Album Review: Lacuna Coil, Broken Crown Halo

Another genre of music I really like is the female-fronted goth-metal/symphonic metal genre.  Bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Evanescence and Delain are all very enjoyable to me.  Another band in this genre is Italy’s Lacuna Coil.  They are less symphonic metal than many of the others, relying instead on heavy use of synths to supplement their tuned-down guitar/bass approach.  As with many of the bands in this genre, Lacuna Coil employs two main singers, the Woman: Cristina Scabbia, who can sing; and the Man, Andrea Ferro, who can’t.  While Ferro does not typically employ the ‘death growls’ that many gothic bands have borrowed from death and black metal, his voice is rough and singularly unmelodious.  In fact, it took me quite some time to ‘get past’ Ferro’s vocals and come to enjoy the songs, time I would not have taken but for Cristina Scabbia.  Whom I find a very enjoyable singer, and a more than passably attractive woman.

Why, yes.  I am an improbably hot goth chick.  Why do you ask?

Why, yes. I am an improbably hot goth chick. Why do you ask?

ON TO THE ALBUM!

Broken Crown Halo is the seventh full-length album by LC, and is one of their heaviest to date.

Track 1. Nothing Stands in Our Way – Starts out in the very typical LC style of several synths looped together leading into the sudden explosion of sound that brings the rest of the band in.     The song stays at a consistent volume from that point on.  The verses are sung by Scabbia, with Ferro joining in unison on the choruses.    Ferro is mixed forward in the first section part of the chorus, with Scabbia taking the second.  At the 2:25 mark, Ferro’s vocals adopt a distinctly ‘death growl’ approach, which as I mentioned above, is unusual for him and he doesn’t spend much time there as it appears to primarily be used for effect.  Ultimately, it’s a decent track, but does not stand out as anything particularly special.

Track 2.  Zombies – This song starts with guitars layered on synths playing an aggressive, chunky riff.  Initial vocals are by Ferro who approaches the song in a Rob Zombie-esque manner (hence the title?).    Scabbia takes the next section, which is still interspersed with Ferro’s screams.    Ferro has made some attempts at actual singing on recent albums.  That seems to be less the approach here.  The song is a straightforward heavy rocker, I like the track fine, but would not want it to be any longer that it is.

Track 3.  Hostage to the Light – Back to the familiar synth intro followed by blast of guitars drums and bass.  After the initial burst, the track backs off a little as Scabbia begins the song.  This track is sung entirely by Scabbia, which is certainly a bonus, but the song itself doesn’t jump out and grab this listener.  The problem is really with the chorus, which actually is less catchy than the really decent verses.   

Track 4. Victims – This song follows what is, to me, the quintessential LC pattern.  It is largely sung by Scabbia over synths and down-tuned guitars that move from undistorted arpeggios to a chunky downs-stroked rhythm building to a short chorus with the distortion turned up and with Ferro ‘singing’.    The one section that doesn’t follow the typical pattern is a brief  section of quasi-rapped/yelled vocals that doesn’t quite work. 

Track 5.  Die and Rise – Perhaps continuing the Zombie theme from earlier, we now have “Die and Rise”  This song starts out with the first truly excellent riff of the album.    Ferro takes the primary vocals on this song, and he does a passable job on this one.  The chorus, has cheesy lyrics, but it’s kind of fun if you don’t take it too seriously, “Die and rise; and take a bite of life”.    Silly. 

Track 6.  I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name) – This track is the type that LC does very well.  Heavy, but strongly melodic, thanks to Scabbia’s vocals.  She’s an excellent rock vocalist.  Ferro’s part is much smaller and he even almost sings before getting out of Scabbia’s way. 

Track 7.  Cybersleep – This track is still certainly within LC’s wheelhouse, with some minor variance.  The vocal melody is a little atypical for them, and they do a nice job of pulling back in the final third of the song as it builds to the final chorus.  It is also the second song on the album with nary a peep from Ferro.  I’m not complaining. 

Track 8. Infection – Decent song, using the familiar LC call and response between Scabbia and Ferro.  The track lacks any dynamic changes and the main riff, while good, isn’t remarkable. 

Track 9.  I Burn in You – This song is a slower and softer number with less distortion and taking a slower tempo.  Well, until about the 2:30 mark when Ferro starts yelling at you for about 30 seconds.  They are quite unfortunate seconds as the rest of the song is just fine.

Track 10.  In the End I Feel Alive – Another song directly from the LC wheelhouse.  The approach is similar to Track 6, with the roles slightly reversed.  Ferro takes the verses with Scabbia coming in for the chorus.  As I’ve made clear, I’m not a fan of Ferro’s vocals, but this is the type of song and style that works reasonably well for me, even though I still find myself anticipating the chorus, just because I know that Scabbia is going to kill it.    Somewhat unusually, the track’s final 1:30 isinstrumental.

