Released: 2007, Osmose Productions
The first run of American blackened-death metallers Angelcorpse was a relatively short one, spanning from their 1995 formation to their 2000 split-up, but in that period they recorded and released several EP's and singles as well as three full-lengths, each progressively better than the one before it, culminating in 1999's THE INEXORABLE, one of the finest and most outright vicious extreme metal albums ever released. Six years after personal problems led to the group's disbanding, original members Pete Helmkamp and Gene Palubicki decided to give it another try, recruiting original drummer John Longstreth for the recording sessions of what was to become 2007's OF LUCIFER AND LIGHTNING. The result is, while certainly a good platter of extreme death metal, also a let-down after its monstrous predecessor.
Clocking in at thirty-six and a half minutes, the album wastes very little time launching into the classic Angelcorpse formula of heavily Morbid Angel-influenced technically-precise riffs and frequent chaotically atonal guitar leads, furiously fast drumming, and Helmkamp's midrange raspy bordering-on-black-metal vocals. While fans of the group's earlier works will doubtless be pleased upon the first moments of listening, several things quickly become evident. First and most obvious is the fact the production is not the world's greatest, to put it politely. Double bass drums sound like typewriter keys, snares sound like tin cans, the bass is so low in the mix it's virtually inaudible, and the guitar lines frequently dissolve into sonic mud. Helmkamp has a bit more variety in the vocal department on this release than on previous albums, dipping down into the gutteral deathgrowl range on a good many occasions, but unfortunately tends to get buried in the mix when he does so. Finally, while Longstreth is a technically skillful drummer and delivers a very good performance on OF LUCIFER AND LIGHTNING, it's not as impressive as the hammering assault unleashed by his predecessor from THE INEXORABLE, the incredible Tony Laureano.
All that said, the album is still a whirlwind of blasphemous metallic aggression. Riffs are numerous and complex, the Trey Azagtoth-inspired guitar leads are as atonally insane as ever, and Helmkamp has lost none of his energetic fury in terms of vocal delivery. Most of the tempo is furiously fast, leading to somewhat of a sense of interchangeability amongst the tracks, but there are a few slower and downright brutal moments like the crushing breakdown in the middle of the album's best track, "Saints Of Blasphemy." Another standout is "Hexensabbat," which calls to mind a few musical hints of REALM OF CHAOS-era Bolt Thrower. While it has nothing to do with the music, the cover art is suitably (that is to say "ludicrously") over-the-top and appropriate for the release, featuring a storm-strewn wasteland and a gigantic Satan about to chow down on an upside-down Jesus in much the same manner someone might bite the ears from the head of a chocolate rabbit.
Had this been a release from Angelcorpse back in their early days, OF LUCIFER AND LIGHTNING would've stood alongside HAMMER OF GODS or EXTERMINATE as an important piece of extreme metal history. As a follow-up to THE INEXORABLE, especially after the long years of silence in which many other bands have stepped forward to carry the blood-spattered banner of black-death hybrid metal, it is disappointing. Still a good album, mind you, just not even close to what it could...and should...have been.