Reactions: Lacuna Coil’s Broken Crown Halo

Continuing on with my reactions to albums from my Top 9 Most Anticipated in 2014 list, with Lacuna Coil’s Broken Crown Halo.

Most likely, your reaction to this album will depend on how you feel about Lacuna Coil’s recent output. If you’re in the “nothing they did after Comalies was any good” camp, I doubt this album is going to change your mind, even though it does bring back some elements of Lacuna Coil’s earlier style. If you liked the band’s more recent work, you’ll probably find this a very satisfying synthesis – it is both a logical progression of the band’s recent work and an album that hearkens back to some of their earlier work.

Cristina Scabbia’s vocal work is a highlight of the album. I think she just keeps getting better and better. Andrea Ferro’s more modest vocal talents  complement her well, and I really enjoyed the return of growled vocals from Andrea in songs like “Nothing Stands in Our Way” and “Die and Rise.”

“Hostage to the Light” has a beautifully soaring vocal performance and manages to strike a mood that is both uplifting and melancholy. “Nothing Stands in Our Way,” “Zombies,” and “Die and Rise” are good fist-pumping anthems. I particularly enjoy the lyrical conceit in “Zombies” of casting the band (and by implication the listeners) as the zombies, turning a song that looked at first glance like it might be standard horror movie soundtrack fare into a song about social alienation and finding solace in bonding with one’s fellow outcasts. “Die and Rise,” on the other hand, is undeniably lyrically goofy, but has a bouncy swagger to it that has propelled it onto my list of “songs I listen to to get pumped up for going to the gym.”

Although, speaking of bouncy swagger – a lot of that comes, of course, from the bass line, which is incredibly prominent in the mix in this and most other songs. I’ve never been one of those to give Lacuna Coil stick for their “nu-metal” bass lines, but Broken Crown Halo did make me realize what the heck all these people have been complaining about. In a lot of contexts, it works, but I’ll admit that I burst out laughing the first time I heard “Zombies,” because that “dun dun dun DAH DAH DAH” bass line was nearly self-parodic. I think they could have toned it down on a few songs. But it’s a minor quibble.

I think the album flags a bit towards the end – “I Burn In You” and “In The End I Feel Alive” strike me a bit as Lacuna-Coil-by-the-numbers. They’re entirely listenable, but I find them fairly forgettable. “One Cold Day,” a song written for former Lacuna Coil guitarist Claudio Leo, who passed away in early 2013, closes out the album beautifully, with a very moving expression of grief and loss.

Favorite tracks: “Zombies,” “Hostage to the Light,” “Die and Rise”

Overall verdict: Not an album full of big surprises, but thoroughly enjoyable.

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