I have been one of lucky few that have heard Karmacode in it’s entirety. The event took place in the Devonshire Arms, an ‘alternative’ public house in Camden, London, less than 24 hours after I had joined 2000 other fans for the show at the forum, and it was with a sense of unease as I sat down with my peers and listened to the opening bars…
To write a review of the album after one listen is perhaps a little unfair, but I did take notes and have to give you my impressions of what the press tell us, rightly, is to be one of the most anticipated albums of 2006. I’m not going to go into great detail about every song, because I don’t think I can do them fair justice, but I will try to give you my overall impression.
Lacuna Coil do not stand still with their music, every album has been different from the last, and anyone expecting Comalies part 2 is going to be disappointed. But then, I would argue that those people are being naïve. Karmacode is the Lacuna Coil of 2006, it is an evolution of everything they have been before, everything that years of touring and musical experience have provided.
Karmacode is unique. It does not try to emulate any other sound and certainly no one musical style – other than perhaps the ‘Lacuna Coil’ sound. The band have always challenged convention and categorisation in their music and in this album they have pushed the barrier once again. Anyone in the press that tries to define them in one genre is going to look stupid because Karmacode really is that diverse. It has everything – heavy bass, guitar solos, beautiful and angry vocals, great melodies, orchestral elements, slow acoustic tracks, exhilarating pace, groove, and more. I could go on. In fact, even though the album is less than an hour in length there is such richness to it that I am surprised that Lacuna Coil managed to squeeze such diversity onto it without creating jarring breaks or changes. Somehow they have managed it, just don’t ask me to explain how! In fact were it significantly longer to would be too much on the senses.
There is a strong mix of American and European style throughout and Lacuna Coil really have managed to create a truly international sound. Ethnic sounds, and chants are evident as are brutally heavy bass leads. Cristina proves many times that she can sing, well, anything really and her vocal range is once more astounding. On Karmacode however the singing is shared equally with Andrea throughout, whose vocals help cement the European sound wonderfully. Both singers prove why Lacuna Coil will always depend on them equally, and in harmony, to create the uniqueness of their music.
Highlights? It’s difficult to know where to start. Every song stands on it’s own, and none of them are lost in the mix; they all have strengths and I found myself wondering just what Lacuna Coil would do next. Every time they found something new, something more potent. ‘Devoted’ for instance is a perfect inter-continental mix with dark melody and wonderful bass. ‘Closer’ is the song that will have metal fans actually dancing. ‘In Visible Light’ is the grown up ‘Lost Lullaby’ with a beautiful orchestral sound. But ‘Fragments of Faith’? This is the essential Lacuna Coil, like all their previous albums and EPs rolled up into one song.
The softer sound of Unleashed Memories is, in the most part, just that – a memory, however there IS a softness throughout the album and Karmacode actually ends with ‘Without Fear’ a harmonious Italian reprise with a slow guitar solo that reminds us once more of Lacuna Coil’s diversity. It fades away perfectly to nothing…
But of course it is not over. ‘Enjoy the Silence’ is obviously an extra song. Karmacode does not need this Depeche Mode cover, but it certainly is not worse off for it. Lacuna Coil have made this song their own, and as much as you know it’s a Depeche Mode number you can’t help but think that if they hadn’t written it, the Italian sextet certainly would have. Rather than simply re-record it, the band have added many subtleties to make it their own.
Karmacode is as hard to summarise, as it is to categorise. It is the album that the band have wanted to create and four years of creative energy have not been wasted. Perhaps there will be some fans left behind on Lacuna Coil’s musical exploration, but there will be many more who will run to catch up. For those of us prepared to join them it will prove the sweetest satisfaction.
Quite simply, Karmacode is a unique masterpiece.