“I don’t think we’re your classic goth metal band. We’re a mix between rock, goth, metal and even pop at times ‘cos some of the songs are really catchy.” Dressed in black jeans and a white top, sporting a red Indian feather ear ring in her right lobe and a tan to die for, Lacuna Coil’s singer Christina Scabbia doesn’t look like your typical goth metal ambassador.
However, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Lacuna Coil’s musical raison d’etre was broody and romantic – words that fit the goth metal genre like a glove. Formed in ’97 in Milan, Italy, by singer, Andrea Ferro and bassist Marco Coti Zelati, Lacuna Coil started off as a five-piece with the standard keyboard, guitar, bass, drums and deep male vocals goth metal set-up. Not entirely satisfied with that formula and in search of a more alternative sound within the genre, they replaced the keyboard element with an extra guitar and tried Christina out on backing vocals. The contrast of Andrea’s violent outbursts and Christina’s more gentle melodies accompanying the band’s broody arrangements got them noticed in an environment where heavy and metal were considered dirty words.
“The metal scene in Italy is not huge and it’s not very open to new things. They complain about the fact that there aren’t many Italian bands out there and then they are the first ones to slag tem off when they get somewhere. After we got signed, back in ’98, I heard all sort; ‘They’re commercial’ and ‘People are only interested in them because there is a girl in the band’. It was then I realised that we were starting to get somewhere ‘cos paradoxically, when people start badmouthing you, it means that you are getting somewhere. They’re all xenophobes over there. You have more credentials if you’re English or American.
Having experience a variety of change in the years that followed its conception, including the amplification of the heavy element and the giving birth to a variety of goth derivatives, including goth metal – the goth genre has now accrued a plethora of female-fronted bands. It’s a shift that Christina believes to be a mere trend. “So many bands are doing the female only and female/male singer thing nowadays,” she sighs. “I feel that many do it because it is fashionable, I’d like women to be part of a band because of their talent, not because it’s cool to have a girl in the band. I can’t stand the idea of a woman who just stands there looking pretty. We started by chance and never thought of using two voices on a regular basis, but it worked for us so we kept it up. It’s so dull when you hear bands where the woman has to sing clean and the man aggressive. I’d rather go for a different kind of interaction, maybe the opposite” A contradiction in terms in view of Lacuna Coil’s previous works (Christina’s voice sound more confident on the new album, ‘Comalies’).
“We wanted to do something dynamic that covered both ballads and more powerful material,” she explains. “Mainly because we realised that the majority of metal bands were tending towards a more electronic edge and were getting away from the real thing. So we followed a different route. Whereas in the past we keep the guitars in the background and pushed the voices forward, with ‘Comalies’, we decided to do something more violent, putting the emphasis more on all guitars. To this end, we meticulously followed the production process. We also dabbled with electronic stuff but we didn’t abuse it in order to keep up with the times. I feel we achieved a great balance with ‘Comalies’. It’s the only album that I’ve been able to listen to more than a couple of times and we even took it on holiday.” Indeed Lacuna Coils ability to mix muscular rhythms, dense riffs and contagiously catchy melodies is their strength. That said, Lacuna Coil’s willingness to experiment, as with new track ‘Angels Punishment’, is another notch to their constantly expanding belt. Something that Christina attributes to their diverse musical influences: “I have a pretty open mind when it comes to music”, she quips. “I can get home and turn on the radio and listen to pop. I never think ‘OK I’m in a heavy band, I’d better listen to metal’. I also like cross-over styles, R&B and soul. I believe this kind of attitude helps you when you make your own music. You can’t stagnate but have to be open to new things. I believe that one of Lacuna Coil’s strengths is that we listen to anything from Beethoven to Meshuggah. The again, our drummer loves fusion and Marco (Coti Zelati, bassist) listens to Strapping Young Lad and heavier stuff.”
Lyrically however, far from delving into those surreal, philosophical concepts that the goth metal genre is known (and probably loved) for, Lacuna Coil tend to deal with everyday issues, as Christina’s quick to point out. “I’ve always preferred to talk about real things, though we don’t touch politics or religion ‘cos they’re very personal subjects. I don’t like fantasy lyrics. I’m not ashamed to admit that I like popular culture. I don’t see the point in lying and saying that I read Voltaire or Rimbaud. I like the fact that anybody could relate to our lyrics, in fact we get so many emails from fans that told us they found strength in them. We don’t believe in pushing anybody to suicide. ‘Heaven’s A Lie’, for example, has nothing to do with religion but it’s about the fact that your truth might not be the same as somebody else’s.”
The truth about Lacuna Coil to emerge is one of a level-headedness that goes beyond professionalism. It certainly obscures the stereotypical image of those happy-go-lucky Italians on Venetian gondolas. “We are pretty chilled guys and we know how to have a good time but like everyone else, we have different facades to our personality and the darkness in our music is a way to get rid of that. No matter how happy you are, you always have to deal with the fact that there’s always a melancholic side to yourself.”
Get ready for a good dose of melancholy when Lacuna Coil hit the UK soon. It’ll be worth it.