Entering the Underground #20: Luzifer Breaks The “Iron Shackles” Of Strait-Laced Traditional Metal
Something that’s largely missing from the modern heavy metal scene is bands that do a good job of mixing the silly, spooky fun that King Diamond had with the actual musical and writing chops that his bands always brought to the table alongside it. Most bands seem to have one or the other, but never both; they come across as nearly-satirical in their tasteless, riffless “fun” music, or have an earnest and serious quality to their big goddamn riffs if they pull off their general stylings.
Though Luzifer, a side project of the deadly and successful German titans Vulture, don’t sound a whole lot like the aforementioned Diamond, that same atmosphere and apparent readiness to join a wicked party immediately caught my attention as I listened to the album. The music itself recalls a wide variety of bands from Dio to Heavy Load and even to early Ghost (just listen to some of those chord progressions and tell me they couldn’t fit on Opus Eponymous!) but there’s nothing in particular that would make it sound like worship of anything but the most extravagant, entertaining parts of the ‘80s. Throw some huge fucking organ riffing on top and you got yourself a stew, baby! How can your head not move over such storied lyricisms as:
“If you disrupt their spells, and don’t flee their curse, you’ll feel the wrath of the sorcerers!”
The drums echo with that reverbed-out hollow impact that you can already hear in your head as I describe it, the vocals hit just the right balance of smooth and rough, and the songwriting is catchy as all hell. That aforementioned variety of influences keeps any part of the album from feeling like a formula even though it all comes together smoothly enough to have come from one; it’s an album that’s difficult to describe because of how much went into it, but listening to it provides a certain clarity. It’s glorious, it’s tough, and it’s big sunglasses and a perm all rolled into one. It’s Luzifer, and it’s with good reason that Iron Shackles is a hit.
Check it out and read below for an interview with multi-instrumentalist Stefan Castevet.
There’s a sense of ghoulish delight throughout the new songs that belies the seriousness that clearly went into the songwriting. Was it difficult at all to balance “fun” and good?
Fun in terms of "having fun"? Not at all! We had a great time. We weren't in the stressful surroundings of a sound studio but our rehearsal room and my flat. That felt very relaxed so we could really concentrate on recording the songs properly!
Did you DIY the entire recording?
No, not at all! We did everything with Marco Brinkmann from Hellforge Studio! The sound he got out of those crappy rooms are brilliant, if you ask me! Best drum sound we ever had with any band!
Will you be bringing back Brinkmann into your own spaces for all recordings going forward? Were there any downsides to recording at home instead of at his studio directly, or was it all good?
If you ask Marco, I bet he can name a ton of downsides. Think he talked about too much bass on the tom sound reflections or something. To us everything sounded perfect right away. The only downside that I noticed was that we had to move to my flat because the band next door started recording drums as well, haha. We were just able to finish the last song half an hour later though, luckily!
Are you going to push to record with him again at a bandmate’s residence, or would you rather go back to a studio?
No, no! Studio please! Don't want to torture my neighbours too frequently.
Were there any inspirations outside the obvious that went into Iron Shackles?
More or less everything I listened to in the last four years that went not into VULTURE seems to somehow found its way into this record. May it be the riffing of old Swedish bands or a little disco feeling here by adding some shakers. We were able to pick from a wide selection of ideas and weren't quite sure where this songs would lead us. Now we're really happy with the result in terms of variety, even though it's just five songs, an instrumental and a cover.
Was anything off limits? How did you pick from those varied ideas and put them together into something cohesive?
Things just came together very naturally. Maybe that's cause we got a lot of songwriting experience on our hands? I can't really tell. It didn't feel like we had to combine single elements. Everything was coming together without any troubles. Maybe also cause vocals seem to be pretty important to these songs. With VULTURE f.e. It's always about the riff. Concentrating on vocals in the verse makes you worry less about how brilliant the guitar riff underneath is! [Laughs]
Could you have pulled off this record without those years of songwriting experience with Vulture and earlier bands? Could it have happened in, say, 2015 instead if you’d decided to do an album rather than a 7”?
Back then we said: No full length ever! Just singles, haha. Trying to keep it a little obscure back then. Of course we would've been able to do one. Would've sounded much more like Mercyful Fate, though!
Was there ever a time that the band really noticed that the focus had shifted from being obscure and Fate influenced and towards where Luzifer is now? Was it gradual or a single set of quick decisions?
I think we just became a lot more open minded throughout the last years and then it was just quick decision making, sort of.
On top of “Faltige Schwingen über Loudun” there’s a cover of ‘80s anthem “Der goldene Reiter” towards the end of the album. Are there any other unusual song choices that Luzifer intends to cover in the future? Will you ever do an album that’s more in German than not?
Yeah, maybe! We don't have any plans so far. But I guess, we'll do definitely do more German stuff as well! Thinking a lot about covering KLAUS LAGE "Faust auf Faust" for the last years. Maybe we'll do that? Haha!
What makes those songs resonate with you?
They're constant companions in every party through the last maybe 5-6 years. And they're pretty heavy! That's it!
Are party-ready tunes that match that mood a goal when putting together original songs?
Well, at least they're catchy! That's an element we might have missed here and there with other bands and projects, haha. But it's not like we write songs and say: That's gotta sound dance-able or party-ready. More like: Catchy. Heavy. Atmospheric.
Did any songs come together for the album that had to be scrapped for not meeting the band’s sonic goals?
Nope, not at all! We just completed every material we had right on time!
Iron Shackles released on March 25th via High Roller Records.