Comalies XX

Century Media
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Swamped XX
02. Heaven's A Lie XX
03. Daylight Dancer XX
04. Humane XX
05. Self Deception XX
06. Aeon XX
07. Tight Rope XX
08. The Ghost Woman And The Hunter XX
09. Unspoken XX
10. Entwined XX
11. The Prophet Said XX
12. Angel's Punishment XX
13. Comalies XX

The first thing to notice about "Comalies XX" is that it seems to imply, quite heavily, that 2002 was 20 years ago. Ridiculous, I know. Nonetheless, all that time seems to have passed and LACUNA COIL's most beloved record is as ripe for reassessment and, as is the case here, reconstruction as any from those heady, post-millennial days. If there is any need to justify this apparently wholesale re-imagining, the fact that the original "Comalies" is still widely regarded as the Italians' best album does most of the work for us. Recorded at a magical moment when LACUNA COIL's early repurposing of gothic metal evolved into something bigger, heavier and more accessible, it turned them into major players. There have been a few great records since then, of course, but "Comalies" still stands out, both for its timeliness and overwhelming quality.

Thankfully, this new version has been shrewdly conceived. Rather than simply re-recording the songs with state-of-the-art technology, LACUNA COIL have rebuilt the likes of "Swamped" and "Tight Rope" from the ground up, taking the original's melodic essence and basic structure and drenching them with a whole new color scheme. The results, while inconsistent, are always sufficiently different from earlier versions to justify the whole conceit, while the best moments are often genuinely startling.

"Heaven's A Lie" has long been a fan favorite and staple of LACUNA COIL's live shows. On "Comalies XX", that anthemic is flipped on its head, with co-vocalist Andrea Ferro delivering the hook, and Scabbia weaving her asides through layers of pitch-black guitars. It is darker, heavier and more epic than the original, and the emotional heft that made the song such a classic is, if anything, enhanced. "Tight Rope", which was a punchy, goth-metal stomper led by Ferro's gruff snarl back in 2002, has blossomed into a sumptuous, symphonic ballad, with Scabbia's pristine vocal as its soulful, sincere core. Even more striking is the contrast between the original title track — a shape-shifting, post-rock confection — and "Comalies XX", which is at least three times heavier and brings things to a much more devastating, doom-powered conclusion.

Grumpy folk will always take issue with bands that re-record sacred milestones, but LACUNA COIL have had the foresight and integrity to make "Comalies XX" worthwhile on every level. Perhaps more importantly, they have artfully proved that these songs sound just as great in 2022 as they did 20 summers ago. Plus, the original album is thrown in as an added, or possibly essential, bonus. Nice touch.

Author: Dom Lawson
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