What a way to celebrate your best album’s anniversary, with a reedition that’s just as great and might even be better in some ways. So let’s use this as an opportunity to review Comalies XX, the original Comalies and Lacuna Coil’s career as a whole.
CXX is a re-recording of Lacuna Coil’s now twenty years old album, with no new tracks, but a slightly different take on the original songs. Some songs are like their originals, other bring a few new ideas. For example, Andrea Ferro uses more growls than his bark-like singing, and some of the instrumentals sound a little different. The best “remake” of older LC song is the new “Heaven’s A Lie”, the first Lacuna Coil song I ever heard and one I’ll always have a soft spot for. It uses a more developed set of clicks and synths for the intro and outro, bringing an interesting melody to it, and the chorus consists of Andrea screaming and Cristina’s singing soaring above him. An amazing chorus, and a great way to remake and improve a really good song.
Are the other new versions as good? The one that tries the most to adapt to the present day is “Angel’s Punishment”, a sinister song introduced by news report about the Covid pandemic. Other than that, on “Swamped”, Andrea also swaps his loud singing for growls, the instrumental sounds clearer, and the vocals are also better recorded. Cristina’s “When you’re taught with feelings” hook is permanently etched into my memory, and this new version lives up to its predecessor. Other songs follow a similar pattern, keeping what was good about the original and enhancing it with a better audio quality and better vocals. Here’s the unpopular opinion: I’ve never liked Andrea’s singing voice, this and some mediocre songs I heard too many times are what keep me from fully considering myself a Lacuna Coil fan. But I honestly think he’s better as a growler than a clean vocalist.
However, in this album he can still do a few decent clean vocals, such as in the beginning of “Humane”, where his melancholic singing and Cristina’s more passionate vocals save the not particularly catchy or memorable song. I said catchy because Lacuna Coil are very good at creating hooks, that remain in your memory or just lift your mood. This is really apparent with the previously described songs, and also the upbeat and growly “Self Deception” with its “I don’t know what to do” chorus.
Cristina’s singing has also improved, being clearer and sharper, with a good use of both her passionate singing and her dreamy one with elongated syllables and a not always intelligible, ethereal tone. There is for example her distant, ethereal singing in “Aeon”. Or her vocalizations and powerful high notes in “Tight Rope”, where the melodic yet heavy instrumental feels like a great mash-up of “Swamped” and “Heaven’s A Lie”.
Her voice sounds good when she’s singing in unison with Andrea, like on the eerie, emotional and wistful “Unspoken”, one of the heaviest tracks. Or on “Entwined” where she sings softly, with a heavy heart it seems, and with longer, higher notes, and “The Prophet Says”, where she uses some of her best mysterious vocalizations before letting Andrea growl the verses and choruses. In “Comalies”, the only song in Italian, she also sounds better, and more emotional in her mother tongue, even contrasted with Andrea who growls in English. But when she’s on her own… You get her deeply melancholic performance on “The Ghost Woman and the Hunter”, a song I first loved for its title, and then for its beautiful and wistful melody.
“Comalies” is considered one of Lacuna Coil’s finest works, and in both version of it, it’s easy to hear why. The songs are melancholic, eerie and sweet all at once, they use a pretty creative mix of metal, industrial sounds, even a touch of new wave and pop hooks. Sure, it can get a little repetitive, as many songs like “Tight Rope” but also “Entwined” just recycle “Heaven’s A Lie”’s instantly memorable melody, but that’s really not a problem. I think Lacuna Coil deserves some credit for what I call “pop metal in a good way”, meaning metal that borrows from pop in a creative way and creates good pop hooks, rather than just being “too soft metal”, like the way the term pop metal was used before. LC’s pop experimentations haven’t always been so great, but this was the album where they did it well, with such creativity and such a great sound that you’ll immediately love this album.
So why remake it? Look, maybe it can’t replace the original “Comalies”, maybe they’re just coasting on their past successes, and maybe CXX is the kind of project that was fun to make for its creators, but not necessarily fun for us to listen to. But it was fun for me. It proved how good the original was, and did the seemingly impossible feat of making an even better version of one of my favorite songs, and in general enhancing all the great things about the original. Listen to this if you want a good remake.
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