During January of 2012, Lacuna Coil released their sixth studio album, Dark Adrenaline. The album debuted at number 15 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart and proved to be quite successful as the band toured as a headliner and also joined forces some of the greats, including Motörhead, Megadeth, Sevendust and Paradise Lost. And yet… Dark Adrenaline didn’t necessarily get all of their long-time fans pumped up. I don’t recall hearing many people complain about it, but it wasn’t an album that had people talking about it for months and months like most of their previous releases. Personally, I remember liking it, but I must not have liked it a whole lot because I didn’t keep listening to it month after month after I bought it. In retrospect, listening to it again after hearing the band’s new album, Broken Crown Halo, I think it might have been a case of a band just going through the motions. Of course, Lacuna Coil just going through the motions was still far superior to whatever other bands were putting out that year, but perhaps long-term fans could sense that the band’s hearts weren’t as wholly invested in it as they were when they made some of their previous albums. Honestly, I’m just speculating here — for all I know, the band may have been more emotionally invested in Dark Adrenaline than in Broken Crown Halo, but I *highly* doubt it. To my ears, Broken Crown Halo sounds like a band finding their muse again. A band that has something to prove again and is entirely committed to proving it. It’s an album that’s brimming with the kind of ferocity you mostly hear on debut albums. To that end, their editorial review on Amazon says that Broken Crown Halo is Lacuna Coil “introducing a new order” and letting nothing stand in their way.
Broken Crown Halo — let’s just call it Halo from now on — was recorded in Italy at Officine Meccaniche studio with producer Jay Baumgardner (P.O.D., Sevendust, Evanescence) and engineer Kyle Hoffman (P.O.D., Bush, Zebrahead). The above-mentioned editorial states that it “looks at life through blood red glasses and casts a beautifully melancholic hue over the world we wander.” And it’s easy to believe that from the very first time you listen to it and start to process the many ideas and situations it describes, laying the world entirely bare. Although, the more I think about it, I would say that the band is looking at the world through crystal *clear* glasses because they’re obviously seeing the world for what it truly is and giving us a brutally honest report back.
The album opens with “Nothing Stands In Our Way.” “We’re still struggling halfway through this journey / Our eyes are burning but we’re not slowing down,” declares co-lead vocalist Cristina Scabbia after the album’s uber-heavy opening clears and the song mellows out for a rather melodious moment. During the bridge she sings “we fear nothing, we fear nothing” then she is joined by co-lead vocalist Andrea Ferro for the manifesto-like two-part chorus: “Life long / Road Blocks / High Walls / Tear Drops / Nothing stands in our way,” which is followed by “Blood stained / Stock Crash / Mistakes / Heart Breaks / Nothing stands in our way.” If this isn’t a band announcing their triumphant return, I don’t know what is.
Just when you’re thinking “damn, this is one heavy tune,” “Nothing Stands In Our Way” ends and the monstrous — in every sense of the word — “Zombie” begins and it gets even heavier. Lacuna Coil have often been compared to Evanescence but most of this song is twice as heavy as that band’s heaviest songs. Mind you, I’m an Evanescence fan — I’m simply stating the obvious, that Lacuna Coil has proved to be the heavier band. Also, this is Lacuna Coil’s seventh studio album, so they’ve released more than twice as many albums as Evanescence now, so perhaps we should stop comparing them. Or, at least rephrase things and say that Evanescence sounds like Lacuna Coil and not vice versa. But this isn’t an Evanescence review, so I digress. Let me just say that “Zombie” packs all fury of Korn at their heaviest and then some with its crunchy riffs, pummeling drums and in-your-face bass. If it wasn’t for Christina’s clean vocals, you could probably classify this one as death metal because much of Andrea’s vocals are like the angry scream of a warrior whose just had his abdomen slashed wide open by a huge, jagged blade.
Elsewhere, the band display their softer, more melodious side during the first two thirds of “I Burn In You” with Cristina singing most of the lead vocals. But once Andrea finally screams his head off it gets rather intense. It’s as though she’s an angel who is suddenly being attacked by a demon. Just to be sure the song isn’t so mellow as to lull you off to sleep.
Other highlights include the largely mid-tempo but vicious refusal to be a victim that is “Victims,” the pretty but still heavy “Hostage To The Light,” which spotlights Cristina’s vocals brilliantly, and the clever “I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget You),” which finds Cristina singing, “I want to see you pay.”
Finally, the album ends with a power ballad in the form of “One Cold Day,” which begins with some ominous piano and orchestration that sounds like a Goblin-scored Dario Argento film soundtrack, more specifically score from a scene where something truly horrifying is about to happen. This orchestration continues in the background for a bit once the band starts playing but it eventually tapers off. “And the clouds give up on me,” Cristina sings. The song goes on to paint a picture of clouds crying all of the world’s tears. Eventually, the orchestration returns, coming and going to remind you that this isn’t supposed to be a pretty sort of power ballad but a spine-tingling, ominous one. It’s an interesting way to conclude the album because much of it would seem to give you hope that we can survive the current state of things but then this song almost makes it seem pointless to even try. It’s like when you think the evil slasher is dead during the third act of a horror movie but then you get a glimpse of him rising from the grave at the very end. I suppose that’s not really what they’re trying to communicate with this song, but that’s the vibe it gives off, especially given that some of the lyrics are very melancholic.
Like the best metal releases, Halo is an album by a band that’s hungry, striving if not burning to rock the hell out of you. It’s also the sound of a confident band who are doing what they do — what sets them apart from the competition — with an abundance of passion and vigor. One of these things they do is writing eye-opening lyrics about the world we all inhabit. Another is to rebel against that world, to speak up — loudly — for those who can’t speak up for themselves. No wonder the masses have embraced what they do with so many metal fans hailing them as their favorite band.