Sound — 7
It's been quite a couple of years for this Italian alternative metal band, with massive lineup changes (leaving only vocalists Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia, and bassist/keyboardist Marco Coti Zelati as the band's remaining original members), with long-time guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi, and drummer Cristiano Mozzati leaving the band (Mozzati leaving just before the release of the band's previous album). Many bands would hang up their towel and call it a day with the loss of half of their membership, but rather than capitulate, Lacuna Coil has decided to soldier on, with Zelati taking up the lion's share of the guitar playing duties, save for many of the album's guitar solos, which feature a rotating lineup of guest performers, and new drummer Ryan Blake Folden making his official recording debut with Lacuna Coil. The result is a bit of a change in the band's style, which has gotten a bit less reliant on Andrea Ferro's harsher vocals over the last few albums and became a little bit more of an accessible hard rock sound. On "Delirium," however, the band returns triumphantly to a more metal-oriented sound fans of the band's earlier material will be familiar with. Andrea's vocals rely much more on his shouted vocals, almost to the point of making this record sound rather harsh. Cristina Scabbia's vocals almost seem pushed back in the mix a little bit, only coming out during some verses and choruses, but when she does sing, she reminds me why her vocals have always been my favourite element of this band's sound.
Musically speaking, the album's heavier tones should appeal to many of Lacuna Coil's fans, especially as there seems to be a big overlap between Lacuna Coil's fanbase and those of bands like Korn, which is a band I could easily compare much of the instrumental work on this album to. And while the album does seem to take the bulk of its influence from that early 2000s style of alternative metal, there are shades of other styles of metal throughout the record, with the opening track "The House of Shame" sounding somewhat reminiscent of "Roots"-era Sepultura, and even a few very brief flirtations with a very modern-sounding "djenty" style on tracks like "Ghost in the Mist" and "Claustrophobia." Even though this may make it seem like the album covers a lot of ground, to be perfectly honest, I found many of the tracks to sound very similar to one another. A few of the songs in the album's second half (which I found to be somewhat stronger than the first half) open with almost the same kind of palm-muted single guitar line.
Most of the songs are anchored by low seven-string riffs that stick between the root and minor second (or the 0-1-0-1-0-1-etc. style of metal guitar, as many commenters would mention), and this is not something that varies much through the album. Some of the songs themselves seem to be constructed out of as few individual parts as possible, with a few songs basically just containing alternating verses and choruses with not much else. Songs like "Delirium" and "Take Me Home" contain melodies that would come off much stronger, had they not been repeated so often. While Lacuna Coil's songs traditionally don't contain very many guitar solos, the band saw fit to include a few on this record, but without a permanent guitar player during the recording sessions, the band enlisted the help of many guest performers, including Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge (who plays an atypically bluesy solo on "Downfall"), record producer Marco Barusso ("The House of Shame), Mark Vollelunga of Nothing More ("Blood, Tears, Dust"), Alessandro La Porta formerly of Italian metalcore band Forgotten Tears ("Claustrophobia"), and even the band's new permanent lead guitarist, Diego Cavallotti, plays a solo on the album's closing track, "Ultima Ratio." Happily, Diego's solo on that track is my favourite on the album, and he absolutely shreds on that track, meaning that the band will be continuing on with a particularly excellent guitar player, and that future albums should likely sound much better.
The production on the album is another slight weak point for me, as much of it is mixed very loudly, and there isn't as much breathing room for the instruments and vocals to shine through. There's a very prominent "wall of sound" style of production throughout the record, and even the album's softer moments try to fill as much sonic space as possible with keyboards and reverb-drenched guitar parts and loud, searing rhythm guitars. It can make the experience of sitting to listen to the whole album a little bit painful, and it almost seems like an album you'd want to listen to in shorter bursts rather than sitting and trying to digest it all at once. The bass doesn't shine through as much as I'd like it to, and it sadly seems as though some of Cristina Scabbia's vocals just aren't as prominent in the mix as they should be.
Despite some of the flaws in the sound, there are some pretty great musical moments on this record, and the sneak preview of new guitarist Diego Cavallotti's style shows that their future albums will have some serious potential. The album's second half also has some incredibly epic-sounding tunes like "Claustrophobia," and I find that the album's tracks that don't feature as much of Andrea's harsh vocals are the better tracks.
Lyrics — 7
Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro represent a sort of classic "soprano and gravel" lineup of vocalists, and for the most part, the album uses them in roughly equal proportion. Cristina's vocals are among some of my favourite female vocals of any metal band, since she has a particularly unique sound that separates her from a lot of her contemporaries in the "gothic" alt-metal scene (think gals like Amy Lee, Sharon Den Adel, or Tarja Turunen). Cristina has used her vocal style well in many other contexts as well, including the most recent album by one of my own favourite musicians, Arjen Lucassen, on his Ayreon project. As mentioned before, her vocals are very much my favourite aspect of Lacuna Coil's sound, and sadly, the production style of this album seems to have pushed her vocals back in the mix a little bit, with vocal harmonies like the ones on "My Demons" seeming a little distant. On the other hand, Andrea Ferro's vocals have shown a much more prominent return to harsh shouts and growls, though he does still employ some very nice clean vocals from time to time (especially on the song "Take Me Home"). His harsh vocals, in contrast to Cristina's slightly-pushed-back sound, are very upfront and overwhelming in the mix. While I do enjoy harsh vocals, the way they're presented on this record does make me feel a little like they were trying to overemphasize them.
Lyrically, the band tackles the usual topics of personal demons, depression, anger. Tracks like the opener, "The House of Shame," exemplify this approach with lines like "Why always staring into the light? /If I don't hide inside the darkness/You'll be compromised/But sometimes/You will fly with me again/without falling." The vocalists also have a tendency to repeat certain lyrical lines quite often, to the point of bringing them beyond just being a simple "hooky" earworm and almost to just simply being annoying. The chorus of the title track simply consists of the word "delirium" repeated over and over, and the vocal hook in "Take Me Home" gets repeated ad nauseum.
Thankfully, the skill of the two singers is enough to forgive some of my lyrical misgivings, as they are delivered quite well, even if the vocal production is a little off.
Overall Impression — 7
This is far from a perfect release from Lacuna Coil, but it should please long-time fans who might have become a little bit disillusioned by the band's recent explorations into a more typical hard rock sound. The band's performances throughout are rather good, and the new lineup is proving itself to be a worthy one. With a little more contribution from guitarist Diego Cavallotti, the new Lacuna Coil has the potential to really grow and become a huge force in the alt-metal scene once again. At times, the album might seem a bit anachronistic, reminding listeners of Korn, and sometimes it almost seems a bit too modern, with brief flirtations with bands like Born Of Osiris, but the vocals of Cristina and Andrea seem to give the band an identity of their own. Though the album does have a tendency to come off as a little harsh and loud, and the elements of the album can become a little repetitive, there are plenty of perfectly enjoyable musical moments on this record. One of my favourite aspects of this record are the many guest solos, which run the gamut from the atypically bluesy Myles Kennedy to a sort of "Korn if they were shredders" approach by Mark Vollelunga.
If you're a fan of Lacuna Coil, especially their early material, you owe it to yourself to check this album out. If not, you might still find this to be a good record. Far from one of my favourite releases of 2016, but still something I would find myself coming back to listen to again.