July 29, 2009

CD Review: Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Lacuna Coil, a band in search of a wider audience, is moving forward full steam with a much more mainstream oriented sound. It could be sensed with Karmacode, but here it is much more evident. That said, this is a bit of a disappointment considering the band I discovered with Comalies and as an opening act for Anthrax. The funny thing is, just as this is a let down based on their previous output, I still found myself drawn in to the catchy hooks and hypnotic vocals of Cristina Scabbia.

When I first heard of Lacuna Coil, it came in the wake of the Evanescence explosion. I feel this is part of the reason they have not found their success here in the States. Whenever I ask anyone if they listen to Lacuna Coil, they usually give me a puzzled look and say"No." After explaining the Evanescence comparison they get it. The problem is that in mainstream eyes they are seen as also rans, riding the coattails of the band that hit before them, which simply isn't true. So, it strikes me that over the course of the past couple of albums they have been modifying their sound, playing more towards the mainstream style and dropping the nu-metal trappings of their earlier releases in an effort to break through.

lacunacoilShallow Life evoked a variety of feelings. There was sadness over the apparent demise of the nu-metal and edgier side of their sound (sure to live on in live performances). At the same time, I kind of like where they are going, it is just going to take a little time to get used to. As much as I prefer the prior releases, this direction seems to fit them like a glove.

Lacuna Coil will go as far as Cristina Scabbia's voice can take them. It makes sense to play up the melodic elements of their sound, making them the focal point. This is easily their most melodic release, instead of worrying about their riffing, they focus more on the song structure, softening the edges, making it more accessible while still feeling distinctly like Lacuna Coil. Something else that is new with this album is a more widespread use of backing keyboards. They add atmosphere and other touches to the overall sound. I like the effect, it fills out the sound and gives the production a nice feel.

The album, taken on its own terms, is a pretty solid collection of tunes. They all fall within the same pacing counts, meaning there is not a wide variation between the fast and slow tunes. The interplay between Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro is still there. Scabbia carries the vocal duties, yet the slightly out of tune Ferro adds a nice flavor to the song. He clearly is a weak vocal link, but the band makes it work, whether through talent as performers or studio trickery, I cannot be certain. The guitars have a smooth presence, backed by a steady rhythm section. Nothing outstanding, but they come together well in the name of the song with no standout performances.

As for the songs? There are a few that stand out, including: "I Survive," "I Like It," "The Pain," and "Shallow Life."

Bottomline. Yes, this is a good album, not a great one. I am not sure that they have a "great" album in them. Still, you could do a lot worse. Scabbia has a wonderful voice and the band has a knack for crafting catchy songs. It is definitely worth checking out.



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