Italian goth metal heroes Lacuna Coil have always thrived on the dichotomy between the dual vocal attack of Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia. Ferro delivers a guttural sound that escalates to all-out screams while Scabbia’s soaring melodies carry deep, emotional atmospheres. The two vocalists don’t play off of each other harmonically, choosing instead to focus on what they respectively do best. The beauty and aggression allows the band to find its footing in hard rock, extreme metal and symphonic music.
With Black Anima, Lacuna Coil ushers in a new era to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Its sound and vision take on a decidedly darker persona. While the band’s sound has always been rooted in the bombastic Italian metal tradition, this latest release supercharges Lacuna Coil’s most punishing attributes while leaving room for rapturous melody and a few experimental passages.
The ethereal mood-setter “Anima Nera” features Scabbia’s demon-summoning chant over dark piano soundscapes. The atmosphere quickly gives way to Ferro’s blood-curdling scream, “We are the animal!”Enter opening track “Sword of Anger.” Floor-rattling double bass drumming and crunching guitar riffs fuel the track’s foundation. The newfound gusto coincides with a dramatic songwriting shift, but the chemistry between Ferro and Scabbia is still at the forefront.
With increased tempo shifts, the riffs stay just as heavy on “Reckless.” The churning, half-time thrasher puts more emphasis on Scabbia, as she layers her low and high registers during the chorus to an immediately unique effect. Her impressive boundary-pushing chops reinstate her as one of the most underrated rock vocalists. Conversely, “Layers of Time” mostly centers on Ferro, displaying his harsher vocal fireworks as Scabbia’s dramatic singing hangs in the background.
Black Anima strikes a balance between pushing Lacuna Coil’s sound forward while retaining key elements that the band has honed over more than two decades. These songs are present, urgent and infectious in their sheer power. The frank appraisal of earth’s trajectory found in “Apocalypse” becomes an apt place to emphasize the band’s penchant for full-bodied symphonic arrangements.
“Now or Never” uses Black Anima‘s stylistic melting pot to this advantage. Ferro’s intensity crosses with Scabbia’s high drama, while pulsing beats and chunky riffs commingle with symphonic overlays. The track showcases Lacuna Coil firing on all cylinders. This complexity takes a rawer form on “Under the Surface,” proving the band still has no problem with getting in your face. Guitarist Diego Cavalotti mixes in some impressive solo work throughout the album, a welcome addition given the less-is-more approach used by many modern players.
The operatic intro of “Veneficium” paves the way for another hard-hitting track. It still uses the sing-scream dynamic, but Ferro finds unique ways to implement his range and chops without taking over the vibe. The album’s last moments throw a bit of a curveball with the electro-rock of “The End Is All I Can See” before ending the album with the mighty “Save Me.” The closer aligns with the classic Lacuna Coil sound, complete with Scabbia’s orchestral spoken-word bridge.
Black Anima is proof that, even after 25 years, Lacuna Coil can not only evolve but expand its capacity for both heaviness and beauty. Varied and dynamic, the album offers a number of welcome surprises to keep this band as fresh and relevant as ever.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.