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Deceptively beautiful for such dark topics, Luciferian Light Orchestra shines like a beacon of hope within the black pits of hell.

Music.

Ask a thousand different people what it means to them, and you’ll get a thousand different answers in response. But regardless of its personal importance, music is, for lack of a better descriptor, one of mankind’s great equalizers – after all, aside from language itself, is there anything more universal across humanity’s various cultures, geographies, and time periods than a shared fascination with cadence and rhyme?

For me, music is my livelihood. A gig that puts bread on the table and rye in the tumbler. I take the tough cases, the assignments nobody else wants. Obscurity is my specialty, strangeness my stock in trade.

While the rest of the city slumbers, I heed the call of my mysterious benefactors, investigating the interstitial information superhighways and plumbing the depths of darkened data vaults for your audiophilic pleasure.

Here are my case files, dear listener, declassified at long last, spotlighting lesser-known artists from around the globe and across the years. May they serve you well.

CASE #:

0001

TYPE OF INVESTIGATION:

Retro-rock, grungy heavy metal, dark rock

NAME:

Luciferian Light Orchestra

SURNAME:

Self-titled (Luciferian Light Orchestra)

DOB:

04/30/2015

CITIZENSHIP:

Sweden

ALIASES:

Therion, Carbonized, Liers in Wait, Messiah, Demonoid

KNOWN ASSOCIATES:

Ghost, Ghost BC, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Blue Oyster Cult, the original Halloween soundtrack by John Carpenter, Led Zeppelin, ABBA, and old White Zombie.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS:                     

Luciferian Light Orchestra (from here on out referred to as LLO) is the brainchild of Christofer Johnsson, one of the founding members of Therion, widely considered the grandfather of symphonic heavy metal. Featuring tracks that Johnsson recorded over the span of many years and which he felt were too far afield from the Therion sound, LLO is a unique breed — one that (sadly) stands somewhat alone.

Information on the actual band members themselves is rather limited.

Christofer Johnsson, a multi-instrumentalist, played the guitar, organ, and keyboards while also providing lead & backing vocals. Considering that he’s been in the music business since 1987, the guy has plenty of experience with songwriting and studio work.

Mari Paul, a Finnish singer-songwriter, provided the female vocals. For someone with such a distinctive voice, there’s very little to find out about her. Apparently, she had an album come out in 2009, but I couldn’t find it on Spotify.

Outside of that, the rest of the musicians are a mystery. Supposedly, some of them were current or former members of Therion, members of other local bands, and even some representatives of Dragon Rouge, a Swedish occult organization (somewhat in the vein of the Freemasons and the like), who lent their vocals to the Gregorian-esque chants that crop up on a few songs.

Quite an eclectic lineup, to be sure, and just part of the mystical appeal of LLO.

I mean, many bands talk the talk, but LLO has some serious street cred backing them up.

Intentionally going for that retro-metal sound (think Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, etc.), Johnsson even hired mixer Lennart Östlund of Polar Studios, who had worked with ABBA and Led Zeppelin, to fine-tune the final product. The results are, without a doubt, stellar.

This record truly sounds like it could have been recorded decades ago.

There’s very little studio trickery here. The songs are relatively simple in their execution, without a whole lot of production fluff. However, this approach can also be a double-edged sword: if you don’t care for those bands listed above, then you probably won’t find much to love with LLO.

Going all in with the dark imagery, the lyrics run the gamut of evil topics: submitting to the will of a dark master, cloven hooves, black crucifixes, sex with demons, expurgation, and all the rest, this is certainly not an album for the more…chaste of tastes.

But, while death metal growls and thrash guitars usually accompany topics such as these, LLO generally sticks with melody, harmony, and symphonic touches.

There are several moments of true beauty here. There is also, naturally, evil chanting and some aggressive male vocals as well. But, by and large, this is an old-school metal album through and through.

Unfortunately, I think that LLO hit the scene just a tad too early – nobody in 2015 (outside of Europe) seemed ready for this particular brand of music.

What is ironic, however, is that fellow Swedish devil-rockers Ghost caused quite a stir with much the same musical formula (sans female vocals) barely a year later.

Though their debut album, 2010’s Opus Eponymous, garnered critical praise when it landed, it wasn’t until 2016, with their iconic EP Popestar, that Ghost really caught on with the worldwide metal crowd, a tidal wave of fandom that they’ve been riding ever since.

And yet, compared to Opus Eponymous (which I do quite enjoy), I find that Luciferian Light Orchestra simply did that particular type of sound better.

Yes, Ghost have refined its style and continued to dominate the industry, but LLO is, in my book, equally as good. They are also, however, not nearly as prolific. Remember, these songs were written over years and considered “not a good fit” for Johnsson’s full-time band.

That said, the album is surprisingly cohesive, considering the scattered nature of the songs.

I just wish there were more of them. Clocking in at less than forty-two minutes, the eleven tracks are over too quickly. There’s an EP with a few more cuts on it, but that only brings the totality of LLO songs to around fifteen. Certainly not a lot to choose from.

With the meteoric rise of Ghost, the stage is set for more of this sound (groovy, 70s-laden dark rock) to take root. I do not doubt that LLO could make more of an impact on the scene if they continue to release music.

Let’s hope that Johnsson has a whole slew of new “unfit” tracks just waiting to be recorded under the LLO concept.

And yet, if this is the only music they ever release, at least it’s consistently incredible from start to finish.

BOLO:                     

Opening track Dr. Faust on Capri is the perfect intro song, covering pretty much all the bases of what LLO is about. Foot-tapping rhythms? Check. Soaring female vocals? Also, check. Evil chants in the background? Yep. It’s everything great about the band, all wrapped up for easy delivery.

Church of Carmel, what should really stand as the lead single from the album, is a sublime slice of seventies sensuality, evoking such disparate bands as The Doors, Heart, and Jefferson Airplane, while not being beholden to, or sounding quite like, any of them. Swap out the evil-leaning lyrics, and this could have been the sound of any number of rock ballads from the swinging decade. This track shows just how hypnotic Mari’s voice can be.

Venus in Flames is one hell of a satanic panic-inducing rocker, featuring ominous chants, a stomping beat, aggressive guitars, and a delightfully dark chorus. This is LLO at its most Ghost-like. It makes the listener want to toss up some devil horns and head-bang right along with the music.

Evil Masquerade, a bonus track, is simply divine (or unholy, as it were) and really leans into that classic metal sound. There’s also a little hint of synth/keyboard that really brings to mind John Carpenter’s score for the original Halloween. It’s just solid from start to finish.

The other bonus track, Malenka, is the one song that truly sounds like it doesn’t quite fit. That’s not to say it’s a bad song. It’s actually quite good, in a more rock-opera/theatrical sort of way (as someone who loves that kind of song, this song brings all the good feels). With the reverb, screeches, and occasional monotone chanting, the track almost sounds like a garage band on the cusp of breaking big. It’s a difficult “feel” to capture, but LLO pull it off with little effort.

CONCLUSION OF CASE:                     

Reclusive and enigmatic, LLO is an oddity in today’s digital age, with very few details to parse regarding their members or the recording process. I feel that this only adds to their appeal, making them somewhat of an anomaly.

If retro rock is something that soothes your soul, and you’re not afraid of wicked themes, then I urge you to give these guys a listen. Highly recommended.

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