Cherry Red Records have recently reissued a long out-of-print album by German hard rockers Lucifer’s Friend. The album, 1994’s Sumogrip, is now back in print and remastered. While not one of the band’s most consistent efforts, Sumogrip still has some good music, even if some of it doesn’t sound like Lucifer’s Friend.
Lucifer’s Friend had reunited in mid 1990s with singer John Lawton and guitarist Peter Hesslein at the helm. In an interview I personally did with the band in 2016 via email, John Lawton claimed that bassist Dieter Horns and keyboardist Peter Hecht were not interested in participating (no word on late drummer Joachim Reitenbach, who was still alive at the time). Given that the original band had ties to the Lucifer’s Friend name, Sumogrip was released under the name Lucifer’s Friend II. This reissue, however, has removed the “II” from the front cover.
Joined with Lawton and Hesslein were bassist Andreas Dicke and keyboardist Jogi Wichmann. The band didn’t have a drummer in the line up but for the album, drumming duties were split between Udo Dahmen and Lucifer’s Friend alum Curt Cress.
In the 11 album discography of Lucifer’s Friend, the band tend to tinker with their sound with each album. While predominately a hard rock band, they’ve tried it all: progressive rock, funk, soul, jazz fusion, etc. For Sumogrip, this is more of an AOR affair. The album’s first proper track, “Heartbreaker,” gives listeners a taste of what to expect: polished production with glossy 1980s guitars and harmonies. “Heartbreaker” isn’t a bad song, though: John Lawton’s voice is strong and the band are in fine form.
The problem with Sumogrip is its length: given that this was an album made in the 1990s, Sumogrip has a runtime of 57 minutes. With 16 tracks to listen to, there is a lot of filler to get through. Along with this, a majority of the songs fall back on the AOR sound. While there’s nothing wrong with this, most of the songs are missing the grittiness that’s on the earlier LF albums. This is especially the case for the ballads on the album such as “You Touched Me” and “Sheree.” While not terrible songs, these aren’t songs meant for Lucifer’s Friend. The band do show a little diversity on songs like the funk-riddled “Cadillac” and the radio-friendly pop of “Step by Step.” However, the album’s production isn’t doing these songs any favors, with the electronic-synth dating the album before its release year. For whatever reason, the band re-records two songs with “Ride The Sky” and “Free Me,” the latter of which was a hit Uriah Heep had while Lawton was fronting them. Compared to the originals, these re-recordings are pointless.
Despite the album’s setbacks, Sumogrip does have some solid tunes. The aforementioned “Heartbreak,” while generic, is one of the heavier songs from the album. The following track, “One Way Ticket to Hell,” is another highlight as it showcases Lawton’s vocals. The album is also able to fall back on catchy tunes, even if they have the AOR tinge. “Rebound” is strong song with a catchy-as-ever chorus while “Any Day Now” is a pleasantly pop rock tune. There are also songs on the album that don’t sound like old school Lucifer’s Friend, but manage to be good songs. Examples of this can be found in the Journey-esque “Don’t Look Back” and the Toto seeped “Back in the Track.”
Wrap-up and conclusion
Sumogrip would be the last album released with the Lucifer’s Friend name until the band reunited in 2014. Lawton, Hesslein and Wichmann were all back, along with original bassist Dieter Horns. With drummer Stephan Eggart completing the line up, this reunited Lucifer’s Friend would release two studio albums- Too Late to Hate (2016) and Black Moon (2019). With the deaths of Horns and Lawton in 2020 and 2021, it seems that the Lucifer’s Friend name has been laid to rest. Since the 2020s, Peter Hesslein has been recording and releasing solo albums.
As for Sumogrip, it isn’t one of the band’s strongest efforts. Still, there’s some good songs on here. With the band’s discography not being the easiest to find, this reissue of Sumogrip should keep completists happy.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.