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Tackling a band’s discography for review purposes can turn out to be a rewarding experience in that for the sake of completion I would have to listen extensively, or at least a for a reasonable amount of spins, to certain albums in the chosen band’s catalog I never gave any attention to in the past. As a result, I found myself discovering certain releases or individual songs that have wound up in heavy rotation since then, and for that it was worth trudging through the band’s less appealing works. Still, it can be disheartening when the quality of the band’s output continues to dip by personal preference standards to such levels where holding on to that sense of motivation to persevere becomes a questionable venture. After somehow successfully crossing the dismal landscape where a creature known as the Karmacode dwells, I knew it wasn’t time to celebrate yet since I had an idea of what lurked ahead.
After a long rest I nervously sauntered forward until I arrived at the Lake of Eternal Misery, where at its center a tiny isle can be seen in which upon a pedestal a shimmering glass hand grenade rests. But enough of the fantasy shit.
To be honest, the prospect of even listening to this album, let alone reviewing it seemed like a bad idea and a pain in the ass, but for the sake of continuity I decided to ‘man up’ and give it a chance. I soon realized while listening to it that I had the soundtrack I needed to get through this ordeal. The lyrics for the opening track, and quite a few others, are life-affirming, fist pumping, get out there and WIN anthems. It was as if vocalists Cristina & Andrea were coaching and inspiring me to survive the experience. “Don’t worry, bite that fucking bullet and do it! Don’t give up listening to our album no matter how much horseshit and alternative dreck we’re throwing at you, YOU WILL FIGHT AND YOU WILL SURVIVE!” Needless to say, I did survive the challenge, and in fact it wasn’t nearly as rough going as I was expecting. After the nu-metal morass of their previous album, and the fact that Shallow Life seemed regarded as an even worse opus, I was expecting nothing short of an abomination that could swear me off music forever, but instead I was subjected to a cranked-up Paramore with post production industrial embellishments generously sprinkled throughout the release. Sounds awesome, right? So, yeah, it’s obviously still an abomination, but a tolerable one because this album is actually quite unintentionally amusing and entertaining.
Aiming for a larger audience, most of Lacuna Coil’s metal tendencies by now had been supplanted by a melodic hard rock swagger, and just about any trace of gothic qualities to their music had been nipped in the bud. If this album were any less gothic in nature, it would’ve boasted a track called “Goth Fucking Sucks”. The production is unsurprisingly polished to ridiculous levels, which does wonders for the musicians and yet exposes the accents of the vocalists moreso than in earlier efforts. “Not Enough” would have been a nice Coldplay-ish rock track thanks to Cristina’s sweet chorus, but Andrea’s macho verses combined with his redwood thick accent seriously hurt any potential this tune had in that he sounds like he got struck by a bat to the noggin before arriving at the studio. Yet, I must admit, I thought it came across as pretty amusing, so I can’t really hate something that brings a smile to my face.
While Andrea struggles with his linguistics, Cristina plays it pretty safe on this album, like some sort of session stock crooner. Competent, but unadventurous except for some headache-inducing yelps during the opening of “Wide Awake”, although on some occasions she does sound like she was having fun during this recording, specifically on a couple of the more upbeat tracks such as “I Like It”.
Speaking of which, “I Like It” is probably my favorite track off the album with its unabashed goofy pop-rock exuberance with a catchy hook and thematic “Nothing can stop me” lyrics. “Underdog” is another riotous corker with its “You are going down!” chorus and sense of muscular bravado while actually sounding as dangerous as a fat bunny. The only actual tunes that give off any sort of full-fledged metal vibes would be the opener and “Spellbound”, a fast paced number that doesn’t capture my interest but does add more variety to the album’s stylistics.
