Shallow Life by Lacuna Coil
Release date : April 2009
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
In mid December 2008, Shallow Life was revealed to be the title of Lacuna Coil's fifth studio full length. Initially slated for spring 2009 issue via Century Media Records, the album was recorded from September to October at NRG Studios in North Hollywood, California with producer Don Gilmore (who's previously worked with acts like Linkin Park, Pearl Jam, Trapt, Avril Lavigne, The Veronicas, Duran Duran and Trust Company). In early January 2009, Shallow Life's spring issue was scheduled to occur during April, whilst the album's track listing was revealed in late February.
Several days later that late February, the track “Spellbound” was made available for streaming via Lacuna Coil's official MySpace page. With director Saku, a music video was filmed at the Dolce & Gabbana Gold restaurant in the group's hometown of Milan, Italy. Wardrobe was provided by Dolce & Gabbana, the music video being produced by Apnea Film. Two versions were filmed, one being a performance version and one boasting a story. “Spellbound” was issued as a digital single on March 20th in Europe (excluding the United Kingdom), and on the 22nd in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Designed by Stefan Wibbeke, Shallow Life's artwork was unveiled during late February. Beginning on March 21st at the McElroy Auditorium in Waterloo, Iowa, Lacuna Coil toured as part of the Music As A Weapon IV tour package alongside Disturbed, Killswitch Engage, and Chimaira. The group took part in an exclusive acoustic performance and autograph session on the 26th, which began on 3p.m. at the Hard Rock Café in Denver, Colorado as part of March on Stage.
Italian magazine XL made the track “Not Enough” available for free download via the magazine's official website during early April, as well as behind the scenes footage from the making of “Spellbound”'s music video. Also, a widget surfaced in support of Shallow Life. Through Lacuna Coil's MySpace page, the album was made available for streaming in its entirety.
Having been a fan of Lacuna Coil's material since the day the Italian act's inaugural and eponymous EP (1998) was given a spin via my compact disc player, the outfit's success throughout the years has been a pleasant surprise. Lacuna Coil's early sound was a unique Gothic Metal sound which had little competition. Over the years 2004 to 2009 though, this sound has descended into an overcrowded subgenre without definition, the sole exception being to have an appealing lady front the group.
Simultaneous to this explosion has been Lacuna Coil's evolution into something altogether different. Whilst many claim that the act's latest album, Shallow Life, is a satisfying mix of old and new, this reviewer contends the opposite. Shallow Life marks Lacuna Coil's rebirth as a Pop group, and immediately resumes exactly where the Nu-Metal leaning Karmacode concluded. For the most part however, Karmacode's more powerful aspects (the bouncing, heavy-ish rhythms, and Christina Scabbia's dominant vocals) prove absent. Much more even-keeled, Shallow Life's tracks are generally mid-tempo, and sonically lighter. For example, this specific record features more guitar work, and less bass and drums as part of the mix. Clearly, the album shies away from the word “heavy”. The disco drummed “I Won’t Tell You”, as well as the Power ballads “The Maze” and “Wide Awake”, and the downright weak “Pain”, supply firm evidence to verify such things. Throughout much of Shallow Life, heavy bottom end is ignored. Should you enjoy Pop material (little Goth influence remains), then the album's female vocals are phenomenal, but these vocals are split fairly evenly between male vocals. The split vocal approach has always generally been a delight, though it unquestionably hurts Shallow Life. At this point in 2009, Scabbia is the star, and pretending as though she isn't is foolish.
Shallow Life boasts several highlights which listeners should duly note, though none of the album's tracks are particularly weak aside from “Pain”. Inaugural number “Survive” is a great track, and adeptly sets the tone in support of forthcoming mid-tempo Rockers. The near-blistering “Unchained” is noteworthy, especially due to its jam-influenced guitar solo, one of Shallow Life's few genuine surprises. Immediately, “Not Enough” sets itself apart due to Scabbia’s soaring vocal work, and the track's hook remains with the listener long after the album concludes. The full length's inaugural single, “Spellbound”, is additionally great. Extremely similar to Karmacode's material, the track is nonetheless slightly faster paced. As a matter of fact, “Spellbound” easily earmarks itself as the album's quickest cut.
Generally speaking, Shallow Life is another solid Lacuna Coil full length. Extremely similar, 2002's Comalies, Karmacode and Shallow Life are all very solid, though the group has yet to record an album which defines their career. Overtly hook-laden, Shallow Life's production and mix will certainly appeal to fans of radio friendly Rock. This specific record cements Lacuna Coil's entrance into the mainstream consciousness, and now that the group's foot is firmly entrenched within radio-land's fertile soil, it'll be interesting to hear what future material Lacuna Coil writes.