Comalies XX Review / Matt Wrycraft

In 2012 I wrote a 10 year review of Lacuna Coils album Comalies (you can read it here) and I ended it with the words ‘I can well imagine listening to Comalies in 2022 and still hearing that freshness which remains so attractive to me.  I’m already looking forward to it.’

Well I wasn’t imagining Comalies in 2022 to come with THIS level of freshness!

Comalies XX (that’s 20 in Roman numerals) is a celebration of what many, including myself, consider the classic Lacuna Coil album.  Described variously as deconstructed and rebuilt, the songs from the original album are now delivered with the sound of Lacuna Coil in 2022 . These might have been the songs that band always wanted to create, or the songs that after years of song-writing the band feel represent their music for the now, or many other ‘might-haves’, but I like to think Lacuna Coil did this because they clearly felt that Comalies was and still is an important part of their musical journey, and feel a strong connection to it even after this many years. 

Every Lacuna Coil fan will have an opinion of Comalies (2002) – for many it is their favourite album;  one that brings nostalgia, or music that helped them through hard times.  There have been so many examples over the years, across this community, of how Comalies has pulled a fellow Coiler out of the darkness and given them the strength to carry on.  Re-interpreting the album as Lacuna Coil have done might be considered a risk for any band, as there is a danger of isolating some fans.  Of course  there is the inevitable and endless debate to follow about ‘which version is better….’

So was it worth the risk?  Yes. Twenty times over. 

From the first bars of ‘Swamped XX’ (faster, more layered, with a stronger vocal line than the original) there is an immediate sense of the familiar, but with ‘more’.  This is a more confident, direct sound.  Andrea, delivering a perfect growling performance, gives the song anger, which is countered by the familiar vocal mastery of Cristina.  The effort is a darker song, that is somehow more accessible musically. It is what I hoped it would be; a celebration of Swamped, different and yet a comfort in its familiarity – punchier, harder in places, but still thick with melody.  But then…it’s not so different.. So just how bold were Lacuna Coil intending to be on this re-imaging of a beloved album?

The answer comes immediately after with ‘Heaven’s A Lie XX’. It’s a song that is so familiar, such a stalwart of the Lacuna Coil back-catalogue, that one wonders if it’s sacrilege even to change it.  But change it they did and the result is stunning.  Like many of the songs that follow, it’s darker, with more growling, a changing vocal line from Cristina, rich with melody and a wider, faster sound, and is respectful to the original.  ‘Heaven’s A Lie XX’ up’s the emotion intensely and has quickly become one of my all-time favourite Lacuna Coil songs.

The surprises continue with ‘Daylight Dancer XX’, which is huge. The dual vocals of Andrea and Cristina are more focused, the bass monstrous, and the drums are rampant.  Changes to lyrics, especially in the chorus, gives it additional impact and the result is a song that replaces the original for me in every way. 

I’m not going to go through every song in detail but suffice to say that there are surprises and substantial changes in every song.  In fact, it feels like ‘Swamped XX’ was carefully easing us into Comalies XX! The overall effect is a wonderfully crafted and deeply respectful new interpretation of the original songs where you can feel the effort that went into this in every bar. 

In 2002, Comalies was referred to ‘Gothic Metal’ and yet, for me, Comalies XX is more ‘Gothic’ and more ‘Metal’ than Comalies. With songs like ‘The Ghost Woman and the Hunter XX’ and ‘Entwined XX’ Lacuna Coil really show us how far the bands like Type O Negative continue to influence them.

The ‘rebuilding’ of the songs into Comalies XX is even more obvious with ‘Aeon XX’ (though I do miss the cheeky ‘skipping’ from the 2002 version), and ‘The Prophet Said XX’ – which, whilst un-mistakenly the same song, has a greater maturity about it’s structure.  The same can be said about ‘Angels Punishment’ which has be reconstructed and includes Covid-Pandemic related news-bites – definitely a song for 2020’s. 

It’s impossible to review Comalies XX without comparing it song-for-song with Comalies and that leaves the inevitable question – Which is ‘better’? I’m sure the rest of the Internet will debate that far more than I ever would choose to, and I think it’s an unanswerable question.  Comalies XX does not de-value or diminish Comalies is any way, it is different; a re-imagining.  Comalies (the 2002 version) feels somehow lighter now, slower, still layered, and nuanced; still an genre-spanning classic album.  Now it has the heavier, darker, faster sister that is Comalies XX and the fact that the album also comes with original Comalies in it tells us that Lacuna Coil want us to enjoy both versions, with no regrets. In fact there’s a good chance that it will introduce the original album to new fans.

If I had to pick out highlights, there are many. I’ve already mentioned ‘Heavens A Lie XX’ and ‘Daylight Dancer XX’ but could easily add the dark gothic of ‘Entwined’ or rich melody of the final song ‘Comalies XX’. It would also be remiss of me to not mention the increasing use of guitars to create more distinctive bridges in the songs, something we’ve seen more of over recent years.

It’s complicated reviewing an album like Comalies XX; it is carrying 20 years of history, but for me the album is a triumphant celebration and I’m delighted with the result.  I have no doubt it took a lot of effort to craft something so current, yet so familiar, so respectful, and so big as this album is.  There is so much to love here that I’ve not mentioned because I want every Coiler to discover, and maybe re-discover these albums for themselves.  Some of the songs genuinely feel like how they always should have sounded, and others give us a darker, more gothic, and heavy version of those melodies that remain entrenched in our consciousness twenty years on.  And again, none of this removes anything from the original album.

With Comalies XX we are now blessed with the ability to choose from two different versions of every song – the version we each personally think is ‘better’. That’s a beautiful gift from Lacuna Coil and one we should treasure.