Review Summary: Glaring inconsistencies and failed experimentation prevent Broken Crown Halo from being as good as it should have been.
Lacuna Coil is one of the many bands to begin with a consistently evolving sound only to succumb to the perils of mainstream rock. The return of the band’s middle-eastern tinge sprinkled throughout their previous radio metal album Dark Adrenaline
, however, bolstered the notion that Lacuna Coil have no intention of completely selling themselves out to the blood-sucking mainstream industry just yet. Broken Crown Halo
continues in this regard, pulling even further from the radio-friendly sound and exploring some interesting new ideas in the process. The problem is that branching out isn’t always a good thing, especially when toying with a formula that worked fairly well in the past. Broken Crown Halo
is not an inherently bad album, but there are glaring inconsistencies that prevent it from being as good as it should have been.
The contrast between vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro is akin to beauty and the beast – Scabbia being the beauty, both aurally and aesthetically, and Ferro as the hairy, tone-deaf behemoth (with the best of intentions). Unfortunately, despite how hard Ferro tries to be a valued member of the band, he’s just not very good of a singer. He has a hollow, shout-y voice with no sense of pitch, and even when harmonizing with Scabbia he has the tendency to drift in and out of tune. His screams, as infrequent as they are, fare much better, and add a layer of darkness to the already gothic nature of the music. Scabbia, however, is the elegant grace that makes Lacuna Coil so appealing – she has an angelic timbre to her voice and has the ability to create beautifully infectious melodies over even the most mundane progressions (see “Hostage to the Light”). She also has impeccable range, and the higher she sings, the more entrancing her voice becomes. While her low register isn’t nearly as powerful, she rarely has the need for it since Ferro handles the lower harmonies, allowing her to blissfully soar above the music with majestic eloquence.
On Broken Crown Halo
, however, the lines between Scabbia’s beauty and Ferro’s beastliness are blurred. There are times where Scabbia is the most unappealing aspect of the song, and others when Ferro himself is carrying the tune. Opener “Nothing Stands in Our Way” in particular begins with a nicely sung verse by Christina, but proceeds into a monotonous chorus with no sense of purpose or direction; Ferro’s backing yells are what give the song most of its charm, that is, if it had any to begin with. Also, Scabbia’s low-sung verses on “Victims” are as dull as they are forgettable; not to mention her horrific, atonal yelled passage about two-thirds into the song (“People told me I was weak/I told them I’ll never quit/I will never quit!”) – an easy contender for the worst moment of the band’s career. However, there are plenty of times when their voices play off each other’s nicely, as they have in the past. Ferro takes the lead on the second track, “Zombies,” giving the verses a welcome angst-y tone before progressing into a beautifully sung chorus by Scabbia, made even better by Ferro’s anger-fueled screams backing her up. Furthermore, album highlight “Infection” has some of the best vocal work from both parties: the verses have a classic Lacuna Coil vibe with Scabbia’s remarkable vocal melodies and Ferro providing a raspy whisper in between her phrases; the pre-chorus keeps Ferro on a single, stagnant note with Scabbia tastefully harmonizing above; the Ferro-sung chorus sounds like it was taken straight from Dark Adrenaline
(in a good way), and Scabbia joins in as the song progresses, making the climax of the song one of the album’s finest moments.
Musically, Broken Crown Halo
is all over the place. There are your standard groove-based tracks we’ve come to expect from post-Comalies
Lacuna Coil (Nothing Stands in Our Way, Infection, In the End I Feel Alive), a handful of weighty power ballads (I Forgive, Cybersleep, One Cold Day), and even a nu-metal inspired aberration that could pass as a Slipknot B-side (Die & Rise). This scope of diversity is a fresh change of pace from the mainstream metal style that encompassed Dark Adrenaline
, but sometimes the ideas flat out don’t work. “I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)” begins promisingly enough with moody melancholic chords, but all potential is lost as soon as Ferro’s abhorrent verse comes in; and Scabbia’s chorus yearns to be powerful and moving, but its drab repetition results in it sounding both irritating and perfunctory. Aforementioned “Die & Rise” sounds like a failed abortion off Karmacode
, made worse by the horribly out-of-place harmonized Italian “chant” thrown carelessly into the mix. There are flashes of greatness, though, as shown by the riff-driven “Infection,” the luscious melodies of “Cybersleep” (which itself epitomizes a rock ballad done right), and best of all, the emotive closer dedicated to recently deceased former band member Claudio Leo. “One Cold Day” is a 6-minute, vocally driven somber ballad, with ominous piano and strings in the background providing a hauntingly beautiful ambience to it all. It showcases the best use of dynamic restraint on the album, alternating between soothing verses and a heavy chorus, then ending with the same dark piano motif with which it began – it’s simply beautiful: easily the best song they’ve written since their Comalies
days, and possibly of their entire career.
It’s easy to dismiss most of Lacuna Coil’s new material as radio friendly cash grabs, but Broken Crown Halo
tries to change this reputation they’ve built for themselves, for better or worse. There are genuine moments of brilliance (the entirety of “One Cold Day”), genuine moments of atrocity (the verses in “I Burn in You” should never have been conceived, ever), and genuine moments of what the fuck?
(Scabbia’s faux-rap in “Victims”); and in the end, it’s this ubiquitous inconsistency that plagues Broken Crown Halo
and results in the whole not being as great as the sum of its parts.