Double Play: Lacuna Coil & First Aid Kit

Strong production and songwriting carry Lacuna to new heights, and First Aid Kit deliver true beauty.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson


Lacuna Coil

Dark Adrenaline

Century Media Records


Lacuna Coil has been an interesting band to watch grow. A touring monster featuring one of the most strikingly beautiful singers in the history of metal, the band has been on the cusp of being huge for a long time. Their last album Shallow Life got them closer to that goal and the new release, Dark Adrenaline, could see them pull a Thelma and Louise over the cliff of mainstream success. Gone are the old screeching vocals and some of the harsher themes, replaced by what really comes down to heavy pop tunes. That’s not a slight; it’s just a realistic appraisal of what Lacuna Coil brings to the table.

Dark Adrenalinekicks off with one of the better songs the band has ever cobbled together. “Trip The Darkness” boasts a catchy riff backed by epic keyboards that scream big metal hit. When lead vocalist Cristina Scabbia releases her angelic vocals you can’t help but bob your head in approval. She’s the ultimate metal girlfriend. Hot, sensitive and super talented. I can picture hundreds of thousands of teenage girls with dark eye makeup and a Jack Skelington hoodie sitting in the corner of their rooms, smoking cigarettes and rocking back and forth to “Trip The Darkness”.

The same can be said for the follow up jam “Against You”. Keyboards announce the hugeness of the gothic angle just as another sweeping and catchy riff propels the song forward. Track after track Lacuna Coil lays down their particular brand of metal/pop with a formula that doesn’t really change. The band has wedged their sound in-between melancholy and rage.  The blasts of anger spraying randomly aren’t Lacuna Coil’s bag. They speak more to the gothic/metal outsiders, the ones looking for a dark soundtrack to their infinite sadness.

Lacuna Coil’s formula is undeniable and they apply it across the board. Start with keyboards or a catchy riff, add Scabbia’s lush and hypnotic vocals, mix well with a high school diary lyrical content and serve with a garnish of heavy metal anger. Song after song Dark Adrenaline is the same thing. If you dig what Lacuna Coil are laying down, then have at it. If you think the band sucked before, this isn’t the album that’ll change your mind.

For me this kind of metal is boring and derivative. It isn’t bad; it just does nothing for me at all. When I can predict the changes and structure of every single tune based on the song before it, I usually tune out. I also can’t stand Andre Ferro’s vocals on any level. His presence injects a nu metal vibe to Lacuna Coil that they can seriously do without. Cristina Scabbia is gorgeous and sings like an angel. Lacuna Coil would be well served to dump Ferro and let Scabbia run the show. In my humble opinion that would triple their chances at becoming a Metallica sized band.

I don’t know if the decision to cover R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” was an honest testament to Lacuna Coils’ love of the song or a tactical grab at bigger radio play. Whatever the reason it’s the most glaring example of how little Andre Ferro means to the band. When Scabbia sings the cover soars, as soon as Ferro enters the fray it becomes something off a Linkin Park covers record.

Dark Adrenalineis a clean, crisply produced collection of heavy pop tunes with massive crossover appeal. Cristina Scabbia was put on this Earth to be a rock star. Her voice is intoxicating and her dark presence screams to be the heroine of sad girls and lonely guys everywhere.  Creatively Dark Adrenaline is nothing new for Lacuna Coil, but it could be the album that finally makes them arena rock champions.





First Aid Kit

The Lion’s Roar

Wichita Records


Staying in the female vocal vein I give you First Aid Kit. Composed of Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg, First Aid Kit is a folk drenched acoustic project that is both uplifting and heartbreaking to listen to. Their latest release, The Lion’s Roar, is a fuller, richer and more mature offering than their 2009 debut The Big Black & Blue.  The Soderberg’s have become more comfortable in their musical skin and more assured of what they want to do. That certainty allows for First Aid Kit to be braver with this album, even if it doesn’t always work.

Peeling back the layers of First Aid Kit is a warts and all experience. Overall The Lion’s Roar is a heart-warming Band-Aid for the heartbroken and isolated. The Soderberg sisters are young, Johanna born in 1990, Klara in 1993, but they have stoic wisdom that betrays their years.  The opening title track was not the best decision because it rambles. The vocals are wonderful as is the stark guitar line, but it goes on for about a minute too long. Thankfully the sister’s vocals are so good the shaky opener doesn’t really hurt the album, it just doesn’t do it justice.

My choice would be “Emmylou”, a song I defy people not to absolutely love. Outside of name checking Emmylou Harris, June Cash and Johnny Cash, the song exemplifies how good First Aid Kit is when they fire on all pistons. The music puts across the imagery of an old traveler working his or her way across the dusty roads of America. When the Soderberg harmonies enter the fray everything stops. The world gets quiet and just a little more beautiful.

“In The Heart Of Men” has the easy flow of Blood era This Mortal Coil. “Blue” is a more up beat number, cashing in on how much fun a song becomes when you add a xylophone. “To A Poet” puts Johanna and Klara’s vocals in the forefront. The instruments are more restrained, framing the harmonies wonderfully. “Dance Another Tune” is the dramatic tightrope act. It’s not easy for two Swedish sisters to use Native American rhythms to propel their Americana song along but the Soderberg’s pull it off.  It’s these kinds of chances that keep The Lion’s Roar from sinking into hipster folk bullshit. The zither-like sound in “New Year’s Eve” or the basic country structure of “This Old Routine”, every tune manages to try something new while never losing the subtext of what First Aid Kit are all about.

The only glaring misstep is the tune “King Of The World”. The song itself is beautiful, using a combination of church swing, generous hand claps and the mariachi style horns Johnny Cash used for “Ring Of Fire”. Again the sisters tell a sad story with glorious vocals. “King Of The World” sets up to be one of the powerhouse tracks of the whole exercise. Then, for no reason, Bright Eyes Conor Oberst jumps in to sing a line and kills the whole song. The sudden appearance of male vocals is just too striking a contrast against the rest of The Lion’s Roar so the song flatlines. The jaded will claim the inclusion of indie-rock coolness strikes the first dishonest chord on the album but that’s a little too nitpicky even for me.

Ups and downs aside, The Lion’s Roar is the first truly beautiful album of 2012. I hope bands like First Aid Kit (and the equally brilliant Mountain Man) can bring back these classic Americana ideals without also including the vomitous indie hipster factor.