After taking a relatively successful but critically poorly received left-turn into pop-metal territory with 2009's Shallow Life, Lacuna Coil made a slight return to their darker, earlier sound with 2012's Dark Adrenaline, and this opus continues the trend. Ditching Linkin Park producer Don Gilmore for Jay Baumgardner (Evanescence, Helmet, Drowning Pool) and recording in an antique Milan studio with vintage analog equipment, they have replaced most of the remaining traces of pop with a gloomier, gothic feel, resulting in an album with a thick, crushing sound heavily padded with synths, which most strongly recalls their 2006 effort Karmacode. It's supposedly inspired by cult Italian horror movies and progressive rockers Goblin, but there is little of this overtly on show, except perhaps in the Nosferatu atmospheres toward the end of "In the End I Feel Alive." What the band are adept at, however, is creating dense musical textures through an intelligent use of instrumental harmony, which Baumgardner augments with numerous clever little production flourishes. After making a bold statement of intent with the chugging opener "Nothing Stands in Our Way," they set out their stall in earnest with "Zombies," whose soaring refrain has a '90s alternative rock feel. The single "Die & Rise" is a definite highlight with its corkscrewing, string-bending riff, and powerhouse vocal performances from both vocalists, and also sees Cristina Scabbia singing in Italian for the first time since Comalies. "I Burn in You" is a gripping gothic power ballad, and "I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name)" is indubitably the best thing here, an epic, atmospheric, emotional rocker with a thrilling, ultra-melodic chorus. The album is not without its flaws: the bulk of the songs remain at the same midtempo pace, which can sometimes result in a plodding feel and a sense of sameness as the album progresses. There are also some fairly cheesy, clunky lyrics here which serve to underscore the fact that the band are not native English speakers, and a mercifully brief, ill-advised attempt at rapping on "Victims." The chief complaint to be made is with the treatment of the vocals. Scabbia's voice has always been one of the band's biggest assets, and while she is not exactly neglected here, the production does bury her vocals quite deep in the mix, and she is rarely given a chance to truly shine, with a few exceptions -- among them the thrilling melismas on "Infection" and "I Burn in You" and her sweet, soulful performance on "One Cold Day," which closes out the album with a glimmer of hope. Overall, Lacuna Coil have certainly done nothing here to be ashamed of. There are enough excellent tracks to grab the listener's attention when it starts to wander. This is a fine addition to their discography and is sure to please their fans -- particularly those yearning for a return to the heavier, more overtly gothic metal sound pioneered on Karmacode -- as well as attracting new ones.
AllMusic Review by John D. Buchanan