Lacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo
Lacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo (2014)
Reviewed by Allyson Kenning
Veteran Italian goth rock/metallers Lacuna Coil have just released their seventh full-length CD, the much anticipated follow-up to the rather milquetoast Dark Adrenaline. Broken Crown Halo, with it’s rather creepy, spidery-looking front cover art, hit shelves on March 31st pretty much everywhere, except if you live in North America, in which case we had to wait a whole day until April 1 to get our hands on it. For some fans, this is one of the most anticipated album releases of 2014. For me, a longtime fan of the band’s earlier offerings and not so much one of its recent stuff, I couldn’t resist the lure of finding out how this album stacked up to its predecessors. Was I disappointed? Well, that is a bit of a complicated question.
I had low expectations to begin with, since I found Lacuna Coil’s previous two albums to be rather on the sub-par side of things. Surprisingly, however, I’ve found this album to be far more palatable than Dark Adrenaline and Shallow Life. Broken Crown Halo is darker, heavier, and generally less pap-like than it’s two older brothers. On the band’s Facebook page, Cristina Scabbia, half of the dual powerhouse of vocalists the band has stuck with through all their history, says in regards to the influences in Broken Crown Halo: “We’ve always been fascinated by soundtracks and Italian horror movies…Dario Argento is not only a favorite of ours, he’s also a cult favorite around the world, and bands like Goblin wrote the soundtracks for a lot of those movies. Growing up with these movies and music, we really absorbed those influences.” Perhaps this is where I’m picking up the darkness and drama from.
I found this to be a more melodic and accessible CD than what I was expecting, with some well-placed keyboard segments interspersed here and there, but also with much better guitar melodies and solos this time around, too. As I said above, this is a heavier album. Testament to this are songs like “Zombie”, “Die & Rise,” and “In The End I Feel Alive”, which is also quite keyboard-laden. To be honest though, the fact that this album has so much keyboard in it is a bit problematic as they don’t – and never have, to my knowledge – had a keyboardist in their lineup. Still, the keys don’t sound sterile or forced, as they sometimes do when bands rely heavily on machine-made keys. Playing with their sound just a bit in “I Burn In You”, a song that starts off with a strong oriental string introduction, was a very nice touch. I have yet to see Lacuna Coil live (I would spend money to see them), so I don’t know how this plays out in gigs.
Lyrically, there are some very bright positive moments, like in the anthemic but slightly repetitive opening track, “Nothing Stands In Our Way”. “I Forgive (But Won’t Forget You)” is also positive, but mixed in with these upbeat messages are bleaker emotions and situations like those found extensively throughout “Zombie” and “Victims”. Even if you are into lyrics, I still can’t reconcile the band’s more contemporary focus with the the more reflective, thoughtful lyrics of “old” Lacuna Coil.
What I really liked about this album, however, was the aggression of the vocals on both Cristina and Andrea Ferro’s parts. They’ve both expanded their boundaries on Broken Crown Halo; Andrea screams, growls, and shouts, as well as using clean vocals, while Cristina sounds better than ever, with some nice upper (she’s a contralto) register work. However, there is an exception: the finale, “One Cold Day.” This is sung solely by Cristina, and upon first listen I didn’t recognize the voice as hers. It sounded falsely high pitched and forced, and almost childish in quality. But as the song goes on, you can recognize her signature tone, so you know it’s her singing. It’s a very odd song because of what she’s doing with her voice in it, but it’s all right once you get the ballady groove of it and take a good listen.
So, no, I was not disappointed per se. Neither do I think this is an album that will make me come back to the ranks of Lacuna Coil’s considerable fandom. While I don’t think of this is as pop-ish or as pap-ish as the band’s previous two outputs, it’s not got the more magical, pleasantly cerebral qualities as Lacuna Coil’s stuff of old has, either. My expectations were exceeded; this isn’t a bad album, and there are a few songs on it that are somewhat memorable. It’s just not a great album I could really sink my teeth into.
2.75 // 5