When discussing the presence of front-women in mainstream metal, thoughts immediately jump to the likes of Floor Jansen of Nightwish or Lizzy Hale of Halestorm, women who have pushed boundaries and opened doors, enabling their respective bands to escape the trappings of the dreadful term ‘female-fronted’. And while they do house a more mainstream appeal, touring huge arenas, there are many other similarly important and influential bands which can’t be overlooked, and one of those is Lacuna Coil. The Milan-based goth metal outfit have always had in Cristina Scabbia, one of the finest vocal talents of any genre, and for the past twenty-plus years, they’ve played an integral role in the evolution of modern alternative music. However, while the aforementioned bands have polished up for their arena shows, the Italian’s have become darker and heavier. Gone are the radio friendly anthems of breakthrough album Comalies, the band now play with an ever more crushing intensity, and that’s proven unquestionably on new album Black Anima.
The album opens up with ‘Anima Nera’ and while it has a slow, pulsing synth at its heart, with some soft piano and Cristina delicately delivering her sweetest vocals, it’s merely a prologue; an introductory calm before the storm, and what a storm they’re about to unleash. First track proper ‘Sword Of Anger’ bludgeons you from the word go with some unexpectedly brutal death growls, amidst some semi-metalcore breakdowns and chugging riffs. The chorus houses a wonderful clean vocal hook breaking up said brutality, but this is an incredibly intense start, and it’s wonderful.
This heaviness is spread thickly throughout the album as a whole, with a lot of almost prog-inspired djent qualities, ‘Layers Of Time’ being a prime example of that from the moment it kicks in. It does fleet in and out of a more traditional metal/hard rock sound around its chorus, but the influence is undeniable. So to with ‘Now Or Never’ which even goes as far as melodeath-inspired at times, with Cristina herself getting all vocally angsty towards the tracks climax. They are a gothic band at heart however and there are of course some classic Coil tracks here to appease older fans; ‘Under The Surface’ and ‘Save Me’ both harbour up-tempo, hard rocking anthems while retaining the albums heavier aesthetics. The real highlight here is ‘Apocalypse’; the meandering, melodic splendour is simply mesmerising as the soaring gang vocals accompany the genuinely beautiful musical arrangements, especially the truly emotive guitar play; it’s absolutely stunning.
Lacuna Coil may have tuned down the instrumentation and cranked up the aggression, but here they sound as crisp as ever and with Black Anima produced one of the finest records of their career to date.
Black Anima is out 11th October via Century Media Records and can be purchased here.
Words: Gavin Griffiths