As a teenager in Berlin, Johanna Sadonis would hang out in the local cemetery smoking cigarettes in a leather jacket. “I always felt like in a cemetery, time stands still,” she remembers. This ritual became the basis for her band Lucifer’s latest video “Leather Demon,” from their third album, Lucifer III. The lyrics read like a heavy metal anthem: “They call you Leather Demon / Oh Lord knows that it’s true / Straight from Hell / I sanctify you.”
“You could say that’s me, or you could imagine Joey Ramone hanging out with his slender figure, listening to his walkman or whatever,” Sadonis says of the song’s titular demon. “You can kind of make up your own leather demon for yourself.”
The other two singles off the album are “Ghosts,” where Sadonis asks of the dead, “How long before you come back / To lay my tears to rest?”, and “Midnight Phantom,” which portrays a grim reaper of sorts coming to escort people to their fate: “He warms you with a kill / beneath his cloak of blight, his eyes are hollow.” The remainder of the album, released March 20th, is in keeping with this theme of horror and the occult, with songs including “Coffin Fever,” “Flanked by Snakes,” and “Cemetery Eyes.”
The music may be cliché for heavy metal, but that’s part of its appeal. “I myself have quite the obsession with death and coming to terms with death,” Sadonis explains. “It’s something that we can’t control, and everybody has to face it. I have very mixed feelings about death because I have an intense love for life, and I fear death, but death can also be a comfort when life gets very heavy and you go through dark times. You can see death as some sort of emergency exit.”
The band’s name is also appropriately emblematic of the genre. Sadonis describes Lucifer as “the great outcast,” with whom she identifies after spending her teen years as a misfit herself. “People confuse Lucifer with being the devil, and the devil stands for all the fun things in life: sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” she says.
The band, now based in Stockholm, first materialized in Berlin in 2014, but Sadonis has been making music since the ’90s. When she first started out, she was one of the few women in the heavy metal scene. Nowadays, there are a number of well-known female-fronted heavy metal bands, many of them European, like Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation, as well as more mainstream American groups like Evanescence.
“We still have a long way to go, because I still run into sexism — just sudden remarks here and there, or seeing stuff online, especially on Youtube, which is the hellhole of horrible comments sections,” says Sadonis. “I saw something today where people tried to give me some sort of compliment like ‘Lucifer is really good; they have integrity compared to all the other horrors in female-fronted bands with dyed hair.'”
“It could be that heavy metal has always been the most ‘macho’ of all the sub-genres,” says the band’s drummer, guitarist, and bassist Nicke Andersson, who is also Sadonis’s husband.
With their upcoming tour canceled, the band’s currently taking a breather and continuing to write music that delves into death and other dark topics humans have to face, whether they like it or not. “Songs are a great tool to work through stuff — it’s almost like therapy,” says Sadonis. “It’s also a good tool to understand things a little better consciously, to sit down and try to grasp it with words.”
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