‘Black Anima’ is Lacuna Coil’s ninth studio album and the first that showcases their slightly revised lineup, with Richard Meiz now behind the kit, and Diego Cavallotti on guitar. However, the press sheet with the promo doesn’t mention Cavallotti amongst their personnel or any of the blurb so, presumably, Lacuna Coil’s recording lineup for this new one is Meiz alongside founding members Cristina Scabbia, Andrea Fero and Marco “Maki” Coti-Zelati, with the latter responsible for guitars, bass and keys/synths.
Intro, ‘Anima Nera’, with its darkly synth-centric pulse, delicately melancholic keys, unsettling swirling sounds, and Scabbia’s restrained vocals teases the sonic darkness that's to come. It’s a scene setter, for sure, and will no doubt serve as an atmospherically tension building intro at their gigs (I could be wrong, of course, but this would make a great show intro). And then the album kicks off with drastically heavy intent as ‘Sword of Anger’ kicks in. Fero’s growls are more ferocious than they’ve ever been. The riffs, bass and drums are fuelled by cacophonous grooves… but this all lapses into more standard Lacuna Coil fare within the main body of the song. The track’s central melody is reminiscent of any number of Lacuna Coil songs.
But (yep, another but) there’s another twist. From third track, ‘Reckless’, and thereon, generally speaking, the album transpires to be so much more than standard Coil fare. For a band who've taken a number of sideways steps between albums, this one feels like a big leap forward. On a par with ‘Broken Crown Halo’ (the band’s most consistently best album, in my opinion), ‘Black Anima’ is top-drawer Coil, but in a very different way. The grooves, the gothic, and the engaging, vocal duality of Scabbia and Fero are still all present, but presented within a different context. A more varied context that sees the band at their most vocally diverse, while delivering some of their heaviest, darkest and hard-hitting material to date.
Fero’s vocals are noticeably harsher throughout, with much more venomous bite in his growled delivery (save for some more euphonic, cleaner moments). And Scabbia’s singing is fantastically varied, whereby she exercises the full range of her vocal abilities, from the tranquil right through to the powerful; from low-end sultry tones to high-end quirks. Just listen to the likes of ‘Now or Never’ and ‘Apocalypse’ for Scabbia’s singing variance. And 'Veneficium' has some amazing choral style vocals that prove to be a very nice surprise. Then there are some of her epic vocal arrangements, such as in ‘Layers of Time’. Fantastic!
A word about the musicianship, too. First class, throughout. A ton of rhythmic variance on the drums underlies some great guitar work, from the tech-heavy grooves of ‘Under the Surface’ to some nifty solos spots in the likes of ‘Reckless’ and ‘Now or Never’. Some very nice keys/synth work, as well. Perhaps a bit of a Claudio Simonetti influence in places? This is particularly noticeable on the title track, which closes the album - its central melody wouldn’t sound out of place in a Dario Argento movie.
With last year marking Lacuna Coil’s twentieth anniversary, they’ve kick-started their third decade as a band with revitalised vigour. It feels as if they’ve have abandoned their songwriting paradigms and former sonic templates to craft compositions that are largely free from any former Coil rules. These Italians sound not only like a band emancipated from their own compositional shackles, but re-energised to the point where they’ve succeeded in pushing themselves into fresh sonic territory. Exciting times ahead for the Coil!
Review by Mark Holmes
11th October 2019
1) Anima Nera
2) Sword of Anger
4) Layers of Time
6) Now or Never
7) Under the Surface
9) The End is All I Can See
10) Save Me
11) Black Anima
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"These Italians sound not only like a band emancipated from their own compositional shackles, but re-energised to the point where they’ve succeeded in pushing themselves into fresh sonic territory."