I guess that’s why I actually find this album a more appealing listen than Karmacode…the sheer variety. Instead of utterly repetitive nu-metal morbidity, we get alternative rockin’ “climb that fucking mountain” inspirational claptrap. It’s absolutely perfect music to accompany the Woman’s Beach Volleyball Championship. So yes, despite not having any song at the same level as “Enjoy The Silence” from their last album, as a whole it’s a much more entertaining listen without actually being good. I suppose there’s something to be said for having extremely low expectations.
About two years after I bought Italian gothic metal band, Lacuna Coil's 2006 release "Karmacode", I spent another visit to my local music store and I saw Lacuna Coil's section and I was debating over "Comalies", or "Shallow Life". I walked out of the store with a copy of their latest release, "Shallow Life" in my hand. Lacuna Coil went from a complex heavy gothic metal band to a commercial alternative hard rock band with a simple sound. Sure the songs are good but they're not verry powerful like Lacuna Coil's past work.
The simplicity is what makes this album weaker than past efforts, the guitars are mostly clean and not heavy at all. But some parts of Lacuna Coil's work remains the same, like the vocals. Vocalist Cristina Scabbia's voice still leads the band with her powerful voice. She seems to show off her range in this album, hitting higher notes than past albums. But her leading male partner Andrea Ferro's voice is husky and harsh, sometimes it doesn't work out for him and he doesn't help the band as much as he probably hurts it, but when executed correctly the contrast is good.
The opening song song "Survive" is probably on of the heaviest and energetic songs on the album and the lyrics are also a bit deep. The fourth song "I'm Not Afraid" is powerful that has a beautiful keyboard part, along with Cristania's voice reminds me a little bit of Linkin Park. The fifth track "I Like It" is good sounding but not verry original and is a bit repetitive. "Spellbound", the eighth track is one the high-lights of the album with an energetic opening. This song also has a great solo, not to mention Cristina hitting higher notes that ends the track with an amazing finish.
So, the album is good, it has some flaws but is still worth a listen to. You might like "Shallow Life", you might not, but I recomend listening to Lacuna Coil's older releases.
Highlights: I'm Not Afraid, The Pain, Spellbound, The Maze
I was a late arrival to becoming a fan of Lacuna Coil -- in fact, I had never heard of them until 2007 when a friend of mine told me to start listening to them. She mentioned them so much, that one day I decided to give them a listen on internet radio. The first song came up two days later and I literally turned around and went "Whoa! What is this?" -- the song playing was "Daylight Dancer", off the Comalies album. I was hooked and had to listen to more. I became an instant fan.
Now fast forward to 2009 when Lacuna Coil released the first album since I became a fan of theirs, and Shallow Life shows the band working with producer Don Gilmore, who worked with Pearl Jam, Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne. This already sounds like a train wreck, as everyone knows what happened with "Minutes To Midnight" and every Pearl Jam album after the first one, but I, being a fan, decided to give it a shot anyways.
Just pop this thing in and I guarantee you the name "Don Gilmore" is written all over this album like a bad rash. There is a disturbingly high Linkin Park feeling in the first two songs... The third song, "Not Enough", is the first one that actually sounds a bit like older Lacuna Coil, but it's missing something that made Lacuna Coil great on previous albums.
If you need some clarification, pick up an older Lacuna Coil album. Any of them. There will be one song that you will find yourself singing two days later in a grocery store. This album doesn't have one single memorable song, and that's where it starts going wrong.
Another bone of contention I have is that Cristina Scabbia is singing much less on this album, and her range isn't tested as much as on previous albums. Put a song by Coil called "Distant Sun" and you'll see what I mean by how much of a range Cristina is capable of singing. So why aren't her talents used as much on this album? Andrea Ferro is singing much more, which is kind of like calling up your second-string quarterback when your star QB is standing on the sideline begging to win the game with 2 minutes to play in the fourth. Most of Coil's songs aren't as much about the drumming or bass, so there's no harm, no foul in that regard.
