Andrea Ferro of Lacuna Coil Speaks on the Re-Imagined Version of Comalies, Comalies XX
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the early 2000s as an era where gothic metal exploded. Emotive yet epic, sprawling creations lined the walls of our mind’s eye, creating a memorable soundtrack for a period of our lives.
For many of us, Lacuna Coil’s 2002 masterclass in alternative metal, Comalies, was an album not only to remember but to cherish. And indeed, it’s the record that kicked off the Italian-based warrior’s upward trajectory. Indeed, cuts such as “Heaven’s a Lie,” “Swamped,” and “Tight Rope” are as memorable as they are outstanding. What’s more, without Comalies, the inflection of an entire heavy metal scene might have trended in a wildly divergent direction. For Lacuna Coil co-vocalist Andrea Ferro, that impact wasn’t immediately apparent.
“When we made Comalies, we didn’t realize the impact it would have on us. We were doing what came naturally and heading in a direction that our creativity took us. We never intended to change a scene or make a record that would affect so many people. Sure, we would have liked to, but you can’t plan for that sort of thing.”
In the 20 years since its release, Comalies has remained relevant and has continued to find haven within the hearts of Lacuna Coil’s fans. But with the COVID-19 pandemic came challenges, one of which was idle hands, which can be used in many ways. In the case of Lacuna Coil, they decided to go bold and re-record Comalies with the Lacuna Coil’s current lineup, culminating in Comalies XX.
“It’s always a challenge to do something like this, and with that challenge comes risk. “We knew that the decision to rework Comalies could come with backlash from our fans, but we also trusted ourselves to make this decision and take this direction. We hoped that our fans would also trust us, and so far, they seem to love the results.”
While it’s hard to measure the impact of Comalies XX, one thing is sure, Lacuna Coil’s direction for the future is clear. Beyond that, regardless of reception, the original version of Comalies remains poignant to both Lacuna Coil and its fans. And while the manifestation of that meaning will present itself in different ways, the intention will remain no matter what.
Ferro recently beamed in via Zoom to recollect the history, meaning, and relevance of Comalies 20 years on. As well as the intention behind re-recording one of the genre’s most iconic records.
Give me the rundown of Comalies XX.
We knew the 20th anniversary of Comalies was coming, and we talked about it with the label. And the first idea was to do a remaster with new packaging of the album. But we thought that at the end of the day, when you remaster something, basically you go back, compress the files, and make it sound louder. So, we thought, “Well, that’s fine, but Comalies doesn’t sound bad; we don’t need to do that.” We thought we could do something a bit more creative and a bit more fun. And plus, after the pandemic, we were beginning to approach a new record, but still not very sure because we didn’t collect enough input and inspiration to go and work on a full new record.
What were some of the early challenges you faced during the reimagining?
Initially, we went back to listen to the old tracks of Comalies and do something new there. But since Comalies was recorded in analog, we didn’t have any files of the keyboards and stuff like that, so we had to go back and listen very carefully to it so that we could rebuild it as the band exists in 2022. We wanted it to be representative of the current lineup and feature the current sound from the last couple of records, which have been a bit heavier. We thought, “If we can bring the essence of those songs to Comalies XX and experiment, we might have something special.” So, we went into the studio with that mindset, and while we didn’t have to rewrite the songs completely, we still had to find the right balance between the old and new versions.
How has Lacuna Coil evolved in the 20 years since Comalies’ initial release?
Well, a few years ago, we had a lineup change where only me, Marco [Coti Zelati], and Christina [Scabbia] were left from the original lineup. When you begin working with new people – especially younger people – you get different inputs and ideas. And we didn’t want to repeat the same formula, but at the same time, we have a style that has been forged over many years, and we’re not going to change it completely. But we did feel a bit more freedom to go somewhere else with the music because we had new members who were very excited and brought a lot of energy. With different musicians, you get different techniques and different capabilities.
As far as what has remained, would you say those elements are reinvigorated?
Yes, for sure. So, we decided to push toward a fusion of the more modern version of the band, leaning on the heaviness and rhythmical patterns more. But some characteristics, like me and Christina’s vocals, will always be there, that will never change. So, I think the balance between the dark and the heavier stuff is a more contemporary version of what we were. But I think when you change people in the band, it’s more honest to follow the inspiration that the new energy brings rather than trying to duplicate something from 20 years ago. It would be weird to repeat what we’ve already done when other people were in the band, and it wouldn’t be genuine.
Would you say that Comalies XX is representative of Lacuna Coil today?
It’s an interesting question because we started from something that already existed. So, I’d say that this is a unique example of the band today, but since the tracks aren’t new, it’s not a full-on representation. Starting with something that was already there, we tried to arrange it in a way that we would do it now had we been recording it front scratch today. But obviously, it’s already something that was done, so it’s more this version of the band bringing back something we did a long time ago and making it more viable in modern times.
