With the rise of gothic rock and metal to worldwide popularity in the late ’90s and early 2000s, many gothic metal bands began to receive heavy criticism for stylistic changes as their careers progressed. The two bands that received the brunt of such criticism were HIM and Lacuna Coil, for the supposed “American-ization” of their styles. While HIM defended their style changes to the critics, Lacuna Coil mostly ignored the criticism, barely even acknowledging their style changes in interviews or album previews. Such a strategy worked for 2006’s Karmacode, an album that received largely positive reviews and generated many staples of Lacuna Coil’s live set. But that strategy was less successful for 2009’s Shallow Life, which got mixed reviews and received plenty of backlash from longtime fans. As such, the Italian group has lots of ground to make up on their newest release, Dark Adrenaline.
Surprisingly, Lacuna Coil returned to Shallow Life producer Don Gilmore for the recording of Dark Adrenaline. However, the results of Gilmore’s production could not be any different. Instead of a watered-down record filled with American radio rock influence, Dark Adrenaline is a powerful album that recalls all the best elements of 2004’s Comalies, the album that made Lacuna Coil the juggernauts that they are today. Ironically enough, it’s Dark Adrenaline that delivers on the promises left unfulfilled by Shallow Life — a heavy album that mixes the band’s older European style with a more modern sound, without relying too heavily on either one. Instead of the disastrous tracks from Shallow Life such as “I Like It”, which bore no resemblance to the band’s past, Dark Adrenaline reminds listeners why Lacuna Coil was considered so unique when they first became popular, through highlights like “Trip the Darkness”, “Upsidedown”, and “Intoxicated”.
The biggest improvement of Dark Adrenaline over Shallow Life is the vocal mix, which is actually a mix this time instead of being dominated by Cristina Scabbia almost exclusively. Allowing Scabbia and Andrea Ferro to have more equal roles restores one of the most integral elements that defined Lacuna Coil during their rise to popularity. It also enhances the gothic aspects of the album’s tone, which were largely absent from Shallow Life. The musical quality of this album is among the highest that Lacuna Coil has ever managed, from start to finish. There is very little that feels like filler, and almost every song is worth repeat listening. About the only major misstep of this album is the cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, which, while adequately performed, is far too somber in its atmosphere to match the greatness of the original.
Dark Adrenaline is an excellent album and a vast improvement in quality over its predecessor. Admittedly, it doesn’t top Comalies for quality, and its reputation will likely be inflated by how much better it is than Shallow Life. But it’s on the same level as Karmacode, if not slightly better, and it is the return to form that fans have been wanting for years. The best part about Dark Adrenaline, though, is that it will appeal to all fans, including those who enjoyed the aspects of Shallow Life that most didn’t. That characteristic of Dark Adrenaline is what makes it the most complete album in Lacuna Coil’s discography.