Music Reviews 2011 – Evanescence
In case you’ve been in a hole (or on BlackBerry’s network), and your i-Tunes access has been interrupted, I’m announcing specifically for you that Evanescence has just released their third studio album. This self-titled release delivers the same epic grandeur, the same heavy guitars, orchestral layering, and brilliant, emotive vocals that we’ve come to expect from Rock Goddess Amy Lee. But like some other high-quality gear, from ski boots to running shoes, it just takes a little “wearing in” to find that familiar, magic fit and feel.
Amy Lee has come a long way since the mid-90s launch of Evanescence back in Little Rock. She and Ben Moody were destined to set the world on fire, first working under the Christian label Wind-Up Records. The songs they worked on for years, ultimately crossed into the mainstream with the release of 2003’s Fallen.
I bought Fallen during my third Korea tour because it had occupied the number 1 position on the Post Exchange (PX)’s music charts for literally months. Having bought and loved Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, a few years prior, for exactly the same reason, I thought “what’s the worst that could happen?” Worst-case, I wasted $12. It was worth that much just to see what everybody else was drawn to–whether I personally liked it or not.
Of course, I was smitten with Fallen from the first note of Going Under. Fallen was truly a “start to finish” jam. It was the perfect accompaniment for a Camp Walker garrison perimeter walk. With Fallen, Amy and Ben had entered the “big time.” Their songs carried some Christian overtones—but from a dark and uncertain place. Amy’s belting of “My God, My Tourniquet, Return to me Salvation” seems to get at the heart of the issue in 10 words or less. “Save me from myself” was a central theme that would recur on each of the subsequent records.
Amy Lee is an artist after my own heart. She mixes the big riffs with the big voice, under a dark but picturesque, layered sky. Grand, eloquent, powerful, haunting, relentless, hers is a world where big is everywhere. And yet, she seems at her best in the quietest, tender moments–during the calm that precedes and juxtaposes the fury that always comes.
Amy Lee does music like it deserves to be done. Music powerful enough to serve as a backdrop, as the soundtrack for the most important, heaviest events in our lives. She just captures and channels that visceral earnest with guitars, piano, gowns and orchestra. She’s the God-fearing Goth girl blessed with the voice to match the grandest of guitar and piano based rock. And she REMAINS up to her task.
My first familiarity with Amy Lee came from hearing her accompanying Shaun Morgan and Seether on Broken–the theme-song from the movie The Punisher. On it, she delivered, quite simply, a stunningly powerful vocal. I’d bet you’ve heard it.
The stunningly powerful vocal is Amy’s signature. The new Evanescence continues to showcase her power. It works on a number of levels. But, it has drawn some mild criticism. Some fans of yesteryear complain that it doesn’t deliver the radio-friendly ear-candy of Fallen. I would submit that the only difference between this record and the earlier works—is that there are less vulnerable moments here. She doesn’t go piano-only, soft and tender, like she used to. I can’t explain why….but it strikes me as a by-product of her being run through the celebrity spin-cycle a few more times than perhaps she was comfortable doing.
Arguably, the second record, 2006’s The Open Door, delivered less radio friendly music than Fallen too. I remember being initially disappointed at its first listen, only to fall in love with those songs as they became familiar. Having experienced that in 2006, I wasn’t dissuaded at first listen this time. After a half dozen spins, the new songs are wearing in and it feels like Amy is hitting on all cylinders again. She still delivers the earnest, hypnotic piano, while the guitars are ever thunderous, the strings sublime, all with vocals that exceed the thunderous sum of all parts. She remains simply magnificent!
It is true, there are less radio-friendly hooks here. It is hard to write radio friendly music….that is also true to roots and self-imposed standards. Amy purportedly has more than her share of the latter. Allegedly, at the root of her and Ben’s break-up, was his desire to work toward the radio-friendly hook, whilst she wanted to remain true to their grand, epic and darkly symbolic story-telling, radio be damned.
Amy and Ben were a volatile couple. They made magic, they burned bright, and they were destined to go their separate ways. Their failed relationship giving fodder to songs on The Open Door–most memorably, Call Me When You’re Sober comes to mind. Amy writes what she feels. And when she feels pain, the hurt seems to make for better music. Bad relationships seemingly translate to good songs. Cha-ching, cha-ching. Keep ’em coming.
And as the release of this record indicates, Amy and the band just can’t live up to the definition of their band-name. Evanescence, for the uninformed, is: the event of fading and gradually vanishing from sight (according to the Princeton online dictionary). Amy and the band seem here to stay. Evanescence may not sell as many records as the earlier albums, but it will get skied to this season–God willing. Evanescence is the perfect backdrop for the grandeur of the Big Mountain steeps.
Perhaps this season I’ll marry up some epic HD ski video with an Evanescence sound-track. I can’t wait to give that a shot. Stay tuned.
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And because I like bonuses–below is my “Best of Evanescence” playlist.
- Going Under – from 2003’s Fallen
- Bring Me to Life – from Fallen
- Everybody’s Fool – from Fallen
- My Immortal – from Fallen
- Tourniquet – from Fallen
- Imaginary – from Fallen
- Sweet Sacrifice – from 2006’s The Open Door
- Lithium – from The Open Door
- Snow White Queen – from The Open Door
- The Only One – from The Open Door
- The Change – from 2011’s Evanescence
- My Heart is Broken – from Evanescence
- Erase This – from Evanescence
- Lost in Paradise – from Evanescence
- Never Go Back – from Evanescence
Good review thanks Jay!