Lacuna Coil are one of independent music’s biggest success stories. The vast majority of European bands who attempt to break America come home broken, battered, and bruised with their tails tucked firmly between their legs (just ask Damon Albarn and the Gallagher brothers). A small minority enjoy sales in the hundreds of thousands, fewer still breeze effortlessly across the Atlantic on an independent German label, but that’s exactly what Lacuna Coil did.
By 2009 the big boys had cottoned on to Milan’s finest operatic metal outfit. EMI struck a deal, and for the first time since the band’s seminal 2002 release Comalies, the pressure was well and truly on. Lacuna Coil reacted with Shallow Life; an album which enjoyed chart success but left fans and critics cold. There were a selection of choice cuts, most notably “Spellbound”, but the album groped clumsily for mainstream acceptance. The melodies remained sharp, but the terse grinding edge was dulled, and Lacuna appeared indistinct and pallid.
With the initial commercial experiment out the way, Dark Adrenaline sees Lacuna Coil returning to the bruising formula of old. Far from a regression, the melodic sharpness of Shallow Life remains largely intact as the guitars pummel and the organs seethe. “Tripping The Darkness” is remarkably assured, it’s the sound of a veteran band fulfilling their commercial potential and crystalizing their sound.
Lyrically, Lacuna Coil still favour a mix of pseudo intellectual posturing, the kind of vague couplets that say little but sound suitably cool to tumultuous teens (“Once Again I Am A Revolution That You Cannot Feel”), and broad brush stroke angst (“I Can’t Live This Way, I Cannot Relate, I Retaliate”). Dylan need not worry, but Lacuna Coil’s more portentous competitors may have reason for pause. Unlike say Evanescence, Lacuna Coil posses a humble European charm. It’s easy to forgive Christina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro the odd clunker when they sing so earnestly without the remotest hint of knowing irony.
However, there is no melody sufficiently sweet, nor solo suitably salacious, to redeem this atrocity; “I Cross The Line, The Walk Of Shame, I Hear The Church Bells, Through The Acid Rain”. At least “Give Me Something More” (the track that “delightful” line is taken from) is an engagingly crafted and infectious rocker; the same cannot be said of the band’s horrific “Losing My Religion” cover. Lacuna Coil have, quite astonishingly, managed to restructure R.E.M.’s sing-along staple in a way that robs the original of its infectious bathos without adding a single intriguing compositional idea, let alone an new emotional interpretation.
Dark Adrenaline has its share of misfires and baffling selections, but no single stinker can sink an album full to the brim with vigour and drive. Scabbia and Ferro have a seemingly endless supply of eminently likeable melodies while Migloire, Biazzie, Zelati and Mozzatti showcase the kind of deft sonic aptitude that helped this little Italian band conquer the United States so effortlessly.
Striking the perfect balance between independent bluster and mainstream sheen Dark Adrenaline is exactly how big label operatic metal should sound.
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