The Wizards’ (Jennings’ pseudonym here) growling riffs and those siren-like pipes. Lighter moments may divide opinion, tripping close to a Folk-rock feel not unlike some of Cathedral’s stuff, yet they display welcome variation; the oft-faster than expected pace lifting the mood despite the plaintive voice and subject matter.
‘Sabbath’ finally, and rather aptly, shows us some serious weight, the thus-far barrelling journey slowed, that voice piercing the leaden, eastern-tinged riffs with a pleading agony. Whilst it’s easy to point out Sadonis as the star of the show, Jennings’ mastery of his instrument is supreme yet so subtle it’s almost unnoticed, taking each track to different characters of a story. This is reined in and directed superbly by Andrew Prestridge’s stunning drums: the bare minimum of flourish, just perfect inclusion and timing. All the ingredients fit together perfectly with the effortless switches and dual leads of the drugged-out pain in ‘Morning Star’: whilst the wonderful ‘Total Eclipse’ and ‘A Grave for Each One of Us’ flick from dreamy seduction to a rampant, roaring pummel and back in an instant, Dino Gollnick’s squirming bass underpinning Sadonis’ honeyed notes and coating some feverish riffs.
Full of more beauty, urgency and omen than Death Penalty could muster in one track, with a perfect blend of depth and air, this is a great first listen and improves with each successive experience. Wicked, in the original meaning of the term.