I can’t really tell how it happened, but many years ago I happened to stumble across a couple of bands that mixed up my thoughts on heavy metal. Those two bands were After Forever and Lacuna Coil. And it was their powerful mix of soaring female lead vocals with harsh male vocals that had me thinking differently about heavy music.
Lacuna Coil dropped their album Comalies in 2003, and this was when I stumbled upon them. I was immediately intrigued, and actually made my wife, a classically trained vocalist, listen to Comalies almost non-stop in the car. She, almost begrudgingly, admitted that this was neat music. Next release, Karmacode also struck me, and I even had the opportunity to write about that album for the website Blogcritics.org.
Then something happened. The law of diminishing returns kicked in, and I just didn’t really find anything from Lacuna Coil that resonated with me. To be honest, I actually forgot all about them, until 2017 when I had the chance to see them live. I had gone to the show really for Insomnium and Epica. But Lacuna Coil surprised me, more than I expected. They sounded great live. There was an excellent energy, the music was heavy yet atmospheric, with these gothic overtones that helped drive the music home.
I left that show and promptly went and listened to the songs on the four albums I hadn’t previously heard. And, well, still didn’t find much to draw me in. Delirium had some hints of the previous X factor that had drawn me in, but it almost felt like it was reactionary, like the band was trying to prove how “goth” and “twisted” they could be. So the band fell off my radar again.
Jump ahead to 2019, and behold my surprise when I saw not one, but two reviews for Black Anima on Angrymetalguy.com, my preferred blog/review site for music. I was so surprised because, well, Angry Metal Guy himself had given Black Crown Halo a 1/5 score, and decided to just completely skip Delirium. But there it was, the Friday morning of release, two reviews for Black Anima, and they were both actually really positive. To the point that the man himself was giving it a 4/5 and calling Black Anima the best Lacuna Coil album to date.
I promptly took advantage of my Apple Music subscription and downloaded Black Anima and started listening while at work. And promptly stopped working. Opener “Anima Nera” was haunting, with Cristina Scabbia’s vocal taking on an almost childlike quality. But with a crazy-just-under-the-surface hint that intrigued yet also made me just a little uncomfortable. And then “Sword of Anger” drops, with a city leveling riff after some serious growls from Andrea Ferro, the male pair to Cristina’s clean vocals.
From there, the album just doesn’t really let up. This is Lacuna Coil sounding heavier than they ever have. And most importantly, sounding more energized than they ever have. The songs have real power, with dynamics pushing and pulling, lulling down to quiet moments, only to then crescendo again. The production is the usual hyper clear modern production, but honestly serves the music well. I will admit that the album, particularly with the bonus tracks, does get a little long. It works better on a playlist mixed in with other songs. Yet there isn’t a single song I’ll skip, and with 14 tracks on the album, that is really saying something.
The songwriting needs to be recognized, as that ultimately is what elevates this above the previous Lacuna Coil albums. It is heavy, brooding, with a delicious gothic flair that helps it stand apart from the majority of heavy music that will reach similar levels of popularity as this. The star of the album, though, is Cristina Scabbia. Her vocals have never sounded this good. She is all over the place, going from kick-ass frontwoman one second to sounding barely south of crazy the next. The breadth of vocal styles she employs is really fascinating. I’ve always enjoyed her voice, but never found it to be as dynamic as it is on Black Anima.
Black Anima is a triumph from a veteran band who hadn’t really interested me in many years. It’s been in constant rotation since it dropped, and I see myself coming back regularly.