Review by Sophie Maughan
Release Date: 31 March 2014
Lacuna Coil will always hold a piece of my little black heart. When you ask folks of the metal loving persuasion what record got them into this genre, many will cite records like Metallica’s Master Of Puppets or Black Sabbath’s seminal debut. For me, that album was 2002’s Comalies. An absolute masterclass in female fronted metal which cemented my transformation from indie girl to metalhead. I will never forget that feeling on hearing Cristina Scabbia’s ethereal vocals for the first time – the effortless power of her voice combined with those synth drenched melodies with a hint of gothic darkness. Suffice to say it blew my young untouched-by-heavy-music mind and a genuine fangirl (or ‘Coiler’ as we are known collectively) was born.
With a career in excess of sixteen years, the Italian sextet’s sound has inevitably altered and developed along the way. Whilst this is not unusual for a band with such longevity, I cannot profess to being enamoured with all these changes -particularly the move towards a more commercial “Americanised” sound that seemed to permeate throughout Shallow Life (2009). A stunning return to form in the shape of 2012’s Dark Adrenaline saw me eating a big ol’ slice of humble pie and getting all excited to see the Milano maestros taking it back to the proverbial old-school.
Fast forward a mere two years and Lacuna Coil have stormed the globe both as headliners and as support for artists including Megadeth, Motorhead and Paradise Lost. Right now, the band are gearing up to drop seventh full-length album Broken Crown Halo, which as frontman Andrea Ferro explains, is an introspective and brutally honest examination of a not so harmonious world in 2014:
“In the past year we’ve been dealing with a lot of pain that has brought us down as a band and left us broken and shattered. But it also made us realize how much time has made us stronger…no one but ourselves can free us. When darkness holds you close, you need to open the wound and let it bleed out.”
So, with the band themselves admitting that they set the bar “pretty high” with Dark Adrenaline, the burning question is whether or not this release can live up to the very hype which surrounds it – will this so-called sonic wound bleed out or should someone just whack a big bandage on it?
In a nutshell, opening track (and lead single) ‘Nothing Stands In Our Way’ has my mouth literally hanging open from the offset. I am officially excited. My senses are tingling on hearing those deliciously eerie keyboards at the start and I am completely blown away by that eardrum rattling roar from Andrea Ferro at 0:10. That I was not expecting! Ladies and gents, this is classic Lacuna Coil at their very best. The track builds into an absolute colossus with those thundering drums, blistering hooks and anthemic lyrics which will scream at you from deep inside the brain long after the first listen.
The jarring juxtaposition of nu metal-esque down-tuned guitars and a intro that is of such cinematic proportions it could be straight out of a Dario Argento horror flick, makes for captivating listening on ‘Zombies’. You can definitely sense the cultural influences here. Much criticism has been levelled at Ferro in the past regarding his singing ability (or lack thereof according to some) but I will give serious kudos on this one – his consistent delivery of both clean and growling vocals are the perfect counterpoint to Cristina Scabbia’s soaring range. In all honesty, it is probably the best he has sounded on record since the Unleashed Memories era of the band. ‘Hostage To The Light’ is a slow burning number; all brooding and beautiful – you can visualise the sea of lighters and smartphones being held aloft in a live capacity. This vein of darkness continues into ‘Victims’ and for the most part it showcases accomplished performances from both singers, not to mention some pretty polished production to boot. Admittedly, I’m not too sure about the moment midway through the track when Lacuna decide to go off piste and throw some spoken dialogue into the mix. Unfortunately, Cristina’s impassioned cries of “People told me I was weak / I told them I’d NEVER quit!”end up coming across as angsty rather than empowering.
Thankfully the cheesy clichés are few and far between from here on in and LC hit straight back with the fucking infectious ‘Die And Rise’. Crunching djenty guitars combined with that piercing electronic feedback and Ferro’s gruff shrieks of “DIE!” will have you banging your head until it aches, and although I have no clue what the lyrics sung in Italian mean at 2:22, they inject the song with so much drama as Cristina’s vocals creep towards an intense crescendo. I find myself hitting the repeat button four times and conclude that this may just be my personal highlight of the album.
Tracks like ‘I Forgive (But Won’t Forget Your Name’ and ‘Cybersleep’ epitomise the melancholia of the band’s metaphorical fight for that “broken crown” whilst the raw emotion conveyed in ‘I Burn In You’ and the use of Eastern inspired vocal trills / instrumentation allow LC to build a real sense of atmosphere. It is unlike anything I’ve ever heard from these guys and it’s a true testament to their ability to continually create and evolve as artists. The album finishes on an evocative high – those tinkling bells at the beginning of ‘One Cold Day’ are unnerving and beautiful all at once. There are no dual vocals here and Cristina wears her heart on her sleeve. It makes for pretty powerful listening – especially when the orchestra strikes up around 4:40 and those repeated refrains of “Cry now! / Cry now! / And let it go!” ring out. A six minute epic of musical brilliance that will hold your attention until the very end.
Bittersweet is probably the most appropriate word you could use to describe the past year for Lacuna Coil. During the recording process, the band had to deal with a whole host of personal issues and changes – no easy feat when you are trying to take your sound to the next level. Sadly, the album also marks the departure of both Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore (guitar) and drummer Cristiano “Criz” Mozzati which will undoubtedly raise questions as to how this will affect the band’s sound. Only time will tell but one thing is certain – Broken Crown Halo is a solid and well executed release worthy of the hype surrounding it. Okay, it may not be life altering stuff but as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Beautifully dark melodies, catchy hooks and driving riffs – they are all here. And with just the right amount of subtle experimentation to keep things fresh, this is the classic Lacuna ‘sound’ with a reinvigorated twist. This band are about to introduce a new order and nothing is going to stand in their way.
8 out of 10
- Nothing Stands in Our Way
- Hostage to the Light
- Die and Rise
- I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)
- I Burn in You
- In the End I Feel Alive
- One Cold Day