Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lucifer's Friend- Too Late To Hate album review

Lucifer's Friend
Too Late To Hate
Rating: ****

This year of 2016 could very well be the Year of the Reunion. People from Axl and Slash to Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only have surprised music fans- each performing for the first time in decades. For the guys in Lucifer’s Friend, this is the year in which they release a new studio album. Compared to the aforementioned names, Lucifer’s Friend are the easily the lesser known band. As a result, their new album will probably fly under the radar- which is a shame: the band’s new album, Too Late to Hate, is a surprisingly strong reunion album from the 1970s hard rockers. Having reunited two years ago, the reunited band has been playing several shows in Sweden and Germany before the release of the new album. Too Late to Hate is also the first album to be released under the Lucifer’s Friend name since 1981’s Mean Machine- making it their first in 35 years.

            Lucifer’s Friend were formed sometime in 1969 in Germany. The band’s original line up consisted of singer John Lawton, guitarist Peter Hesslein, bassist Dieter Horns, drummer Joachim “Addi” Reitenbach and keyboardist Peter Hect. The band’s proto-metal debut album was released in 1970, featuring the hit single “Ride the Sky.” While the band are often categorized as a hard rock/heavy metal band, the band tried something different album after album- whether it be progressive rock or even jazz fusion. The band went through several line-up changes, the most notable change being in 1977 when Lawton left to join UK prog-rockers Uriah Heep- replacing original singer David Byron. Lawton would go on to make three albums with Heep while Lucifer’s Friend made two albums with another lead singer, Mike Starrs. Sometime after leaving Heep, Lawton rejoined Lucifer’s Friend in 1981 for one more album before the band broke up. While Too Late to Hate is the first Lucifer’s Friend studio album in 35 years, Lawton and Hesslein did release an album as Lucifer’s Friend II in 1994 called Sumo Grip. This reunited version of Lucifer’s Friend consists of three of the five original members: Lawton, Hesslein and Horns. Hect decided to not participate in the new band while Reitenbach passed away a few years ago. Taking over the spots are drummer Stephan Eggart and keyboardist Jogi Wichmann.

            So compared to the previous Lucifer’s Friend albums, how does Too Late to Hate size up? It’s really hard to say in terms of the sound since it has been decades since they last recorded something. As expected with modern day albums, the production is loud. However, this doesn’t affect the album too much. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say most of the songs on here sound like they could’ve been on earlier albums the band made- just with an updated production. The opening track, “Demolition Man,” is a straight up hard rocker with a slick guitar riff and strong vocals from Lawton. However, the song is almost overpowered by somewhat out-of-place and distracting synthesizers and/or pianos. On a first listen, this is the case for a few of the songs. Still, this doesn’t hurt the album. In fact on repeated listens, I’ve come to enjoy songs like “Demolition Man,” along with “Straight for the Heart” and “Tell Me Why.” The former is a guitar heavy tribal-sounding rocker while the latter has a pleasantly fuzzy/buzzing tone- thanks in part to Hesslein. Speaking of which, Hesslein’s guitar work here is impressive. With that, this provides for some of the album’s heavier tunes. “Jokers & Fools” is lead by a chugging guitar riff while the throw-down rocking “Don’t Talk To Strangers” has Zeppelin-esque riff that could make Jimmy Page jealous! If there was one song that sounded the closest to old-school Lucifer’s Friend, it would have to be the hard-hitting “Sea of Promises” as it has a balance of everything great. The band leaves time for some slower tunes such as the dramatic “When Children Cry” and the bluesy “This Time.” With these slower songs, singer John Lawton is really able to showcase his vocals. At 70 years old, Lawton’s vocals are still in good shape- which is saying a lot. While a little lower and fragile, I’d say Lawton’s voice is still strong. Throughout the entire album, Lawton gives a strong performance. The album closes on a high with the anthem-driven “Brothers Without a Name.”

            Overall, Too Late to Hate is a very good album from Lucifer’s Friend. While three or four of their previous albums might be better than this, it doesn’t really matter: for a band that hasn’t made a full length album in decades, this sounds good. If you’re new to Lucifer’s Friend, I wouldn’t start out with this album. Unfortunately, the earlier Lucifer’s Friend albums are not easy to find and sell for high prices. Luckily, a few have made their way to digital music stores. Last year, the band released a compilation entitled The Awakening- a collection of ten classic and four new studio tracks. If you’re interested in listening to the band, that’s not a bad place to start. As for those who own or have owned any of the music by Lucifer’s Friend, this is worth checking out.  

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