After over 20 years since they started, Italian metal heavyweights Lacuna Coil show no signs of slowing down with the release of ninth album Black Anima.
Rich with personal storytelling and symbolism from their roots, it’s also a reflection of how far the group have come, balancing a brutal level of aggression with melodies. They’ve also found beauty in the signature contrast between powerhouse vocalists Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia.
When Ferro picked up the phone for a chat, he was packing a suitcase for the band’s upcoming European tour with Swiss folk metal group Eluveitie and Moldovan metalcore unit Infected Rain. He said, chuckling, “I’m trying to get rid of the jetlag from America. We came back a week ago, so we’re still fighting it. Hopefully I’m going to make it before the actual tour starts.”
Ferro delved into guitarist Diego Cavalotti finding his place with Black Anima, stopping to look back at Lacuna Coil’s legacy and how he has healed his soul or ‘anima’ through dark times.
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I’ve been spinning Black Anima non-stop ever since it came out. It’s definitely one of my favourite albums of the year!
“Awesome (laughs)! It’s always surprising. We’ve been doing this for a while now, but we’re still very excited and anxious. You’re putting out your new baby, and obviously people have their own reaction to it… It’s still exciting to find people listening to the record and getting stimulated by the music again. That never ceases to amaze me.”
It’s been over 20 years since you guys started. That’s pretty incredible.
“Yeah! Sometimes we don’t even realise it. Last year we stopped a little bit because we did the DVD with the 119 show in London. We had to listen to the old tracks and choose which ones were still meaningful to put on the DVD. We’ve done the book as well [Nothing Stands In Our Way] on the history of the band. So we had to go back and look at all the pictures, do the interviews with the journalists. That was the first time in our career we stopped and looked back. Before that we just kept going with another record, a tour, another record.
“When we were writing this new record, it was the first time we were analysing our history and trying to put both the history and the new direction of the band into it. So it’s been a very different way of working.”
Digging through all those old photos and artefacts for the book, was there something that triggered particularly strong emotions?
“Yeah, a lot of stuff actually! It was a very hard job, going back and remembering where the photos were taken, who the photographer was… making sure the quality was good enough to be published in the book – back then most of them were printed on photographic paper. Then we had some old fax papers that with time kind of disappeared. It was hard to see which ones we could use.
“The journalist who was doing the interviews was calling me one day and Cristina the next. We were constantly brainstorming with memories from other people. Then he [the journalist] would present it to me, and I’d get to analyse and elaborate on it. It was fun to do but so hard. Once he presented the final version of it, we had to go through and cut stuff that wasn’t accurate enough. It was as tiring as making a new record (chuckles)…
“Overall I think it’s a good portrait of our history and a good way to find out about the band.”
Let’s talk about Black Anima. It’s great that Diego contributed on this record since it was his first time writing for Lacuna Coil.
“Yes! He’s been presenting a lot of riffs, but it also took a little bit for him to understand what we can actually use. Our bass player Marco [Zelati], Cristina and I have been working together for so many years that it’s very hard to break our inner circle of songwriting. But it’s been really good, because Diego’s been patient and kept presenting ideas until we found something that actually fit well with the music. He’s more used to lead guitar and has also been able to present a couple of riffs that we’ve been using in songs.
“It’s the first time he can feel totally part of the project. So it’s been a very good experience for all of us.”
I know that Marco actually struggled initially in coming up with material that he was happy with. What was the turning point for him?
“Yeah! Especially in the beginning. He had a lot of ideas, but they weren’t really satisfying for him because he thought it was stuff we’ve already done… Cristina and I were brainstorming lyrics and overall concepts we could have. We decided to present him with some visuals as well. On the table we had phrases, titles, we got pictures from the Internet from photographers we liked… Then I came up with the idea of imagining the record as a book that contains the story of these souls – because ‘anima’ means ‘souls’ in Italian.
“These souls were the people that we lost along the way, in these few years between our last record Delirium and this one. We were saying how much we still feel the presence of these people inside us in the form of different energies. We were talking about ghosts, spirits, angels… I was reading a book called The Physics Of Angels which is written by a priest and a scientist. They both analyse the figures of ghosts and spirits through the cultures of religion and science.
“We started brainstorming with all this and then the concept was taking shape. We also ended up designing tarot cards for the special edition. We imagined that we could use these cards to communicate with these people and ask them questions. So Marco started having much more inspiration because of all the information we gave him.
“For the very first time, we were working on the visual aspect, the stage clothes where we were imagining ourselves as soul hunters and the music all in one piece.”
Let’s go back to you reflecting with Cristina on all the people you’ve lost over the years. What really helped heal your soul or ‘anima’ during those times?
“I think what has been surprising for Cristina and myself – I also lost a few relatives – was the way we were reacting to these [losses]. Obviously it’s been painful and you’re never ready for it, but we also found a certain strength. We found more understanding of life, and that there are certain passages you can’t avoid. We always thought that we weren’t going to be able to face it, but in the end we have been able to. It hasn’t been easy and along the way we’ll still suffer, but for some reason life has moved on and changed. The way we perceive these people is now different… We found a strength that really gave us inspiration and a different perspective on life.”
I love the Black Anima cover, particularly the three intertwined snakes representing you, Marco and Cristina as the band’s core. What’s been the glue holding you three together for long?
“Probably the fact that we were friends even before the band. Marco and I especially because we were the first two that met. We met at a very young age skateboarding together, so we grew up together learning about life, love, travel, working… Cristina came into our lives pretty early as well. We were still young adults hanging out at the same metal bar in Milano, just enjoying music and life. So this has allowed us to grow step by step together and not let egos get in the way of our careers. That’s one thing.
“Another thing could be the fact that we’re from Milano, Italy, which isn’t the metal capital of the world. It isn’t LA or London which are used to a lot of bands being successful and touring. So whatever we’ve done, we were the first people to experience this kind of lifestyle and international success. We’re still one of the few metal bands in Italy that have this level of knowledge or experience. So the environment has also allowed us to keep our feet on the ground and not ruin it.”
It’s such a lovely touch that you were able to reference that friendship on the cover.
“That was actually Marco’s idea. He designed the very first sketch that was re-elaborated by Micah Ulrich, a friend from Cleveland who designed the tarot cards and other graphics. Actually the basic idea behind the main symbol which is the dragon with the angel in the mouth comes from the emblem of one of the medieval families that used to run our town in Milano. The original symbol is a snake with a kid in the mouth, and then we re-elaborated it to a dragon wrapping around our symbol. So we added that to our concept of Black Anima.”
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Interview by Genevieve Gao
Grab your copy of Lacuna Coil‘s ninth LP Black Anima here, and get ready to dive deep into the band’s layered history.
Lacuna Coil – Black Anima tracklisting
1. Anima Nera
2. Sword Of Anger
4. Layers Of Time
6. Now Or Never
7. Under The Surface
9. The End Is All I Can See
10. Save Me
11. Black Anima