As Lacuna Coil evolved their sound had become increasingly conventional, and even though it was usually enjoyable, they’ve certainly had numerous moments where “identity crisis” was a main characteristic. You could say the same thing about Moonspell, Amorphis, or even Depeche Mode in certain eras, but those bands regained the mindset of writing music for the sole purpose of playing what they want. This is the outcome of Lacuna Coil doing everything right.
Integrating all previous influences except for doom, Shallow Life is a definitive album that presents Lacuna Coil no longer as a semi-enjoyable hard rock/pop band but rather as a dominant presence in mainstream metal scenes worldwide. The songs are not nearly as predictable as before and breathe life into each other, mixing subtle industrial and electronica elements with pop and metal. Cristina Scabbia’s vocal performance is now filled with inspiration, and Andrea Ferro finally finds a solid niche in which he can input his vocals without sounding like they’re just there. He also maintains noticeably better control than before, allowing him to reach higher pitches without sounding annoying.
Songwriting, however, is truly the shining point here. “I Survive” is one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever recorded, and easily the strongest opening track of their career. “Not Enough” displays their talent for writing some of the catchiest songs around with electronica influenced drum patterns and stimulating vocal lines. The guitarists have learned to incorporate dynamics to their advantage, furthermore allowing the bassist to chug along without letting things sound too benighted. The band has also used piano and synths in a less banal way, such as in the track “Wide Awake”, brimming with nostalgia amongst the acoustic arpeggios, echoing electric piano, and strings aligned with the vocals.
Even though Lacuna Coil has stuck to more-or-less simple song structures, they work around them with surprising finesse considering Karmacode’s lack of effort. The main factor that affects the songs’ quality is their consistency in changing things up at the right times, incorporating rising and falling actions that help the songs go somewhere. Also, the world influences in the music are not as forced as in the past, only seeping through a handful of times. The flaws are unchanged, however, as displayed by the rather dull single “Spellbound”, "I'm Not Afraid" and “Underground” coming across as a useless B-side, and a few samey-sounding areas throughout. None of this changes that the record has the ability to catch you off-guard, though this may only apply if you are a fan of the band in the first place. There’s no telling if Lacuna Coil can take this sound any further than this, but if Shallow Life is any indication of a newfound inspiration then their future is hopeful…and Cristina is still gorgeous.