In March 2006 Lacuna Coil released ‘Karmacode’; considered by most fans to be a substantial a change from their previous works. At that time I reviewed the album and described it as a ‘musical exploration’. Lacuna Coil created something different then, and they do the same now with the release of ‘Shallow Life’; an album which challenges the band’s music boundaries and introduces a new level of diversity not seen before..
The album starts with what should become a show-opening song. ‘Survive’ firstly teases us with a child-like lullaby introduction, before the music hits us full in the face. Cristina starts and she has never sounded better; a fact that we are reminded of time and time again throughout the album. Andrea jumps in for the chorus and, like his female counter-part, sounds great throughout. The growls are now gone completely, replaced by a clean aggressive vocal line that shares the stage perfectly. The vocal inter-play between the two singers has always been a strength of Lacuna Coil, and Shallow Life delivers that in spades. There is a good split between the singers with each getting the chance to flex their vocal muscles in both verses, and choruses. Lyrically the songs are not complex, and the vocals are clear and not swamped by the layers of music that underpin them.
Every song on Shallow Life introduces something new, whilst at the same time building on the past. It seems that there is something on the album for everyone. Just examining a few of the songs we find that ‘I Survive’ is in some ways is a transitional song from Karmacode to what follows on the rest of the album. ‘I Like It’ is a natural successor to ‘Closer’ (Karmacode) with it’s upbeat and pop sound. ‘The Pain’ feels like a song that wouldn’t have been out of place on ‘In A Reverie’, had that album been released in 2009. ‘Wide Awake’ brings us a ballad that perfectly shows how Cristina’s voice has matured over the last 10 years. The title-track ‘Shallow Life’ closes the album with a sound that would not have been out of place on a modern Unleashed Memories, and with a vocal mix that you might have heard on Comalies.
Here’s the deal. In my opinion ‘Shallow Life’ is not a metal album, though it has many metal aspects to it. ‘Shallow Life’ is filled with rock, and damned good rock as well. This is a challenge to the listener, this is the gauntlet Lacuna Coil have thrown down us. I will admit to being stunned on my first listen (but then I was shocked the first time I listened to Unleashed Memories!), by my second listen I was smiling, and by my third I was trapped. The songs are addictive, so very addictive. I find myself humming them constantly – something I’ve rarely done with any previous Lacuna Coil albums. Here we have a mix of music that deserves to bring the band mainstream success, and songs that stand up there with their best. Did I mention that they also make me smile?
‘Shallow Life’ is a very diverse album that continues to carry on us on Lacuna Coil’s musical journey. It is by far the the most diverse album the band has released and one that is actually hard to categorise. How many bands release an album with rock and metal and (dare I say it!) pop music on it? And equally, how many bands get away with it? With ‘Shallow Life’ Lacuna Coil deserve to. That is the gauntlet I mentioned, the challenge to accept that you are not going to hear the same style repeated over and over like so many bands I could mention, and that the music crosses genres so fast you genuinely wonder where it’s going to take you next. This cannot be reviewed as a metal album, nor a rock album. To do it justice it must be reviewed as a Lacuna Coil album. In that it both delights and surprises.
And I’m still smiling.