Lacuna Coil - Broken Crown Halo Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 04.01.2014
Gothic metal band Lacuna Coil tries to follow up on the momentum built off 2012's Dark Adrenaline with a new LP, Broken Crown Halo! But are they able to move forward or does it fall apart? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
1. "Nothing Stands In Our Way" (4:07)
2. "Zombies" (3:47)
3. "Hostage to the Light" (3:56)
4. "Victims" (4:31)
5. "Die & Rise" (3:44)
6. "I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)" (3:56)
7. "Cybersleep" (4:26)
8. "Infection" (4:23)
9. "I Burn In You" (4:15)
10. "In the End I Feel Alive" (4:21)
11. "One Cold Day" (6:09)
There are several pioneers of gothic metal, but at this point in time Lacuna Coil is arguably the most well-known act in the genre. The Italian band has risen to the forefront of the genre on the strength of the male/female performance dynamic between Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia and a run of critically-loved albums that includes 2002's Comalies and 2006's Karmacode. Since then the ground has started to diversify their sound and their last album Dark Adrenaline earned high marks from critics and set new sales heights for the band, thanks in part to a move back toward their gothic sound without completely reverting to that previous state in their career. The pressure is on for them to follow up on that momentum with another hit of course, and two years later the band is back with Broken Crown Halo which hopes to push the metal act ever higher into the mainstream.
The term "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is an apt one to describe the philosophy that seems to have gone into crafting Broken Crown Halo. The new album isn't the gothic metal of their beginnings; you'll find nothing along the lines of Comalies' somber tones or Unleashed Memories' haunted sound in this album. Instead they follow up on the success of Dark Adrenaline with an album that reminds us distinctly of it, and thus your appreciation of Broken Crown will depend on your enjoyment of that 2012 album. It certainly gets off to a great start though, as "Nothing Stands In Our Way" has a progression of electronic organ-like chords before Ferro's guttural growl lays open the song. It's a great number in terms of the sound, with a driving staccato bass line and Scabbia's voice doing exactly what it's best at: carrying us away. Lyrically it's a slightly mixed bag. The band tries to craft an anthem about perseverance, a militant-like call to arms, but the chorus is where it slips and falls as it falls into an unfortunate word salad that includes "blood-stained/stock crash/mistakes/heart breaks/nothing stands in our way." It's the "stock crash that is fervently out of place, as if the band tried to fit a little social commentary in at the last second. There's no need to shoehorn that thing and it's still a good song overall but that's still a strange moment.
The second track gives us the first real high mark of the album. "Zombies" is a thriving, pulsing metal number with a strong riff and an honest-to-god guitar solo in the middle of the anthem that "Nothing Stands In Our Way" wants to be. Ferro and Scabbia's back and forth dynamic is put to good use here, with Andrea's aggressive metalcore howls coming into play for the verses and punctuating a moment in the chorus while Scabbia's angelic tones cover the main thrust of that section. It's a powerful, driving anthem that (like most songs named for the walking dead) is less about supernatural creatures than it is about mankind and where it's going. "Hostage of the Light" slows it down for the opening moments before hitting a bit of their older sound and letting Scabbia take center stage. It's more gothic and brooding than much of the album and provides a nice moment of diversity for the LP.
It's becoming common-place for albums to start petering out in the middle stretch, but Broken Crown Halo avoids that trend with a swath of strong entries from "Victims" through "I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)." The first of those isn't the strongest entry on the album to be sure, but like "Hostage to the Light" it has more of the sound that drove the earlier part of their career and will be a welcome song for those who look back on Karmacode's era with fond reminiscence. "Die & Rise" is likely to become a criticized track, with lyrical allusions to werewolves warring with vampires that could make one think that the band was trying to ride the last dying trends of Twilight or perhaps hop onto similar things such as Teen Wolf or the like. But it's a well-crafted bit of horror rock that includes an always-welcome moment when Scabbia drifts into her native Italian tongue. And "I Forgive" is a great number that could play well on radio; it's hard enough to be rocking but is very catchy as well and mainstream enough to attract attention without sacrificing anything in terms of quality.
Unfortunately, it's not all golden, and the opening moments of "Cybersleep" is where it falls apart for me. The song itself could have been an enjoyable gothic metal ballad if not for the fact that it opens up with Scabbia's voice Auto-Tuned for incomprehensible reasons. It's clearly for effect and not to try and fix her voice, because there's nothing that needs fixing and the voice modulation is amped up to the point that it is clearly electronically spiked. The very presence of Auto-Tune on an album like this drags the entire song down though and it isn't until the next track that the band has recovered. Fortunately it picks back up with "Infection," which goes back to a harder, faster-paced alt metal sound. The final few tracks carry it through nicely to the end with a slow-fast-slow mentality; the moody rock balladry of "I Burn in You" soothes the viewer before it picks up in "In the End I Feel Alive," then ends with Scabbia's voice carrying a weary melancholy on closer "One Cold Day."
So the songs are more often than not on the bright side of the quality scale. But is this an album recorded for mainstream listeners and chart success, or for longtime fans? That's a harder question to answer, and the easiest response is "Both." Lacuna Coil is an act that is easy to dismiss. Female-fronted metal bands are a trend that seems to have some resistance within the metal community, and despite the dueling voices this group has received that label because--well, frankly, because Scabbia is the better voice. But they've managed to claw their way to a level of respect in the community. Here they're building an LP that should, ideally, appeal to both mainstream and metal fans. I feel like the slight emphasis is on greater expansion of the fanbase, but they aren't turning their back on their roots either. That's a difficult balance to pull off, but for the most part they pull it off.
Standout Tracks: "Zombies," "Hostage to the Light," "Die & Rise," "I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)"
The 411: Lacuna Coil keeps their forward momentum going with Broken Crown Halo, an LP that will be debated among many and is ultimately well worth a listen. With Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia's chemistry as vocalists going as strong as ever, the band provides an album full of solid metal numbers and a few real standouts. There is nothing here that will change the face of music or lead us into a new metal renaissance, but it's almost all very solid hard-driving rock that keeps the band moving in a positive direction. That's more than enough to give it a solid recommendation.