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Here is one of those situations where a relatively independent band I once dug eventually disappeared from my radar of interest, only to suddenly become enough of a mainstream success a few years later (2003 to be exact) to the point where some co-workers and a few friends of mine with little to no interest in metal asked if I’ve heard of this “new” band called Lacuna Coil. I remember replying to one guy that I thought In A Reverie was a cool album, in which he then looked at me as if I had just asked if he was up for a three-way with a panda. Unless I was flippin’ drunk, I never had much interest in converting people to my taste in music or whatnot, but it was strange to start hearing of this band again from various sources, as if validating my old tastes. Thus it was a surprised vindication I felt hearing accolades for a group I held respect for due the their debut album being a disc I spun on a regular rotation around the turn of the century. It seemed like a no brainer in that I felt compelled to hear what Lacuna Coil had been up to since then by checking out the oddly titled Comalies.
The burgeoning excitement I felt during the opening track was no mere joke. The guitars, bolstered by an added crunch, were pushed to the forefront of the mix, and the production quality was crystal clear but not sterile or "tinny" thanks to a good bottom end providing support. “Swamped” has a lumbering pace, but it’s heavy and the background synths add a deft gloomy touch without becoming a distraction. Cristina’s voice is heavenly here, and is soon joined by Andrea’s bare-chested histrionics, and yet in this case they compliment each other well. In fact, Andrea’s gradual improvements through the years really started to show here. He’ll never be mistaken for a high caliber singer, but he’s no longer this benign tumor hanging with the rest of the band. Unlike their early material, without him in the lineup Comalies would actually suffer due to lessened variety in a group already battling and often failing to excel past a rote sense of repetition in songcraft. “Swamped” had me believing this was going to be one hell of an album.
And yet the promising opening didn’t pan out to encompass the entire collection of songs. This is what I consider to be a front-loaded effort. The popular second track “Heaven’s A Lie” didn’t impress me as much as the opener, but I loved Cristina’s sultry lower-range delivery of the verses. “Daylight Dancer” speeds things up from a crawl to a mid-tempo rhythm with Andrea getting a fair share of the verses and Cristina belting like a spike-collared Natalie Merchant during the chorus. Alongside “Swamped”, easily my other favorite track off this effort is “Humane”, which boasts a powerhouse chorus that brings back the best aspects of Unleashed Memories while adding a bit more punch production-wise. “Aeon” is interesting in that its opening guitar twang had me visualizing Spaghetti Westerns before the atmospheric quiet goth chimes in and finishes the tune after a weird little industrial loop.
That brings up another point concerning Comalies. There’s a slew of industrial touches peppered throughout the disc, and in some instances they tend to sound intrusive rather than an added dimension. They actually feel tacked on during post-production, as if the producer was getting bored and weary listening to this entire recording and thought “We need to add a bunch of bleeps and bloops all over the place just to keep my ass awake.”
I wouldn’t blame him for thinking that either, since by the second half of this disc it settles into this shamelessly safe comfort zone wherein the band, with the exception of the goofy war diatribe "Angel's Punishment", rehashes the previous tracks over and over to fill up a disc, with “Heaven’s A Lie” and “Daylight Dancer” (I know, what a sissy song title) providing the slow and mid tempo blueprints for everything following the impressive fourth tune. Unleashed Memories is guilty of this questionable approach as well, but had more of a doom enhanced edge to it, whereas with Comalies a sizable portion of these songs gave the impression of stock tunes created for the Underworld franchise.
Like its predecessor, the album isn’t close to being a disaster musically and possesses a few of their finest tunes, but if they had kept up that slight sense of diversity displayed on their debut full length a few years ago, this could have been a monster. Technically, it did turn out to be a monster for Century Media, and I’ll give props to Lacuna Coil for earning their popularity through some tough years without drastic changes to their sound…at least up to this album.