If a certain album by Behemoth had not slunk its way into the cultural dialogue last year, I could easily see Lucifer Child‘s The Wiccan having been called The Satanist instead—not that it would have changed my impression towards the music at all. Although Lucifer’s Child is a new name to my ears, I was instantly interested in hearing this debut, having been picked up by the ever-stalwart Dark Essence Records. A label that otherwise focused almost exclusively on bands from Bergen, Norway must have been sufficiently impressed to let a group of Athenians into their midst.
Of course, I’m sure most others interested in this album will have heard of it through other means, specifically the group’s publicized ties to Greece’s own black metal legends Rotting Christ. I think it’s a pretty loose marketing technique, to be honest; Lucifer’s Child guitarist George Emmanuel has only ever been a session guy and engineer for Rotting Christ, and it might only make a just sales point if this had been fronted by one of the brothers Tolis. All the same, I think this band’s famed association will bring to them the specific kind of listeners that would love the music they’re making. Lucifer’s Child are proprietors of melodic black metal of the distinctly Hellenic variety, and they’ve used that familiar sound to make a strong, memorable album with The Wiccan.
The Wiccan has all the makings of a strong debut. Even if this is the first we’re technically hearing of them, Lucifer’s Child already have a lot of experience and tact going for them. Take the album’s crisp execution for example, or the lean on focused yet subtly progressive songwriting, or even the fact that they know to end the album soon enough to leave us wanting more. A debut album can leave a major impression on a listener, and it’s a shame that musicians at that stage still often lack the scope to make full use of the opportunity. Still fresh to their career path, Lucifer’s Child already know what they want to do, and—less commonly—how to do it. True to the Hellenic scene, they give their melodies life largely through the rhythm guitar, leaving the lead guitar in something of a support role for the large extent of their songs. Melody has a way to tempering Lucifer’s Child away from the more extreme facets of black metal; their songwriting likes to hang around mid-tempo, steering clear of any real speed or madness. When done improperly, this more tactful approach to writing black metal is always boring; for Lucifer’s Child, however, there’s a sense of direction in their writing that keeps the listener engaged, and more than enough vibrancy in their musicianship to offer the punch otherwise provided in black metal by a fury of blast-beats and errant howling.
I might call Lucifer’s Child’s core songwriting ultimately fun and accessible, but they’re not beyond adding progressive touches to their craft. The opening riff of ‘Hors de Combat’ (and the album, for that matter) is a good example of how the band can sound perfectly digestible yet vaguely weird, thanks in part to their uncommonly organic-sounding production style. Added leads (such as those in ‘Wiccan’) sound uncharacteristically playful and strange for a band that otherwise colours within the lines of proper songwriting conventions. The first six songs offer a pretty solid and impressive demonstration of Lucifer’s Child as a promising name in ‘catchy’ black metal, although the layered arrangement and sharp execution are more than enough to hold my interest for repeated listens.
It’s in the final two tracks, however, that Lucifer’s Child unveils themselves as a band with some truly mighty potential. Where the first six were high-energy and hook-centric, ‘Lucifer’s Child’ and the so-aptly named ‘Doom’ draw from an ominous, slow, and boundlessly atmospheric standpoint you wouldn’t have guessed to hear from The Wiccan while listening to the first two-thirds of it. Though recent Rotting Christ is the best point of reference for the first six songs, I was actually reminded most closely of Ihsahn‘s slowest plodders circa After and Eremita, particularly in the way Lucifer’s Child use doomy techniques without losing any of their blackened aura. I wouldn’t say the last two songs are necessarily any more impressive than their upbeat material, but that Lucifer’s Child can demonstrate two different sides of themselves without losing sight of who they are, and it shows how much a force they are to be reckoned with.
Although I’ve been quick to dismiss the Rotting Christ association, the best place to start talking about The Wiccan would be via Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού, Rotting Christ’s most recent studio output from back in 2013. As melodic and song-based as that album was, the way it was recorded made it sound nonetheless foreboding and ritualistic. I get much of the same feeling on The Wiccan. None of this should come as a surprise, given that the young George Emmanuel was given reign of Rotting Christ’s past record as the engineer. I’d like to note how warm The Wiccan sounds as a piece of recorded music. Black metal tends to pride itself on a barren coldness in its production; The Wiccan sounds no less eerie or potent, but the organic recording gives it an unwitting vintage quality, the likes of which you rarely hear outside of classic progressive rock records. It’s fairly common for a band’s ambition to outmatch their reach on a debut. Fortunately for The Wiccan, Lucifer’s Child have all the makings of a professional act, with impressive production values and a rich execution to further amplify their solid material. Far beyond a mere stopgap for fans of Rotting Christ, Lucifer’s Child have set a fairly high standard for their second album to beat.
01) Hors de Combat
02) A True Mayhem
03) Spirits of Amenta
04) He, Who Punishes and Slays
05) King ov Hell
07) Lucifer’s Child