Track 11.  One Cold Day – This track features Scabbia singing in a much ‘sweeter’ style than is her wont through the first section.    Musically, the song starts with a piano (really a keyboard, but whatever) that matches her vocals and fits nicely with the lyrics which are the best on the album.  This is the third time on the album that the vocal duties are entrusted completely to Scabbia, and I would say that they managed to save the best for last.  The final section of the song incorporates some synthesized strings that carry it nicely to the close of the song which ends with only the second guitar solo on the album.

CONCLUSION

I like Lacuna Coil and I like this album.  I don’t know that it is one of their best, however.  There are some definitely strong moments, but there are also sections that either don’t stand out enough or that lack something.  Still, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to fans of the band or genre.  Total: 6/10 RockBones.

Advertisements

Album Review: RPWL – Wanted

Ah, Spring.  When a young prog-fan’s mind turns to thoughts of new releases, which seem to come in droves during this time of the year.  I’ve been recently listening to a bunch of music that has come out by several bands, some new and some familiar.  Today I’ll be looking at the unfortunately-named RPWL’s newest release, Wanted.  RPWL started life out as a Pink Floyd tribute band, and that influence has been both a blessing and a curse to their output.  A blessing, because Pink Floyd is awesome, but a curse because they sometimes seem so indebted to Floyd that they struggle to distinguish their own identity (if David Gilmour had a German accent, he’d be Yogi Lang).  In Wanted, the Floydian slips are still there, but the band has done a better job of presenting their own sound.  As a result, Wanted may be RPWL’s best effort to date.

Track 1.  Revelation (Instrumental) – starts out with a percussive synth loop which gradually builds, adding guitar, bass and keyboard eventually cranking it up to a degree that is atypical of this often mellow band.  After that, the song comes back down to a smoother portion before ‘Floyding’ out.   All in all, a nice, if not earth-shattering track.

Track 2.  Swords and Guns – The first (and last?) single of this album starts with the sound of marching feet, to which bass is added before the full band comes in along with vocals droning what will become the song’s refrain.  The song is about fighting and killing in the name of religion, a fairly ubiquitous rock music theme to which this album will return.  After proceeding through a verse and chorus, the song comes down to a bridge wherein we get to enjoy Yogi Lang’s -David Gilmour with an accent – vocal style.  The song ends after a nice keyboard solo by returning to the marching refrain.  A good track, but maybe a little long (8:30+) for what it is.

Track 3.  A Clear Cut Line – A nice little ambient instrumental.  I like it, but probably would have moved it further into the album.

Track 4.  Wanted – This is actually a more obvious single to my mind than is Swords and Guns.  It’s a slick, mid-tempo pop/rock tune with a strong hook in the chorus and driving, steady beat.  There is enough going on with the keyboards to keep it interesting.  I quite like it. 

Track 5. Hide and Seek – A track that alternates between sweetly-sung acoustic passages and heavier rock moments.  While a commonly used effect in music; it is nevertheless well done here as the more helter-skelter bits do a nice job of creating a musical landscape that creates a real desire for something sweeter and more relaxing.  Of course, the soft passages belie the lyrical content of those moments, which truly enhances the atmosphere of the song.  

Track 6.  Disbelief – I don’t like rap.  I don’t like it ever.  I don’t like it over a cool guitar riff and leading up to a nice chorus.  Which is too bad, because this part of the song is very nice:   But the first part of the song sounds like this:

Track 7.  Misguided Thought – This is, to me, the most overtly Floydian track.  Very smooth, almost meandering along with a nice verse and chorus, the lyrics more biting than the music would suggest. 

Track 8.  Perfect Day – Another mid-tempo rock song based upon a keyboard loop and complimentary guitar lick.  The song doesn’t vary much throughout its course, but it also doesn’t over stay its welcome.

Track 9. Still Asleep (bonus track) – Starts with just voice and acoustic guitar with the lyrics accusing religion of holding mankind back from its full potential.  It’s far more melodic vocally than Roger Waters ever managed, but it’s definitely his type of song.  This is a good thing. 

Track 10.  The Attack – The best and longest track on the album.  Starts with the kind of dirty guitar/bass line for which I am a complete sucker and which is used as the basis for this somewhat heavier track.  The track keeps itself fairly spartan for the first 3:00 minutes, either featuring guitar/bass drum (largely without riding the crash cymbal, or keyboards but not the whole band until the instrumental break at the 3:05 mark.  This segues to the chorus.    From here the song has a slow space-rock section which gradually builds to a nice mid-tempo section which serves as the emotional highpoint of the song.    Then to the best guitar solo on the album and I nice fade that recaps the intro.  Nicely done.