We changed some arrangements, and some vocals are slightly different. We didn’t change the lyrics, but we altered some of the arrangements and the way we sing things to make them more aligned with who we are today. So, we think this is what Comalies might have sounded like had it been a brand-new album for 2022. I’d say this is more of a tribute to the original rather than a direct representation of Lacuna Coil in 2022. And that’s why on the physical version, we always have the original version of the album as the CD, along with the new version. This way, fans can see where we’ve been and where we are going with one package.
Having been present for both, which version of Comalies do you relate to more?
Well, the original one was where I feel that Lacuna Coil found its true sound for the first time. We didn’t feel we needed to take as much from our influences by that point. And we didn’t feel like we had to be like other bands from the gothic era of metal. Early on, bands like Paradise Lost and Life of Agony offered us a lot of inspiration, but with Comalies, we felt like we were finally putting a personal spin on things. And what we’ve done now is more of a fun tribute to that, so I’d say the most important version of Comalies is the 2002 version because that’s when we created it from scratch. The 2022 version is just a new interpretation of it. What is more fun for us now is that maybe these new versions will be more fun to play live because these versions will fit into our setlist better. I think our current drummer Richard [Meiz], was like 12 when Comalies came out, so maybe this one is more relatable for him. [Laughs].
You mentioned that Comalies was recorded in analog in 2002. What challenges came with that, and how were things different for Comalies XX?
It was hard because analog technology is very limited. It’s something where you need to have extreme focus. For example, with vocals, you have to do it properly until it comes out as perfectly as possible for it to be on the record because there are no digital edits or fixes. And so, it was much harder because you can’t use the technology you have nowadays, so you needed to be super focused on the performance. Also, when we were re-recording for Comalies XX, it was very difficult to go back and listen to the old arrangements and understand what we were doing because a lot of time had passed, and we didn’t remember everything. So, with the analog tapes, we had to listen very carefully and try to imagine it. But from that, we found things that we used to do that maybe we had gotten away from. And the fun here is that we might take some of these techniques we used in 2002 and reapply them to the new album we’re working on.
You alluded to this earlier, but will you be inserting the Comalies XX versions of the tracks into the setlist rather than playing them as you have for the last 20 years?
Yes, I think we will. With these new versions, we have more opportunities to bring more of the old songs into our setlist. Because I think these versions fit better alongside our newer music than the old versions. But for some songs, we might still play in the old version and sometimes the new version; we’ll switch it up. We don’t want to mess with some of our signature songs too much, but we want to represent our new versions too. I think that ultimately, with Comalies XX, we have given some of these old songs a new life. We’ve played some of them live already, and people love how the new arrangements bring the same essence of the originals but are more powerful, direct, and arranged in a more contemporary way. It was a bit of a risky operation to revisit stuff considered the “holy grail” by your fans, but we like to take chances. And we like to challenge our listeners now and then too.
When you look back on Comalies, how do you quantify its importance to Lacuna Coil?
It’s been such an important record for us; I can’t understate that. Comalies was the record that allowed us to become an international touring band. Before Comalies, we had experienced a little bit of success but not at the level Comalies would afford us. We recorded Comalies, and it went to No. 3, and honestly, that completely changed our lives as musicians. It changed how Lacuna Coil was perceived in North America, which was reflected worldwide. It allowed us to experience our dreams; we were starting to play in a bigger league, so Comalies thoroughly established us as a professional band, and everything we’ve done afterward is directly a result of Comalies. So, the original version of Comalies will always be cherished as the record that gave birth to Lacuna Coil as we know it.
In another 20 years, how do you feel Comalies XX will be remembered?
I’m not sure. That’s hard to say. We haven’t thought that far ahead, and we did this as a celebration of an important record for us. We don’t have any expectations beyond that. We hope people love it as much as we do and see it that way. And so far, the reviews have been positive, especially from the fans. We had some worries that it might be complicated to digest something like this because it’s challenging.
When you touch something that has meant a lot to so many people for 20 years, it’s never easy, and you risk a backlash. But we thought the new arrangements were strong and offered something to fans that hadn’t been there before. So, we aren’t erasing the past; we’re celebrating it. As far as the future, we’re not putting any pressure on it; we’re focused on the now, the celebration, and the fact that we’ve given something different for fans to hopefully love. And then, we plan to keep going and work on the next chapter of Lacuna Coil, which will be a new album.
What more can you tell me about the record that Lacuna Coil is working on?
We’ve been working on it a little bit, and we plan to go after it fully in early 2023. We have some very early versions and rough concepts of these songs that we’re working on. We’ve looked at some ideas for album art and are kicking around titles, but it’s still early, and nothing is final yet. And we’ve just had a meeting with the label recently, and we talked about it, but it’s too early for us to put a release on it yet. We don’t want to rush anything and want it to be a quality album. I can say that we plan to have tighter arrangements and that we don’t want to make it overly long. So, in early 2023, we’ll meet up, listen to everything we’ve collected, and see where we are. We’ll work hard on the material and flesh it out to fully realized songs. But no hard release date, but maybe by the end of 2023, we’ll see a new album from Lacuna Coil. It depends on how these sessions go; we’ll see.