Lacuna Coil – Black Anima
1. Anima Nera
Date: October 11, 2019
Lacuna Coil sure has a history. They started out as a more gothic/death/doom outfit named Sleep of Right, which later became known as Ethereal. In 1997, the band settled on the current name and shifted towards more standard gothic metal sound, which can be heard in their earlier EPs and albums. This approach worked rather well and the band was gaining more and more attention. In 2006, they went through a slight stylistic change and started adopting a trendier, alternative/nu metal sound in contrast to their gothic roots. Later on, they also started to add metalcore elements as well, becoming more of a so-called “modern metal” act rather than a gothic metal one. Now in front of us, we have Lacuna Coil’s ninth album titled “Black Anima”. Let’s see how it holds up in regards to the rest of their discography and what kind of changes the band introduced now.
The band’s music even in their gothic metal days was a lighter variant of gothic compared to the sound and vibe of the genre’s juggernauts like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Type O Negative. When this group was starting, it was a fertile ground for gothic metal bands. However, in 2003 Evanescence emerged with their album “Fallen” and the record became a hit. Evanescence was notable for mixing gothic image with nu metal, this trend later became followed by many bands, including Lacuna Coil. Regarding this album’s style, the trend is still present albeit to a lesser extent, another trend took the lead, I’ll discuss this later into a bit more detail.
The album starts off with “Anima Nera”, an electronic song which features Cristina Scabbia’s signature high pitched vocals. This song was probably intended as an intro to set the mood for the rest of the album. However, the track doesn’t really reach the desired effect, it feels more like an attempt at making an atmospheric intro, but no atmosphere is actually there. The real experience of this album begins with “Sword of Anger” which mixes the band’s old gothic metal sound with a newer alternative one. Here we also have the new trend I mentioned earlier – metalcore. The first obvious indicator of this is Andrea Ferro’s vocals, this time more hardcore-ish screams rather than his signature clean vocals. The other indicator are the breakdowns and chugging riffs throughout the album, which brings some monotony to the music. Overall, the band mixes hardcore riffs with heavy breakdowns and extremely radio friendly choruses, which at times even border pop music.
Most of the songs on this album suffer from this overused formula and it makes the overall experience of the album quite dreary. The pop influence is very apparent on the entire release. The perfect example is “Apocalypse” which sounds like a full on pop song, minus the screams and the distorted guitars. Most of the album aims for radio-friendly songs, which are rather forgettable and unnecessary in metal. There is no complexity or any real substance to their music. At moments, it seems like the band is going for a darker image in order to compensate for the lack of musical creativity, not very unlike what guys from Avatar have been doing. It’s like they’re trying to mislead the audience into thinking that they are some sort of an avant-garde band, but I can assure you there is nothing avant-garde about Lacuna Coil whatsoever. It’s a pretty generic rock/metal band for the masses.
The only time when Lacuna Coil comes close to complexity is on “Veneficium”, the best song on the album by a long shot. It starts with an operatic passage sung by none other than Cristina Scabbia. She still has something special in her voice and it’s a shame that there aren’t more moments like this one on “Black Anima”. It would’ve saved the overall experience. The breakdowns are present, but used to a lesser extent, which makes this track stand out even more. It also features a decent guitar solo from Mr. Diego Cavalotti. This song proves that this band can still write quality music from time to time. So where is it?
The songs that come after this one don’t bring much to the album, I’m afraid. “The End Is All I Can See” is a very forgettable alternative rock track, while “Save Me” is another pop driven earworm. The lyrics “Save me from myself, I can’t help it, I’m breaking down” are not very far from that of Evanescence’s well known hit. I’m sure many depressed teenagers will find themselves in this one. The closing title track also doesn’t bring anything interesting to the table, really. It’s pretty much like the first song, only with more distortions and Andrea Ferro’s screams.
Ever since 2002 “Comalies” album, it seems that Lacuna Coil has been facing a downward spiral (no pun intended) when it comes to quality. It started with 2006 “Karmacode” and it went downhill from there. On each of the following albums, you could find two or three enjoyable tracks and so is the case with this one. But as we all know, few good songs don’t make a good album. Sadly, it appears that this band is following trends with little to no identity of their own. They want to make it look like they’re taking risks, but quite the contrary, they are playing it way too safe. There is nothing remotely interesting or unique about Lacuna Coil anymore. It’s the same thing that we heard times and times before, whether from this band or many others like it. I have to admit that I like the album’s artwork, as it brings back some “Unleashed Memories”. Too bad that the music isn’t on par.
So should you listen to this album? Well, if radio-friendly rock/metal is your thing, go for it. What if you’re into some more serious and complex gothic metal? Then rather wait for My Dying Bride’s new album and avoid this record (maybe even this band altogether). If you’re fully into gothic metal and still want to hearto some Lacuna Coil, check out their first three albums and first two EPs. As for the rest, it is better left forgotten.