Songs like "I like It" and "Underdog" have a Karmacode feel to them -- which was initially what I heard was the idea behind this album, to be more like their most successful album. This isn't a bad thing -- if the entire album had been like this, I probably would have been like "Okay, this is the new sound of the band". After which, Shallow Life tries to go with an Arabic sound, and the best example of this has to be in the opening riff of "The Pain", but then Cristina's singing coupled with the rhythm sounds like Avril Lavigne's "Complicated". WHY?
The one saving grace is the 9th song, "Wide Awake". This song sounds like something that could have been released in the early 2000s, with it's haunting beauty and rhythm. This one is worth a download for all classic Coil fans. The last three tracks sound way out of place for this band, and by far is a major let down.
The entire album itself is a strong deviation from the hauntingly beautiful gothic style that made them so cool. If Lacuna Coil goes down this path for the sake of selling a few thousand extra albums, they may find fans wondering what happened to them and eventually leaving to find other good gothic metal.
In conclusion, if you absolutely MUST have every album, you probably should pick this one up. A lot of metal fans are talking about skipping this one and I can't entirely blame them. This album is actually very forgettable and I know that Cristina Scabbia and the band are capable of doing a lot better. What the band should do is take a copy of Comalies and Unleashed Memories to the studio and say "The next album is going to return to these roots" for the sake of all the Coil fans that want to hear better. We deserve better.
If you thought "Comalies" was LC's downfall, "Karmacode" proved you wrong. If you thought "Karmacode" was LC's ultimate downfall, "Shallow Life" will prove you wrong...very wrong. The 2 albums before this were bad, yes, but this one wouldn't look weird if it was put in the same section as a Selena Gomez album.
11 of the 13 tracks here are nothing but commercial, pop-rock garbage. I tried listening to this a couple of times, since I thought I was always subconsciously comparing it to "Unleashed Memories" or "In A Reverie". But no, the album is just bad on every level possible. Some tracks are catchy, but that does not mean the album is any good. In fact, they confirm that LC will never get out of the commercial trap.
The artwork looks like something fitting for a Jeffree Star album. Nevertheless, the album has the same fake sound to it, so I guess the artwork is a warning. "Shallow Life" is nothing but artificial-sounding; starting with the bland vocals of the once decent Cristina Scabbia, to the excessive electronic modifications throughout. Just listen to the intro of "Unchained", for example, and tell me it does not sound like an Avril Lavigne song.
I tried to like this album for what it is, yet there's nothing to like here. The reason I didn't give this a 1 (yes, it's that bad) because I actually enjoyed "Survive" and "Spellbound". They're two tracks which wouldn't have looked out of place on "Karmacode" (which isn't a good thing, but is definitely better than this). Avoid by all means.
If I had to describe this album with only two words, I would call it "Plastic Goth". I really liked the some of the earlier Gothic Rock songs the band made and even the more commercial "Karmacode" had still some experiments and original moments.
"Shallow Life" is an album without edges. Modern and electronic sound effects have taken the place of bass guitar, electric guitar and drums. Especially the drums are lacking of power and sound artificial throughout the whole album. The opener "Survive" already disappoints after a forty seconds long introduction in the style of "Karmacode" as the guitars are tuned down and male and female singers perform without any power and conviction. And it won't get better, it gets worse.
Everything sounds artificial, even the normally brilliant and powerful voice of Scabbia. A good example is the closing title track "Shallow life", a boring and faceless ballad where I don't even hear the sign of a guitar, bass or drum. Some artificial orchestrations from a Casio keyboard or something similar plus sound effects plus the emotionless performance by Scabbia and some useless male background lines form a complete piece of kitsch and garbage. "Wide awake" is another example of boredom in tranquility that has an interesting acoustic guitar introduction beore the orchestrations drown the song in a radio pop ballad kitsch that would even be too uninspired and boring for a Hannah Montana movie. Scabbia's voice is completely electronically and artificially humilated in the boring and somewhat hypnotizing "I like it".
