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In A Reverie will always be the personal favorite of mine concerning Lacuna Coil's discography for reasons musical and otherwise, but if I were to judge based solely on musical merit, I would most likely veer towards this EP released shortly afterwards as the band's pinnacle. Five tracks, with one of them being a lengthy intro, and all of them pretty damn good to varying degrees. This is what I always expected a gothic metal band to sound like when I first heard the term, mainly because the songwriting and production values create an atmosphere that successfully invokes that gloomy spirit of some of the better gothic rock bands while jacking up the amplification. They wouldn't approach this style of sound in the future, or at least quite as successfully.
This puppy bounces between metal centric and goth based tracks all under a misty cavernous production. On other albums, chanteuse Cristina occasionally sings as if her inner self yearns to drop the whole goth metal scene, whip out an acoustic guitar and start wailing about how she's ready to leave some dickhead for good. Not here. Her echo-drenched voice is as ethereal as she's ever been, eschewing any tic resembling a folksy pop inflection. Her delivery during the opening track in particular is striking with Eastern embellishments and some trippy harmonies. Although she may not be quite as technically proficient as some of her peers, her dreamy tone combined with enough gravity to avoid resembling some fragile pixie provides her with a distinct and appealing flair. Another general highpoint of this effort is the drums, which do their best to stay busy during slower sections while not going overboard. Recorded with a fair amount of reverb as well, this adds a chilly yet heavy vibe to the overall aesthetics. Pretty much what one would want out of goth metal, I'd say.
As mentioned before there's the heavy cuts and the lighter cuts, with nothing even remotely giving the impression as some leftover not fit for a full length effort. Even "Trance Awake", an instrumental that smoothly transitions to "Senzafine", is essential with its aura similar to the celebrated 4AD project This Mortal Coil. "Senzafine" itself is one of the band's most blatantly gothic sounding numbers, with Italian lyrics adding character and allowing me to concentrate on the enchanting vocal melodies since my grasp of Italian doesn't transgress much further than a few quotes from The Godfather films, capiche?. They could be singing about "the healing power of masterbation" or a recipe for a fine linguini dish and it wouldn't disrupt my enjoyment of the tune's ambience. The other track that emphasizes their diversity from typical metal trappings would be their cover of Dubstar's "Stars", which plays like a homage to the dream-pop genre while adding some 'oomph' to the proceedings. A pleasant final cut that doesn't feel tacked-on to justify and EP status.
"Hyperfast" has become one of my favorites by the band, and no it doesn't contain blast beats. What it does possess is a progressive nature, seamlessly flowing from 4/4 to 6/8 tempos and juxtaposing heavier and quieter atmospheric sections without jarring the listener. In terms of skill, these guys have come a long way from their prior EP, in which Cristina was the only performer of any noteworthiness. We're not talking about blistering guitar heroics and jaw dropping drum fills, just a more unconventional and more complex approach to song-craft. There's also some well placed male growling provided by Andrea to add some more of a metal flavor to this piece, as well as on the title track.
The flaws on Halflife as few, but noticeable. The songs "Halflife" and "Hyperfast", though excellent, could have been trimmed a bit at their ends, and Andrea overdoes the swagger routine somewhat in "Senzafine", but these minor discrepancies hardly detract from the overall experience. Lacuna Coil's choice of songs to the raw, cold yet utterly appropriate production make this the go-to album of choice for anyone looking for recommendations in my opinion. Afterwards, I'd say In A Reverie is worth a shot if Halflife entices the listener. Following that, they're on their own.