Lacuna Coil at one time seemed poised to absolutely dominate the metal universe and become the next great breakthrough artist in the genre. Unfortunately, they were stalled by an ill fate – a section of their fans backed away and resented the band’s natural evolution toward a more accessible sound, angry that the fury of Lacuna Coil’s early releases had become, in their eyes, too commercial. As the argument went on between those souls and the fans who have stuck by the band no matter the circumstances, Lacuna Coil continues to forge ahead, trying their damndest to resume their march to the top. Let that set the scene as the band releases “Broken Crown Halo” unto the world.
First and foremost, let’s have a conversation about Cristina Scabbia. Beautiful and alluring and intelligent, yes, but also extremely talented. As metal fans, particularly female-fronted metal fans, we’ve become numb to the impact of Scabbia’s performance in the face of pitch-perfect vixens like Simone Simons and Anette Olzon and Elize Ryd. The placid tones of those women are stunning and pretty to listen to, but they often struggle to tell a true, realistic story, which is where Scabbia excels. Her voice is well trained and on point, but possesses a rare sense of tangible realism. When she’s churning out the low tones of “Victims” or caressing the smooth sounds of “Hostage to the Light,” there’s a sense that this is the voice of somebody who’s been through this. “Broken Crown Halo” is an album of emotional range, and as far as Scabbia is concerned, she’s the right voice for it.
Not that the rest of the band isn’t up for the occasion; quite the opposite. Andrea Ferro, male vocalist, verse grinder and general hype man, is too often overlooked. His ability to float entire songs on “Broken Crown Halo” like he does for “Die & Rise” not only reminds us all that this man is a capable vocalist in his own right, but that the juxtaposition of he and Scabbia is a vital piece of the Lacuna Coil puzzle.
In the early cuts, we see Lacuna Coil put to work the kind of rubbery proto-djent sound that Fear Factory used at the height of the latter band’s powers, and it’s a nice addition to the deck. The natural headbanging cadence of album opener “Nothing Stands in Our Way” is solid enough as it is, but the additional musical bounce lends the cut a snap that makes it especially attention fixing and memorable. The cut also features one of the few duet choruses between Scabbia and Ferro, adding a dimension of depth onto a construction that is devilishly simple and remarkably effective. The same principled idea gets employed a second time in short order for “Zombie” and within the first ten minutes, “Broken Crown Halo” has thundered out two really solid modern metal cuts, mixing the high articulation of Scabbia’s range with Ferro’s growls and a rhythm section built to dole out punishment.
For all those successes though, it’s “Cybersleep” that is the album’s best cut. Which could come as a mixed blessing, because this song contains so many of the things that anger the fans who resist Lacuna Coil’s evolution….
Tell those people to shut up. “Cybersleep” is both beautiful and haunting, simultaneously building a sense of mystery and an atmospheric crescendo. The song dances gracefully between phases and effortlessly blends the hammer of Lacuna Coil’s rhythm section with the artistry of their melody and the power of Scabbia’s presence. It’s a four minute ride that’s much too short, and filled with a sense of yearning that’s emotionally moving in its authenticity. This song could, and dare I say should, be the theme for a James Bond movie. It’s stunning.
“Broken Crown Halo” isn’t perfect. I wish there was much more interplay between Scabbia and Ferro, there’s a spoken section of “Victims” that’s worth a grimace, and songs like “One Cold Day” come off as sort of plain or overdone. None of that matters in comparison to what the album does right, which is a lot. Like a great power hitter, if he hits five home runs in ten at-bats, you don’t mind if he strikes out three times. “Broken Crown Halo” is that power hitter. It mixes both power and vulnerability into a cohesion that’s rare in metal. I thought “Shallow Life” was a good record, and “Dark Adrenaline” was an okay record. “Broken Crown Halo” is a great record, and if not Lacuna Coil’s best album to date, it’s certainly in the conversation. It remains to be seen what will happen following the departure of Pizza Migliore and CriZ Mozzati, but for now put that aside and simply enjoy “Broken Crown Halo.”