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Lacuna Coil

Exceeding the 20-year mark as Italy’s most prominent goth-metal combos, the once-underground LACUNA COIL have been album chart fixtures on home-soil and on foreign land since their groundbreaking mid-00s set, `Karmacode’. Their unique sound emanates emphatically from the underpinning of Cristina Scabbia’s sublime singing and Andrea “Andy” Ferro’s detached, more tortuous throttles.
Formed in Milan in 1994 (as Sleep Of Right), the aforesaid Ferro and bassist/composer Marco Coti Zelati roped in guitarist Raffaele Zagaria and drummer Michaelangelo Algardi, in time to cut a track, `Bleeding Souls’, to contribute to V/A compilation, `Noise Of Bolgia’; almost immediately a fresh drummer, Leonardo Forti, was found whilst adding second guitarist Claudio Leo. The shape of the act came two-fold with the addition of Marco’s friend, Cristina Scabbia (initially as backing vocalist), and the name change to Ethereal. However, on the back of a promo CD, the name stalled when they realised a Greek group had booked it first. Instead, the enigmatic LACUNA COIL nom de plume (meaning “empty spiral”) was chosen when they inked a deal at metal-orientated Century Media Records.
They cut their eponymously-titled mini-set during 1997; released as LACUNA COIL {*6} the following January (and April in US) to the part acclaim. This “EP” outing placed LC in the goth-metal bracket, though they were certainly not stereotypes of the genre. From the time of its recording to the time of its release, LC took on a large European tour supporting label-mates MOONSPELL. Unfortunately the pressures of the road caused rifts in the fledgling band, culminating in a mild-mannered break-up on tour, and the recruitment of guitarist Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore (to supersede both Zagaria and Leo), and a new drummer, Cristiano “CriZ” Mozzati.
This line-up certainly lacked nothing of the former grouping; bringing out their first full set IN A REVERIE (1999) {*7}, much to the appreciation of the rock press. As before, this album showcased LC’s hard-edged but tuneful introspective goth meanderings, defiantly securing for them a mark of originality. Trading off tag-team vocals, the Cristina and Andrea interaction was well-received on tracks such as `Circle’, `My Wings’ and `Stately Lover’.
From then on in it was all go for these Italian metallers; taking on a massive amount of touring with, amongst others, The GATHERING; but still finding time – and fresh meat a la Marco “Maus” Biazzi (lead guitar) – to record and release a further mini-set/CD, HALFLIFE (2000) {*6}. This featured a cover of DUBSTAR’s `Stars’, and led up to a second full set, UNLEASHED MEMORIES (2001) {*7}. This truly established them in the hearts of the metal community, featuring as it did `Heir Of A Dying Day’, `To Live Is To Hide’, `When A Dead Man Walks’ et al.
2002’s COMALIES {*7} presented LACUNA COIL with their first real chance of glory when entering the normally austere American Billboard 200. Awash with electro flourishes over a symphonic metal, they’d certainly come of age under the awe-inspiring `Heaven’s A Lie’, `Swamped’ and `The Prophet Said’.
While it was unclear to why there was a break in activities that saw only an Ozzfest appearance in 2004, the ‘Coil re-charged their batteries for the commanding KARMACODE (2006) {*8} comeback. Bolstered by two minor UK hits that had been energised on the continent (`Our Truth’ and an outstanding 6 ½ minute cover of DEPECHE MODE’s `Enjoy The Silence’), the symphonic-rock drama and the OTT opera of it all became more than casual on the power-driven, EVANESCENCE-like `Fragile’, `Closer’, `Devoted’ and `Without Fear’.
Italian prog-metal had been reaping dividends in the EU, so its shapely cousins of goth were spreading just as fast around the globe. Again Top 50 in Britain, 2009’s accessible melodramatic metal dip in the water, SHALLOW LIFE {*7}, ventured further into the US Top 20. Pursuing producer Don Gilmore – who’d worked with LINKIN PARK and BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE – had paid off unequivocally, and in the promo singles `Spellbound’, `I Like It’ and the DEPECHE MODE-esque `The Pain’, the compromise of metal melody over matter had won the day.
Although three years down the line, Gilmore was more than happy to prop up another LACUNA COIL chart triumph in DARK ADRENALINE (2012) {*8}. Fans of R.E.M. might want to look away, but the Italian sextet’s out-of-the-box rendition of `Losing My Religion’ plastered over any cracks in their broken-paned cathedral of gloom-driven goth. If the jury was still out to lunch, there was no doubting the traction on `Trip The Darkness’, `The Army Inside’ and the un-futuristic `I Don’t Believe In Tomorrow’.
Easter 2014’s equally haunting and cathartic BROKEN CROWN HALO {*6} certainly saw cracks in their one-way mirror, as both Migliore and Biazzi left the coven just as the record was ready for dispatch. Knob-twiddler Jay Baumgardner guided them further into the EVANESCENCE cavern of cacophony; having already worked with said band; maybe the thick-as-treacle subject matter of `Zombies’, `Victims’, `Die & Rise’ and `I Burn In You’ was more inclined toward the all-year-round Halloween-fixated goth market. The soaring Scabbia was never in better shape (as was the fiery Ferro), but in `I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)’ – meaning what!? – LACUNA COIL had lost them selves somewhere in translation.
Zelati would add guitarist/producer to his CV thereafter when the band had to tour, whilst drummer Ryan Blake Folden (who’d filled for Mozzati) came out of his shell on heavier follow-up, DELIRIUM (2016) {*7}. Ferro’s anti-Christ guttural growls suited well the subject of madness (they’d visited a sanitarium in Northern Italy for effect), whilst the almost angelic Scabbia – by comparison – was truly reaching high octaves that only Amy Lee and NIGHTWISH’s Tarja Turunen could dream of. With only four members pounding and pummeling their wears and tears (though Myles Kennedy guested on `Downfall’), the beauty-and-the-best bits were `The House Of Shame’, `Blood, Tears, Dust’ and the sublime title track.
In 2016, they’d added previous guest guitarist Diego “Didi” Cavalotti to become a quintet once again. And turning the tables on an earlier live DVD-centred, Japanese-only “Visual Karma (Body, Mind And Soul)” package of 2008, the updated double-CD/DVD concert set, THE 119 SHOW – LIVE IN LONDON (2018) {*7}, was something fans could to sink their teeth into. In the interim period they filled the empty drum stool of Folden with Richard Meiz.
Italy’s answer to a pseudo-SLIPKNOT-vs-goth-MADONNA (they’d covered the Queen of Pop’s `Live To Tell’), LACUNA COIL looked to be heading for further growth in popularity, though mysteriously 2019’s US Top 100-only BLACK ANIMA {*6} shed fans by the bucketful(-of-blood)-load. On board the ghost ship with tracks like `Reckless’, `Under The Surface’ and `Save Me’; but all at sea with a handful of other pieces too derivative in their push for gothic glory, one just might be seeing the death-knell of one of metal’s most visceral and volumous acts.
© MC Strong/MCS 2002/GMD // rev-up MCS Oct2019

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