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.

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