Album Review: Lacuna Coil - "Dark Adrenaline"
"Dark Adrenaline" seems to find Lacuna Coil firmly back in old headspace What we see here is a collection of songs that is extremely smooth, slick with the oil of arranged writing and refined production. This would lead cynics to argue that the band has given themselves headlong to their perceived homogenization with radio alternative metal. Not only has that criticism always been largely unfounded, but “Dark Adrenaline” sees Lacuna Coil deviate back toward the idiom that made “Karmacode” a success.
I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way first, because it will be faster. Bear with me. “Dark Adrenaline” can take several runs to truly blossom for the listener. It wasn’t until I really sat down and gave the record my complete, undivided attention (an increasingly rare occurrence among a society of multitaskers,) that I gained an appreciation for the album’s layers and effect. If this album is not given due consideration, the listener may cast it off as a long roll of background music.
The one thing Lacuna Coil struggles with on this effort is the same Achilles’ heel they’ve had to cope with before. That is, their songwriting isn’t terribly dynamic. Once the band has settled on an idiom for a given album (no matter which album it’s been,) there is only one style of songwriting present for the entire duration. What this results in is a series of loosely connected songs that can only hold the listener for so long as they’re featured. Looking at “Dark Adrenaline,” once “Kill the Light” begins, it’s hard to recall the previous song, “Against You.” Each individual piece is well-crafted, and comes out of the gate grabbing the listener by the shoulders. But each then lets go just as quickly.
Okay. That’s more than enough bagging this album. “Dark Adrenaline” is a great record, and here’s why: no other band in the genre is offering the kind of minute to minute vocal dynamo that is the combination of Scabbia and Ferro. I know some will yell out “Nightwish!” here, but the two bands are not the same. Scabbia is eminently capable of going into the low ranges and grabbing those ragged emotions that come with the kind of rejection-spiting determination that fuels so many of Lacuna Coil’s lyrics. Anette Olzon is a talent, but couldn’t belt out an angry burn like Scabbia does for “Intoxicated.” Scabbia’s smoldering range, combined with her capacity for what music writers refer to as vocal “stank” is half of Lacuna Coil’s success from the starting gun.
Several people have pointed out to me in recent conversation that Ferro is unnecessary, and I’m shrugging that one off, too. While Scabbia is certainly the larger half of the duo, Ferro’s juxtaposition is a critical piece for lending depth, and his rasp snaps the listener back to attention, reminding us all that while Scabbia’s voice is spellbinding, this is still heavy metal. Scabbia’s soaring, beautiful performance in “Trip the Darkness” is a wonderful expression, but is given context by Ferro’s grunted harmony. (He’s also one of the most gracious musicians I’ve ever met, so points for that.)
Highlighting only the complexities of Lacuna Coil’s vocal duo is selling the rest of the band short, though. More than on previous efforts, the guitars are allowed to do some roaming, culminating in a convincing if not earth-shattering solo on the bounding “The Army Inside.” Tunes like “Upsidedown” and “Fire” positively glow with punchy riffs and hardnosed drive.
At the album’s best moments, “Dark Adrenaline” sounds a little like the unlikely combination of the Foo Fighters and Fear Factory (the good Fear Factory, not Fear Factory lately.) “I Don’t Believe in Tomorrow” is a perfectly jagged chugfest to follow up the album’s first soft piece, “End of Time.” It is this kind of stop and go rhythm, layered over with Scabbia and Ferro, that gives Lacuna Coil a signature sound.
Rarely is it worth nothing when a band performs a cover on their album, but Lacuna Coil's reshaping of REM's classic "Losing My Religion" borders on genius. Not simply a perfunctory re-performing of someone else's song, Lacuna Coil has totally re-imagined the song in their own style, complete with Scabbia's bittersweet vocals and an entirely new arrangement. The end product retains the original's tempo and vocal cadence, and nothing else, conjuring instead a new song with a totally new depth and hard-hitting feel. This cover is magnetic and brilliant, the rare cover that remembers the original while feeling comfortable on the palette of the new. It is emotionally expressive (which is extremely hard to do when singing someone else’s thoughts) and fairly leaps off the ethereal page. Where I earlier spoke Lacuna Coil’s one-track mind and quick focus shifting, this cover stays with you for a long time.
It is well within the realm of believability that Lacuna Coil experimented with their previous effort, “Shallow Life,” to see what a softer, more roundly unified sound would be like. That experiment behind them, the band has come back with “Dark Adrenaline,” keeping the highly stylized cover art in the style of “Shallow Life,” but getting back to writing songs more in tune with “Karmacode.” This is a really solid album, a fine showing by a band now firmly established in the veteran ranks of heavy metal. Give it your time, and I can’t stress this enough, your undivided attention, and you will be rewarded.