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Lacuna Coil – “Shallow Life” (2009) April 23, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Lacuna Coil.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Considering I just ranted on the lack of female fronted rock bands in the world I think I’ll spare the world that opening paragraph and instead delve into the career of Lacuna Coil.  Breaking out of Italy in 2002 with Comalies and the powerful singles “Heaven’s A Lie” and “Swamped”, the male/female-fronted band has gained nothing but critical acclaim for their superb instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and unique mixes.  The gothic rock scene has been pulled to the forefront thanks to highly influential band, which now tries to put another notch in their belt with their first concept album.  The disc Shallow Life focuses on the aspects of, well, shallow lives, and living better without superficiality.  But enough on that, the music is what’s really important here, and quite frankly, it’s lackluster.

Of course you wouldn’t believe me if all you heard was “I Survive” a brilliant opener that’s really the only catchy song on the album.  And it is catchy.  Driven by a chorus led by the low, scratchy vocals of Andrea Ferro, and led by some great technical drumming and support from female lead Cristina Scabbia, “I Survive” is an out of the ballpark hit.  Needless to say however, there’s not much else on the album that stacks up to this strong opener, and Ferro’s growling voice and its relatively small range quickly begins to grate moreso than other Lacuna Coil albums.

In fact, it feels like Lacuna Coil is pushing Ferro onto the listener more than before.  At one point, Scabbia and Ferro were used together frequently, with Scabbia getting most of the spotlight.  Songs like “Closer” on Karmacode were amazing because of Scabbia leading the charge and Ferro providing vocals only on the backdrop of the song.  Together the duo sound amazing, but alone, as Ferro often is on Shallow Life, his weaknesses are exposed.  “The Maze” and “I Won’t Tell You” are both promising songs that really let down because of the limited ability of Ferro.  “I Survive” is one of the few songs showing off the dual style, the other being the first single “Spellbound”.

There are still bright spots despite the constant annoyance of Ferro.  “Wide Awake” and “Not Enough” are slowed down ballads that highlight Scabbia’s range and ability more than anything and both pay dividends.  “Wide Awake” is even more so memorable thanks to a great backing arrangement and an escalating tone that keeps the entire song interesting.  The title track at the album’s end is also brilliant thanks to some atmospheric distortion and great vocals from Scabbia.  It’s sad that these slow songs take a hit in instrumentation though, as the drumwork of Cristiano Mozzati is one of the album’s biggest highlights.  His style is never flashy, but there’s plenty of great fills and variation to carry great beats through songs, making it almost better to listen to the drumming than Ferro.  The fretwork isn’t half-bad either, but none of the riffs are catchy enough to drive a whole song.

Lacuna Coil has a lot of talent as demonstrated by past albums, and when in harmony, the dual-vocal system makes for one of the best sounds in rock.  However Ferro’s major takeover in the last two albums have done more harm than good and take focus away from the better aspects of the band.  The lyrics and other instruments are solid, and Scabbia could work wonders alone as well.  Ferro is not the only problem, the other is simply that the songwriting is not catchy or memorable, making for a rather boring listen.  Still, it’s no coincidence that the best tracks on the album feature little to no involvement by Ferro, and for Lacuna Coil to get back on the right track, the next album may want to tone down his part significantly.

5 out of 10 – Download “I Survive”

Lacuna Coil is | Cristina Scabbia – Vocals | Andrea Ferro – Vocals | Marco Coti Zelati – Bass | Cristiano Migliore – Guitars | Marco Biazzi – Guitars | Cristiano Mozzati – Drums

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