|photo by Katja Kuhl|
If you were to look at my music collection, I'd imagine that one of the more eyebrow-raising sections would be my five CD's by Italian rock band Lacuna Coil. I don't count myself a member of what is affectionately known around Idaho as the "Metal Mulisha"; aside from this group, the only metal or metal-affiliated bands that I actively enjoy are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Motorhead. "What is it about them?" you may well ask. Are they as iconic and as undeniable as those other three bands are? Well, no, I wouldn't go so far as to say that, and I doubt that they would either. Nonetheless, thanks to the way that they blend European, metallic hard rock with an unpandering pop accessibility, this group has won me over.
Exemplifying this blend first and foremost is Christina Scabbia, whose clear, beautiful voice breaks through and soars above the music's tumult like a dark angel. I suspect that, for most of the group's fans, her singing provides their main point of entry into the music (that's true of me, at the very least). She wouldn't be nearly as effective, though, without the counterpoint of Andrea Ferro, her vocal partner. Ferro's rough yet approachable singing can shift from croon to howl wherever it's appropriate. Paired together, the two singers fuse the heavenly with the earthy with the infernal.
Scabbia and Ferro's singing suits their words perfectly. Because English is clearly their second language, some of Lacuna Coil's lyrics can be a little hard to understand at first. That's rather appropriate, though, because confusion is their great subject. In their songs, intimations of spiritual (lapsed Catholic, I'd guess--they're Italian, after all) temptations and dissatisfactions fuel depictions of dysfunctional relationships and anthems to defiance and perseverance. Enthusiast of old-school American gospel and soul music that I am, this dynamic strikes a very familiar and welcome chord with me.
Last but not least, there's the music itself. Marco Coti-Zelati's bass and Criz's drums infuse the typical heavy metal battering-ram rhythms with a lithe, body-friendly groove that has only grown more pronounced since their 2002 U.S. breakthough album Comalies. Meanwhile, Cristiano Migliore and Maus' guitars emphasize droning, hypnotic, bone-sawing riffs over preening solo noodling (the few solos that they do essay take care of business and don't overstay their welcome). When you add up these various elements and top them off with some comforting synthesizers, you get a rousing, solidly tuneful, metal-identified band that can plausibly cover Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" and R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion."
Very fond memories of their 2009 concert here persuaded me to go see them again at the Knitting Factory last Saturday. "Metal Gods" by Judas Priest played as I entered the venue. As I looked around, I observed that, aside from a few 30/40/50-somethings sprinkled around, much of the audience looked to be in their mid-20's or younger. Not a bad sign, I thought: if the show goes well, the crowd's youthful energy could help knock it up a few more notches.
Opening for Lacuna Coil was Otherwise, a five-man group from Las Vegas. They got the show off to a fine start with some melodic, midtempo, radio-ready hard rock that kicked ass even on the power ballad that kissed off an ex-girlfriend. Friendly and energetic, Adrian Patrick crooned, belted and growled like a born frontman. The rest of the band backed him up with monolithic bass, fluid drumming and grinding guitar riffs. Their closer, "Soldiers," had the audience clapping to the beat before the drummer started urging them to do so. Patrick dropped down into the pit in front of the stage to sing with the crowd. The sound of the sing-along chorus filled the entire venue.
Otherwise would've been worth the price of admission by themselves. Lacuna Coil--who, as they mentioned a couple of times, are marking their 15-year anniversary with this tour--was even better. They blazed through new and old material like a well-oiled machine. Scabbia and Ferro traded vocals and almost never stopped moving to the beat and working the crowd. The band's matching gothic-medical outfits and the moments where all the members (except the drummer, who had to keep the train moving) lined up in a row at the front of the stage made a clear point: this is not just a singers-and-backup organization but a unit, a family.
By the time that they played their encore ("My Spirit," which they dedicated to their departed friend and inspiration, Peter Steele of Type O Negative), the show had almost taken on the feel of a religious experience. At the end, the band's six members lined up, bowed together and waved goodbye for now. As the audience headed for the exits, I saw a couple of younger folks staggering away from the pit. They looked dazed, delighted. I smiled to myself and nodded. "Yeah," I thought, "that's about right."
You can find more info about Otherwise and Lacuna Coil and hear samples of their music on Facebook and elsewhere online.