On 2016's Delirium, Italian goth metal outfit Lacuna Coil hit a peak in their catalog with that album's psych-ward sideshow flourish and some of the catchiest songwriting in their careers. With their follow-up, Black Anima, they shed the theatrics and face the sobering reality that plagues us on a deeper, human level, revealing a harder-edged but equally grand version of themselves that mines vulnerability for maximum effect. In Italian, "anima" means soul, and the band bare theirs fully by processing personal growth, coming to grips with hardened adult perspectives, and struggling with real-life problems like loss and self-doubt. As an emotional journey, Black Anima processes rage and sadness while desperately clinging to tiny shards of optimism that eventually win in the end. On standout single "Layers of Time," twin vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro deliver a typically blockbuster performance. As Ferro's bellows tear through the band's ferocious attack, Scabbia swoops in with her gorgeous, soaring vocals, singing "Our road is paved with pain/the past we can't rewind" before reminding herself to "keep walking/we'll find the way." That balance of fatalism and optimism (and their ever-masterful vocals) elevates much of the album, providing catharsis through both the visceral and the spiritual. Fans of their mid-era work will welcome this back-to-basics approach, as fancy effects are restrained in favor of no-frills riffs, soul-stirring grooves, and pounding drums courtesy of bassist/producer Marco Coti-Zelati, guitarist Diego Cavallotti, and newly recruited drummer Richard Meiz. The album explodes to life with "Sword of Anger," maintaining its heightened state with highlights such as the dangerously seductive "Reckless," the punishing "Now or Never," and the hard-charging torrent "Under the Surface." On the penultimate track, "Save Me," Scabbia is nearly hopeless, disappointed by how life turned out but desperate for the strength to keep going, delivering an unflinching spoken-word confessional that is honest, real, and extremely vulnerable. When the force of the full band returns, they push that final sliver of hope with "Black Anima (Epilogue)," resolving to let go of past trauma, surrender control, and seek to rebuild a life from the broken pieces. Relatable in its emotional simplicity, Black Anima cuts to the core of human emotion and provides a welcome maturation for the band.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung