"My family were pastors and a lot of injustice was taught to me as a little girl. Now it's my time to put on the collar and preach": The rise of occult rockers Lucifer

Lucifer group portrait
(Image credit: Chris Shonting)

Recently on tour in the US – where they played with Coven and Pentagram – it was fairly easy to deduce where Stockholm rockers Lucifer are coming from, stylistically and musically. “I was born in Berlin, behind the Iron Curtain, and I started my journey with heavy music 31 years ago,” says founder Johanna Sardonis. 

“My first rock concert was Guns N’ Roses, I then saw Metallica. But it was at the age of 14 when I saw Danzig that was the root of all my evil!” laughs Sardonis. “I was so impressed with the black jackets and black hair. Like the Ramones, but demonic.” 

Sardonis soon found literature on Aleister Crowley, a satanic encyclopedia and an internship at an occult bookshop where like-minded folk of a gothic persuasion could gather. Her hair dyed, her room “pitch black”, with the discovery of the goth club Dark Friday, Sardonis’ cultural die was cast, fostered by her home environment. 

“My parents loved Deep Purple and ZZ Top, my brother was a punk and I was into extreme metal, and a cemetery tourist. I began to realise the bands I liked were inspired by the sixties and seventies – that’s where my songwriting comes from.” 

Learning on an acoustic guitar before going electric – thanks to her parents – Sardonis started performing in underground bands, ending up in doomy hard-rockers The Oath (formed in Berlin with Swedish guitarist Linnéa Olsson). The Oath was short-lived, and after dissolving in 2014, Sardonis’ own project Lucifer rose, prompting a move to Sweden.

Celebrating 10 years of existence in 2024 with a Satanic Panic UK tour – co-headlined with the legendary Angel Witch – Lucifer’s set-list will draw from their five-album catalogue, the latest release named V

V’s themes are pretty descriptive by title (Fallen Angel, A Coffin Has No Silver Lining, Slow Dance In A Crypt…), comprising a mix of Sabbathy structures and black-humoured lyrics created by Sardonis with her husband, and Lucifer drummer, Nicke Andersson. Guitarist Linus Bjorkland also contributes because “we didn’t want to be like Sonny and Cher, it’s better for the music,” Sardonis laughs. 

Sardonis’ look is similarly striking; a horror vamp, her blonde hair and red lips set off by black, caped clothing. “I was a very frail, scared and shy child,” she says. “It’s taken until I’m 44 – and I licked a lot of blood, ha ha – but I can finally say, ‘This is me.’” 

We noticed the priest’s dog collar in your outfit… 

“I’ve been dealing with a lot of sexism,” Sardonis notes, “I get remarks. But I want to say, ‘Fuck you, I’ll do what I want’ and show that just because I look like this, I can still write music. On the last album I was on a life-sized cross that I had made. My family were pastors and a lot of injustice was taught to me as a little girl. Now it’s my time to put on the collar and preach.”

Lucifer's V is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.