Even the "harder" songs like "I won't tell you" or "Spellbound" use some boring sound effects, a bad male singer and a repeating guitar riff. And you can't call any song on this album a metal song and even the new direction "alternative rock" wouldn't be correct, I would rather talk about "alternative pop" with synthetic orchestrations and alibi guitars. Or I would just call it "Plastic Goth". Mainstream and fame completely destroyed the charm of this once interesting underground band as even Evanescence now sound heavier than they do. From an objective point of view, I give ten points for the commercial success and the completed assimilation to the American pop scene.
At one point in time, Lacuna Coil was a decent goth metal band. About eight to ten years ago they were one of the top bands of their genre using their signature haunting melodic sound of vocalists Christina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro at the helm. As the band grew more popular, their sound changed as well. Many fans knew what Karmacode did for them and that helped solidify a spot for them in mainstream music. But many wondered what the next album would bring. What came was the boring commercial sounding crap of Shallow Life.
The main problem I have with this release is that pure teenage angst feel each song has. It’s almost like the songs are about having petty anger and frustration, which is what most of these “stock” goth bands do nowadays. It makes the listening experience difficult because it feels like you are hearing a fifteen year old girl complain about her problems in life. Take for example the song “The Pain” which is in my honest opinion the worst song on the album. Lyrics like “I wake up to a smoking gun, the evidence is in your head” sums up the angst of this song and on the album in general. I don’t personally mind a few songs like this but damn, most of them are just too much for me.
Another problem I have with this album are the flat song structures. If you noticed, there is not one song on Shallow Life that is over five minutes long. Most of the songs are the same song structure, which is that verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown-chorus crap that drives me up the wall. The songs are very boring and repetitive to listen to and sometimes I seriously cannot tell the difference between one song or the other. Also, that nu-metal detuned guitar sound which starts from the very beginning of the song “Survive” to the end of the album is so annoying that it was hard enough just to get to the end of the album. Why do you need to sound like Korn or Linkin Park to make it big in the market today for metal bands? It doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s just too overdone as it is.
Shallow Life marks a point to where Lacuna Coil is just going to be the next MTV pop rock band destined to hit the charts and hope to make it big with the American market. But in the end it usually fails since this has been done so often by so many bands who feel that they have to change just so they can earn a little more cash. The only redeeming songs on this album are “Spellbound” and “Wide Awake”, but even those songs aren’t even close to what many old Lacuna Coil fans hope to hear. So if you are looking for a nice commercial album for your collection, Shallow Life is for you. Otherwise, stay away from this one if you want good music!
Its only logical progression at this point, really. Comalies marked the beginning of Lacuna Coil’s downward spiral into the abyss of mediocrity, although it certainly had redeeming factors – factors not present anywhere in Karmacode, and certainly nowhere in Shallow Life. I don’t happen across albums like this very often, but after repeated listens I simply cannot find a redeeming quality to this album. At best, Shallow Life manages to successfully bridge the gap between radio-rock and metal, but is this “success” worth praising? I certainly don’t think so.
Two months prior to the release of Shallow Life, Lacuna Coil released a single of the song Spellbound. It got reasonably positive feedback, and for good reason; it was a good song, very reminiscent of the Comalies sound, and perhaps even earlier, in many ways, including Cristina’s higher pitched vocals, Andrea’s singing actually being tolerable, and fairly interesting lyrics. So what’s the problem, you might ask? Spellbound is an enigma. Nowhere else on Shallow Life is a song as engaging, dynamic – it truly feels as if this song doesn’t belong here. Of the 12 tracks, it’s the only one deserving of the classification, “metal.” Except maybe Unchained, to a lesser extent.
