WANTAGH, New York — "If you like Evanescence, you'll love these guys," a Mohawked dude in a Dimmu Borgir shirt told his less metal-savvy date at Ozzfest just moments before Italian gothy slammers Lacuna Coil took the second stage. The assessment was somewhat apt. Lacuna Coil play swooping, melodic metal driven by Cristina Scabbia's haunting vocals. However, they're more rooted in the underground than Evanescence, and their ethereal songs are balanced by co-singer Andrea Ferro's sometimes menacing vocals and the abrasive guitar attack of Cristiano Migliore.
Some artists would take umbrage at being compared to Evanescence, especially an act like Lacuna Coil that has been together since 1994, four years longer than Evanescence. But Scabbia isn't at all frustrated. "They're a good band and people like them, so why should I be upset?" she said a few hours after stepping offstage at the Jones Beach Theater. "It's funny, because in Europe we've been known for a while, so people say the opposite thing. They hear Evanescence and say, 'Oh, is this the new single from Lacuna Coil?' "
What does kind of frustrate Scabbia is that Lacuna Coil remain on the road two years after the release of their third disc, Comalies. The band had planned to return to the studio last year to work in its next album, but when its single "Heaven's a Lie" started catching on in North America, the group decided to stay on tour. The move worked — Comalies has sold more than 100,000 copies.
"It's strange to me that Americans are getting into the album two years after it came out," Scabbia said. "People are maybe like, 'Hey, they sound kind of like Evanescence, I like this.' And they don't know that the album is two years old. So, we have all this new material we've written on tour, but we would have to stop to record it, and we've never at home, we're always on tour."
Lacuna Coil's melodramatic set is one of the highlights of the Ozzfest' second stage, offering some diversity to an otherwise overwhelmingly brutal bill. Of course, when you're a club band that's used to going onstage after 11 p.m., playing before noon provides certain challenges and hazards. "It's really tough to wake up in time to play," Scabbia admitted. "And of course, we're not used to performing in sunlight, so we have to watch out to get sunburns, but it's good to be finished early because then you have the rest of the day free, and you can enjoy the festival."
So far, Lacuna Coil have been doing just that. In addition to watching many of their favorite acts perform daily, they've been able to meet some of their idols. "You'll just be hanging out backstage with the guys in Slipknot, then Zakk Wylde from Black Label Society will come by. Then you'll see Rob Halford walking in," Scabbia says. "The whole situation is completely surreal."
And the kids in the crowd aren't the only ones turning on to Lacuna Coil's music. "[Drummer] Bill Ward from Black Sabbath has become a fan, which is a real honor," she said. "We talk to him almost every day, and he's hosting a radio program that's playing our songs, which is a real honor to us."
The only minor hiccup Lacuna Coil have experienced so far has been generated by religious organizations critical of the song "Heaven's a Lie." Ironically, the tune isn't even about religion.
"It's just about the freedom of ideas," Scabbia said. "Religion and politics are two things we don't like to talk about because they're things that are too personal. We don't want to teach anybody anything."
So when will Lacuna Coil finally get a chance to record the songs they've written over the past 18 months? Probably not until at least the end of the year, a reality Scabbia takes in stride. "Waiting for that to happen will just make me more excited for when we do the actual recording of the album," she said. "The new songs we have will be an evolution of Comalies, but not a huge change. I hate bands that are changing every album, because that's not a natural evolution. Lacuna Coil will be recognizable on the next album. This is how it has to be."