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Cristina & Co. settle into a 'mode' - 73%

Liquid_Braino, February 29th, 2012

At this stage of Lacuna Coil’s career, the band was honing a singular and distinctive sound that would basically define them for the next few years. Unlike certain gothic metal acts, this group weren’t laying on thick the bloated synthesized orchestras and Latin spouting choirs. The female/male vocal dynamic was heavily favoring the female, and the male vocals actually involved singing as opposed to toneless growls and screeches. Musically they had adopted a four chord pattern structure for the verses with a mid to slow gait and one guitar providing open power chords while another layers jangly melodies over it. The drummer would sometimes flesh out the sound with some nice rolls and even provide some occasional double bass action as if he were throwing a bone to appease the harsher metalheads in the crowd. Thanks man. An assessment as to the band's influences at this point seem to form a balanced merging of gothic, doom and alternative metal.

Some fans of the group consider their prior album as a band trying to find itself, in which they finally zoned in and crafted this work as the first full length effort bearing the ‘Lacuna Coil blueprint’. I do agree in that they did capture the desired sound they were looking for, but it results in being a double edged sword. To me, In A Reverie wasn’t the result of a band trying to figure out who they were; they already had their foundation down and were being adventurous within their chosen genre and style. With Unleashed Memories, they gain a tighter focus boosted by an improved production, but repeating the same formula over and over eventually kills momentum and eventually devolves into a chore to deal with, like eating pepperoni pizza every single night.

I do believe that pizza on occasion tastes quite delicious, just like the opening track “Heir of a Dying Day” and Cristina Scabbia with her assured smooth vocal skills. The main riff, as in a majority of the other tracks, is composed of a four chord sequence. The opening crescendo has a nice foreboding atmosphere and the note progression utilized for the main riff has a somewhat sinister vibe that brings a bit of tension and desperation to the ambience. Cristina’s sensual rock-based vocals are like the pepperoni on the pizza, with Andrea aptly providing backing vocals. It’s a cool song, but not one that needed to be replicated with minor variations on numerous occasions throughout the LP.

Fortunately there are a couple of other numbers that rise out of the shackles of ‘sameness’ to adorn Unleashed Memories with some much needed variety. First and foremost is the barely revamped version of the Italian language track “Senzafine” first released on the Halflife EP. It's fueled by some busy drumming and dons a slight amount of industrial embellishment amounting to one of Lacuna Coil’s most pure “gothic” sounding tracks. It also doesn’t remotely follow the template that drags some of the lesser interpretations of the opening track into the quagmire. The other standout track to me is “1:19”, which at least attempts an energetic pace and brings to the table elegant guitar-work padded with some full-fledged heaviness. Andrea even blurts out some straight up growling, which surprisingly doesn't negatively affect the song. In fact, by this album he’s really starting to develop a sort of self-identity to his vocalizations rather than aping Metallica’s Load & Reload era. "Cold Heritage" is another interesting dittie that seems to aim for an alternative gothic rock impression with a robotized "When The Levee Breaks" drum beat making a decent soundtrack for swirling arms on some gloomy dancefloor.

Otherwise, it's a daunting task for me to sit through this entire release without bathing in caffeine. Despite some stellar moments regarding the last batch of tracks such as the thunderous and majestic break within "Distant Sun", the meandering and solemn aura combined with a penchant for repeating ideas reduces me to such a mopey and fatigued mood by around track eight that I soon develop a strong urge to stop listening to music altogether, hit the nearest pub and drink myself to the point where I'm blabbering to strangers about how Giada is one hell of a chef. If there was just a few more ideas or something off this heavily beaten and weathered path to keep my interest afloat, this could have been their best album. Individually, some of these songs are admittedly excellent, especially the impressive opener. However, as a whole, although Unleashed Memories does eventually emerge as having some quality nuances after numerous listens, reaching that state is something only fans of female fronted metal acts may wish to consider.