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She's a Beauty 

Don't dismiss Lacuna Coil because of their female lead singer

Cristina Scabbia is one of two vocalists for Italian metal band Lacuna Coil, but you'd be forgiven for thinking she's the band's leader: The music press tends to concentrate on her at the expense of her less photogenic male bandmates. Fortunately, she says, "It's a press problem, not a band problem. It's a band. It's not Cristina's project, so we don't care about that. If it can bring more attention to the band, it's always good, you know?"

She's a Beauty

Indeed, the relentless attention paid to Scabbia (the band headlined the 2007 Hottest Chicks in Metal tour, for instance) has paid sizable dividends for her bandmates. They've played numerous high-profile package tours, from the second stage of 2004's Ozzfest to the Danzig-headlined Blackest of the Black in 2006 to the Australian leg of Megadeth's Gigantour in 2007. They've always stood out on those bills — not just because of Scabbia, but because of how lightweight their music sounds when compared with the other acts present.

This is a band that covered Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" on 2006's Karmacode, after all, and the brand-new Lacuna Coil CD, Shallow Life, is laced with synths and rhythms that are more dance-floor-friendly than mosh-pit-inspiring. While there are grimy guitar riffs on songs like "I Won't Tell You" and "I Like It," they're closer in spirit to Rob Zombie than Lamb of God. And even those relatively heavy moments are balanced by the acoustic guitar strumming and synth strings of "Wide Awake" — not to mention the title track, a piano-and-drum-machine ballad.

None of this is new territory for Lacuna Coil, although Shallow Life is definitely glossier and less heavy than 2002's Comalies, the album that first brought them to U.S. attention. Part of this has to do with producer Don Gilmore, who has worked with Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park. But it's just a natural evolution, according to Scabbia.

"In the beginning, we were kind of immature and naïve, in the way that of course in the beginning of your career you always tend to get inspiration from different bands, because you don't really know what you want to do with your music and how to do it," she says about the band's earlier, gothier and more metallic music. "Now we're having a lot more fun, because we don't care anymore. We're ready to tell the world, 'This is our music, this is what we love to do. This is our life.'"

At times, the singer doesn't even seem all that attached to metal as a genre.

"We picked up the gothic metal just because we were appreciating other artists that were playing the same music, like Type O Negative and Paradise Lost," she says. "But then we had our own natural evolution where the melody is present, because we think a good balance is always important, to have a little bit of everything. Being heavy is awesome for some reasons, but being melodic is awesome for others."

Her vocals don't have the powerful emotional impact of other female metal singers like Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow; Scabbia seems to sing from a distance, her vocals soaring above the music like a disco diva, rather than burrowing through the mix to the forefront as is common in rock. This distancing effect is only made more powerful when she duets or sings harmonies with male vocalist Andrea Ferro.

The band spent a long time working on Shallow Life, and according to Scabbia, it's their strongest release to date, precisely because they weren't rushed the way they were on previous albums.

"We really took care of every single detail of guitar, bass and drums," she says, "and we worked a lot on the vocals, which is something we never did before because of the lack of time. And the songwriting is simpler, but heavier at the same time, because we've been able to get rid of all the useless parts. I think this time we wrote real songs, instead of putting together ideas and just recording them. The lyrics are clearer; everything is there where it's supposed to be."

Some of the songs represent musical departures for the band. Scabbia points to "I Like It," which she took a larger role than usual in writing, as a track likely to challenge fans' expectations of the band. Others simply found the group testing its own abilities.

At first glance, it might seem like the Music as a Weapon tour — headlined by Disturbed and also featuring Killswitch Engage and Chimaira, not to mention second-stage acts like Suicide Silence and Born of Osiris — is one more example of Lacuna Coil being the glaring exception to an otherwise headbanging day. Scabbia claims the group's live show has more bite than the albums, though, and warns that people shouldn't let Lacuna Coil's Euro-glamorous press photos fool them about what to expect.

"People don't expect us to be as heavy onstage as we are, 'cause they probably think about us as a band that doesn't really move onstage or a mellow band," she says. "Of course, our music is probably more melodic and less heavy than other bands, but at the same time, we have our own kind of energy that's always made us feel comfortable with every band we play with."

And obviously all these metal warriors who keep inviting the group out on the road must know something, right?

music@clevescene.com

More by Phil Freeman

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