The biggest fault with Shallow Life is the same problem plaguing so many of these pseudo-pop metal albums trying desperately to break into the American mainstream: They don’t go anywhere. Now, I’m not going to slam the verse->chorus song structures, but I will slam the deliberate lack of effort that is repeating the same exact movements for each section of a song. Pick any song present (I chose I Survive) and you’ll find a moderately interesting intro section, but soon after realize that the versus are 100% identical, as are the choruses; the only difference being lyrics (or not in chase of the chorus, but that’s to be expected, not faulted). To be quite honest, I feel like I’m merely listening to multiple iterations of the same song, one might even go as far as to say watered down versions of Spellbound.
After multiple listens I believe Shallow Life would be better off regarding itself as a mere rock album. Of the 12 tracks, only Spellbound and Unchained manage to convince me otherwise, and those don’t make for persuasive odds. My sister made a brief appearance in my room while this was playing, and she stopped to ask when Creed picked up a female singer. I laughed at the comparison, but I also had to wonder about the validity of such a statement. A flimsy bridge has existed between the genres of alternative hard rock and heavy metal, but it’s usually coming from the former’s side of the canyon. I fear with Shallow Life, the latter’s side has finally decided to reach out and reinforce this bridge. This isn’t an avenue I particularly enjoy the thought of existing, but I suppose some things are inevitable.
If fans of the aforementioned hard rock genres manage to find their way to this review, then I suggest you check out Shallow Life. I suspect fans of that style of music will appreciate it, and although I question as to why anyone would willingly spin either Shallow Life or Karmacode for enjoyment, I suspect it can also lead these newcomers to discover metal in earnest. Like I keep saying, Spellbound, and Unchained to a lesser extent, take the listener back to the days of Comalies, and even a little earlier. They offer a glimpse of what metal has the potential of being without the dangers of inaccessibility or extremity. The thing you, the listener, should ask yourself is thus: Do hard rock bands incorporating barebones traces of metal into their music do it better than metal bands incorporating massive amounts of hard rock influences into their own music? I, for one, would like to know.
Ok, so the "anticipated" release of Lacuna Coil's album is upon us. With that said, I'm wrapping up my first spin of the album. The only words I can come up with are lackluster and disappointing. The album is overly glossy thanks to Don Gilmore (Avril Lavigne???? seriously, why chose the producer of such garbage?) The album is more of a continuation of Karmacode though. Lacuna Coil have stripped away the image that made them a formidable underground band back in the late 90's and early 2000's. That sound was killed with Karmacode and now with the maturation process of it appearing in Shallow Life, the sound we all revered is now hanging to a thread of hope.
There are standouts though and I won't put the album down completely. Cristina brings her vocals and her range and it's great to hear...and like many people have said, the tandem of her and Andrea is dragged down by her male counterpart. His vocals are flat and monotonous at best. His delivery and range just lack, he needs a coach to excel but I think with their transition to a more mainstream sound, that won't be needed as anyone that is within that scene will hear one of the standout songs "Spellbound" and pick up the album and enjoy it. Now, if you're not into this new modern age Gothic ala Evanescence then this album will definitely get put back up on the shelf.
The opener, Survive starts out strong and keeps a decent pace and is another song that can stand the test of time. Moving through the 12 track album, the song keeps repeating it's sound and aims for the heart of America's youth with it's bubble gum approach and easy to digest musical structure. It's sad to see such a band from my home country go to the wayside, but it was only a matter of time. They hit their peak with Comalies and got the recognition they deserved for so long. Now they're just maturing into something else, much like Korn did when they lost two of it's original members. The sound is still there in varying degrees, but it doesn't rear it's head like it should and disappoints.
