I’ve always been curious about Italian Gothic Metallers LACUNA COIL, but never eager enough to really go out on a limb and pick up a full album. Yeah, I’ve heard most of their mainstream material through friends, compilations, television, and Rock Band, but never had the urge to go out and buy a full album. When the chance came upon me to be able to take a listen to “Shallow Life”, LACUNA COIL’s fifth studio album, I really couldn’t pass it up.
In a similar manner to all of their singles from previous albums, there are elements that I really enjoy about LACUNA COIL and elements that I find unsatisfying too. “Shallow Life” is a great representation of said good/bad elements that I had previously thought about LACUNA COIL’s music and exemplified the fact that this is only a good release and not a great one.
The combination of two vocalists has been done time and time again, but I still find the trade offs between Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro to be a great balance of chemistry. They are truly the stars of LACUNA COIL, the mix on “Shallow Life” would easily tell one so, and they are the reason if any to listen to this album. Despite all the hype behind Scabbia I tend to like Ferro’s vocals a bit more due to the overproduction of her side. They tend to layer the hell out of both anyway, but Ferro’s carries a bit of an edge that makes him stand out to me. Between his slightly raw approach (its still singing though) and her bombastic range, it’s a combination that is truly something to admire.
Unfortunately, most of my significant praise ends there for “Shallow Life”. I was pretty disappointed with the instrumental side of this album as it tends to border along the lines of Hard Rock rather than Heavy Metal in its approach and simplicity. With all the melody and dynamics that the vocalists give this album, one could have taken it further with the musical side and it feels as though the band was holding back. Occasionally, a pretty solid riff comes bursting into the mix like on the opening of “I Won’t Tell You” or “I’m Not Afraid” but overly most of the instrumental side of “Shallow Life” tends to feel like a Nu Metal extension.
What helps this aspect is that the band incorporates a lot of keyboard work into the mix that gives that third line of melody, which is a nice bit of layering that this release desperately needs, and the fact that – yeah – LACUNA COIL writes catchy music. The melodies tend to stick with you after the release and songs like “Spellbound”, the first single from the album, are ones that will stay with you. So obviously, the instrumental simplicity works for its means, and it’s hard to criticize that too harshly.
If there is one true problem that plagues “Shallow Life” it’s the amount of filler on the album. Most songs are pretty catchy, but there is a handful on there that are overlapped by the stronger tracks. Easily this album could have been cut in half and essentially would have had the same flow, atmosphere, and general approach just streamlined a bit.
I can see why LACUNA COIL has garnered a lot of popularity in the last 5 years or so. “Shallow Life” definitely shows a catchy as hell, melodic side of Metal that is going to encroach on those that may not necessarily love Heavy Metal. For me, it’s a nice listen but I doubt that it will remain in my car or in rotation for very long. It’s a bit too simple and as a guitar and drum fanatic “Shallow Life” doesn’t quench my thirst.
Songs to check out: “Spellbound”, “Survive”, “I’m Not Afraid”.
(Online July 27, 2009)