Live Sound Showcase: Lacuna Coil

Headlining around the U.S. behind its latest album, Delirium, legendary Italian gothic metal act Lacuna Coil has been showing off its melodic, dramatic, dark sound night after night, once again centered on the dual female/male lead vocals of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea (Andi) Ferro.
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CHEROKEE, NC—Headlining around the U.S. behind its latest album, Delirium, legendary Italian gothic metal act Lacuna Coil has been showing off its melodic, dramatic, dark sound night after night, once again centered on the dual female/male lead vocals of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea (Andi) Ferro. It’s a sound with appeal though, as in late May, the album entered the Billboard Top 200 at #33, Current Album chart at #16, Hard Rock Album chart at #2, and iTunes’ Metal Album chart at #1.

The band’s journey brought it to Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel/Casino Resort in Cherokee, NC, where the posh 3,850-capacity Event Center provided its installed d&b audiotechnik J Series line array and a Yamaha PM5D at front-of-house, delivering the performance to a standing-room floor/pit area and two levels of theater seating.

Joe Iwan—Lacuna Coil’s front-of-house engineer for nearly a decade now—explains how the band stands out from their metal peers. “Of all the bands I’ve worked with, Lacuna is the easiest band to mix in the world,” he notes. “They are great musicians and the tones are always right. I may normally be a gear-head junkie, but we work a lot with the tones of the instruments, so it’s about letting it all breathe. I do a couple of tricks, trying to match some doubling that they’ve done on the records, but for the most part, I really only do some mild compression and take out some 1.6 kHz, as that’s a harsh area [in many venues].”

Iwan approaches each vocal quite differently. “‘Cri’ and Andi are two completely different singers,” he explains. “For Andi, I do tend to over-compress him a bit, as he has very soft passages and then some screaming, especially with material from the new record. Between the old Lacuna material and the new, it’s really control that I need over his dynamics; he’s just belting it out. Cri has near perfect female vocal tonality; she has no toppy, nasally tone and her range goes from the floor all the way to the top. It’s a huge, broad spectrum that sits in the mix so nicely. It’s dynamic, not harsh and doesn’t hurt your ears. That’s why I’ve been with this band for so long. The sound checks are more for the band’s benefit; a quick line check and I’m usually ready.”

Even with a backlog of successful metal albums—produced consecutively by the likes of Waldermar Sorychta, Don Gilmore and Jay Baumgardner over the years, Iwan offers, “Let the record be the record and the live show be the live show. In the beginning, I was always trying to recreate what they did [on the record], but it’s pointless; they are going to do what they do.”

Iwan has used beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and Shure vocal microphones with Lacuna over the years, “and are now either on a Sennheiser handheld or even a wireless [Shure] SM58,” he explains. “You can never go wrong with a SM58. Audix just sent us out their new wireless kit, the RAD 360 with the OM-5 capsule. Based on the microphone itself, out of everything we’ve had on their vocals, I’m really liking it. Especially on Cri’s vocals, they are crisp and [emphasize] breathy characteristics; I didn’t have to do anything to them…. But personally, I like a wired ’58 over any wireless I’ve used. [With wireless] there’s always that little characteristic—whether it’s a wireless thing with no signal running down copper—that sounds different to me. No else can really tell or seems to care, but I can tell there’s a lack of something.” [Audix has since confirmed that the band will receive the company’s latest premium wireless microphone systems, the Performance Series with OM-5 capsules, for upcoming touring.—Ed.]

On guitar and basses, Iwan captures performances with Palmer DIs on both bass and guitar paired with SM57s on guitar cabinets. “On bass cabinet, we’re using an MXL V63 condenser, which works really well on [bassist and producer/composer] Marco’s [Coti Zelati] bass tone; it’s such a clicky tone, and the mic helps open it up so you can work with it. I do work with the bass tone during the show—possibly the most of any other sound. There are a lot of songs that really need the ‘clickiness,’ especially those from [album] Karmacode, but with more of the radio-friendly songs, I tend to blend the DI and mic together for a smoother tone. The DI is usually for the low-end beef, and I chuck that into the subs, leaving the mic for the PA. But depending on the room we’re in, I will blend the two. Same with the guitar [of touring guitarist Diego Cavallotti]; the Palmer I will use for all his toppy stuff, and the 57 for the nasty stuff from the cabinet.”

For drum sounds, Iwan spends time on stage with relatively new Lacuna Coil drummer Ryan Blake Folden on drum sounds. “Ryan is a great drummer and is as hard-hitting as they come,” he offers. “I don’t have to do a heck of a lot with him. Normally and for years, I’ve been saucing everything up—gate everything, comp on everything. I’ll still take his drums, run them into a group and compress the group, then chuck it into a DCA (digitally controlled amp) with just a little bit of compression for little peaks. It’s really basic on the mics: a Shure SM91 on the kick and Audix D6 on the out; a SM57 on snare top and Sennheiser e604 on the bottom; the hi-hats, honestly, are whatever [condenser] I have floating around at the shop at the time; and I’ve been using Beta 98s [mini cardioid condenser] and just switched over to Sennheiser e604 cardioid dynamics on the toms, which are working out really well.”

Lacuna Coil is not touring with a monitor engineer on this US tour, instead working with house monitor mixers along the way. “We’re doing a combination of in-ears and wedges,” explains Iwan in regard to stage mixes. “We’re on Sennheiser G3s, and they’ll do the ‘one ear in, one out’ thing, which I’m not particularly keen on, but that’s their ears, not mine; let them roll with that. It’s mostly vocals in the wedges with just a little bit of track; Cri has her mix, and Andi has his. We try to get a little bit of the beef coming out of the wedges, so that seems to work for them.”

Iwan is very complimentary of touring venues like Harrah’s Cherokee, where he notes the gear and staff are usually top quality. “Those gigs are amazing,” he offers. “It’s the new way to tour, and it’s good for everybody. The casinos are definitely going to be making money, and it’s an attraction for the fans. From my perspective, the rigs there are always great, and they spend a fortune on production. Because we don’t carry a monitor engineer with us, we rely on house and the staff engineers are always so good. I’ve never had a bad day in a casino…unless I’m down on the blackjack table.”

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