Track 11.  A New Dawn.  – This is the “Imagine” of the album.  A very pretty and stripped-down number filled with over-simplified visions of a utopian future that actually sounds kind of scary if one thinks about it.  Still, a very nice listen. 

 

CONCLUSION

I think that RPWL is an upper-mid tier contemporary progressive rock band with strong melodic sensibilities, but borrowing a little to heavily from their primary influence, Pink Floyd.  This album moves them forward from that a step, bringing some new identity to their sound.  Lyrically, the album is supposedly a concept album about a group of people who find the key to societal happiness and then have to retreat underground when organized religions persecute them.  Really, it’s just a polemic against religion, which is fine and well, but layered on a little thickly.  Still, even with some flaws, the album is a good listen and functions decently as background music, but is also interesting enough for more active listening.  I give it 7/10 ProgBones ™.

Dancing

ballerina

I was never much of one for dancing.

Too long, too lanky, too much like a baby giraffe on his sister’s roller skates. I don’t like dance music. I don’t like dance competitions. I don’t like movies about dance. In high school, I didn’t ask girls to dances. Unfortunately, I lived in an ‘enlightened’ era with increased opportunities for those most uncomfortable of adolescent rites of passage, the ‘girls choice’ dance. When I was asked, I always accepted, because that’s what a nice boy did. The evening of the dance, I would dress up in a suit and buy a corsage for the girl. She would drive up and I would come out to meet her without her needing to come up and knock on the front door. I would open her door, whether she were driver or passenger. All of this I did, because it was gentlemanly, because it was nice. But once the date properly began, I sought with concentrated effort to divert the night away from dancing, coaxing my would-be Ginger Rogers to engage in other activities, whether they were activities befitting a nice boy or not. No, I was never much of one for dancing.

For her, dancing was an imperative. It didn’t matter if she were engaged in something exciting or pushing through one of the more mundane demands of life. She had been dancing for as long as she had been standing. As though she were a marionette compelled by some unseen hand, her body was wired such that when the music played – she moved. Sometimes she would simply tap her foot. Other times her arms would move, conducting the unseen orchestra. And in those rarified moments when she felt nobody was watching, or if she felt confident and safe, her inhibitions fell by the wayside, and her entire body would bounce, sway and turn in time with the pulse of the music around her. Her eyes would gloss, her head would fall back, and she would dance. Oh, how she would dance! It was plain from the rapture on her face that she did not need to look for her heaven; her pilgrimage was at an end.

I will not forget the evening when our eyes met from across the room. The music was playing, and we were doing what we both did best. She was responding to the compulsion of the beat in full fever of movement while I was – with equal fervor – not dancing. Despite myself, I was unable to keep my gaze off of her. There was a grace and purity in her movement that left me ensorcelled, caught entirely within her spell. I saw her move, at first haltingly, but then with ever greater confidence. She swayed, leapt, pirouetted her way across the floor. Then, as she swiftly spun herself about, her eyes tripped over mine, and for a moment we both stopped short. She paused in her dance long enough to take a few halting steps in my direction as though she were being pulled by some unseen force towards me. She smiled. I was similarly drawn to the dancing beauty whose eyes sparkled under my gaze.

No words were spoken, there was no need. The siren’s call of the music and the strange, invisible connection we felt, predetermined our actions. I strode across the floor to her with much greater confidence than I truly felt and I took her in my arms.

I danced.

We danced.

I spun her around, held her close, dipped her low to the floor then lifted her high into the air. She was light as air in my arms, and her gift to me was the grace for which I had longed, but despaired of ever attaining.

The music stopped. With rapid breath and racing heart, I reluctantly set her down again, an angel returning to earth. Barely suppressed emotion welled behind my eyes as she smiled, and turned away from me. Looking about, she spotted her next dance partner: the stuffed bear she had just received for her third birthday.

I was never much of one for dancing… until I danced with her.

The Reluctant Narcissist?

I’ve always thought that there was a certain amount of narcissism involved in many internet activities, including blogging.  That’s one of the reasons that I’ve long been reluctant to engage in the practice, despite the fact that I enjoy writing. 

So why start?  I don’t know.  Perhaps I am a narcissist.  Perhaps it’s just another avenue by which I am attempting to keep a journal, because the more traditional way never seems to work.  Perhaps it’s because I want to have a place to collect my favorite thoughts that I come across as well as a place to put notes about the thing which I love the best, music.  (Notice I said THING I love the best, Theresa.  Wives aren’t things, they’re ‘appendages’…)