The question you should be asking yourself right now is; “Do I want to hear the new Lacuna Coil album after the horror that befell my ears on their last effort?” After gazing at the cover and seeing the painfully emo/screamo/indie glass hand grenade more questions will eventually fill your mind, like: “What will it sound like? Will it be Metal? Will it be Korn? Will it be what I want it to be?” The answer to all of these and more is a resounding, maybe. Yes, that is a painfully ambiguous and ignorant answer but this album is unlike anything these Italians have done before. Upon the first few seconds of sound you instantly think ‘Karmacode’ with the strange samples but as soon as the noise stops and the music starts you think ‘Comalies’, only heavier. The second track (as well as the better part of the third track) is straight dance music with Metal guitars thrown in for good measure. The darkness of the past is gone (get used to it) but the melancholy is back. This album takes the better parts of their last album and blends them with the heavier more melancholic parts of ‘Unleashed Memories’ and ‘Comalies’ and mixes them with several different and surprisingly good influences.
The production is pretty good, possibly less than ‘Karmacode’ in a few places. The mixing is strange with the vocals and keyboards taking precedence over the other instruments in various places in various songs. The guitars are instantly reminiscent of those heard on ‘Comalies’ only heavier. Gone are the ‘Kornesqe’ dirges and one note riffs. They are lighter than ‘Karmacode’ however. On a couple of songs at the end of the album there are some real solos. The guitar riffs and harmonies are once again pushing the boundaries of their style into uncharted territory. There are some instantly recognizable riffs but they ultimately lead off into new places. The melodies are arguably refreshing, incorporating new styles; some funk and a lot of Rock but the flavor is ultimately Metal. There aren’t as many leads but the few that are there do well to accentuate the music as a whole. There is about an equal amount of palm muting to open chorded playing with more emphasis on the open chorded style. They also take full advantage of their Line 6 heads and use tons of effects.
Thankfully the bass has rediscovered its own voice. The Korn rattle is gone and the original sound that the fans are accustomed to is back. The biggest let downs would be that it follows the guitars way too much.
The drums are a huge let down all around. Typically Cristiano is a very creative drummer but over all he really phoned this album in. The first song is where he really shines, utilizing a tasteful amount of Meshuggah and older Coil to a surprisingly brutal effect. There is some different keyboard play in here as well provided by Marco. The overall feeling is slightly techno but the underlying tone is the Gothic/Lacuna Coil style that they’ve created.
This is still very much Lacuna Coil but different in so many ways. This album is incredibly experimental in every sense of the word yet subdued at the same time. Thankfully it has more in common with the European sound than the mainstream American sound of their past effort(s). There are a lot of effects on the vocals, mostly Christina’s, flange, echo, etc… they really went to town on this album.
Christina’s vocals are a mixed bag. For the most part she plays it safe in the midrange not venturing out of this area much except for in the chorus and perhaps more prominent parts of certain songs. She uses her voice in several different ways, using more lows and midrange than just her typical full on highs. Andrea is strong in the first song and a couple of songs towards the end of the album but is hardly in the bulk of the material. The vocal tandems showcase him in the foreground, more so than Christina in most instances.
This is a tough call as far as a rating. Upon first listen this is sits between 60-70, but upon the second, third, fifth, etc… you start to hear more and more positives. Is this a return to form? Not really no, but it is more than a glance over the shoulder. They have truly pushed themselves into a new direction instead of following the advice of the record label. This album is painfully original and exploratory. The mixing of the heavier songs with the softer songs all the while never having too much of both in any one song at the same time is intriguing. There are a few parts that remind one of Paradise Lost though indirectly as if they borrowed a few notes here and there. More often then not Mortal Love is brought to mind as a sound alike, though it’s fairly probable that they didn’t copy the Norwegians.
Yes there are songs to dance to, but there are also songs to bang your head to. There is a lot going on here. The atmosphere is electric and alive; tiny bits of alternative and ambient mix with more sinister and darker moments to make the full spectrum of feelings. An album like this reminds one of Paradise Lost and their never ending quest to reinvent themselves, only unlike PL it didn’t take LC five albums to figure it out. This is a breath of fresh air for any who thought ‘Karmacode’ sucked. This is an album for those who thought ‘Comalies’ was too light. This really is an excellent summer release (though not very “Gothic” in that sense) that all should give a few spins.