Clearly, much of art is about the juxtaposition of dissimilar things. In this album, the harsh, masculine guitar distortion and soft feminine vocals are so dissimilar that their pairing complements incredibly well, unleashing the maximum artistic effect. The distortion level and effects on the guitars are so perfect as to be the stereotypical modern rock standard. Not too fuzzy and grungy, not too biting and metallic, the guitars straddle the middle ground, exploding with drop-D frenzy then falling silent to make room for Lee’s verses, piteous and vulnerable. Then the sound rushes back in, with Lee’s voice soaring over all in an overwhelming climax. The tinkling piano is present throughout to balance the heaviness, and the standard goth elements (male grunts, choirs, weepy violins) are interspersed as needed. Every now and then, such as in the tracks “Whisper” and “Haunted”, a buildup leads to a very tasteful, nonmasturbatory solo.
This type of music has never been so palatable on a large scale, and again the success goes to Lee’s voice, which is the linchpin. As worthy has her bandmates may be, it is clear that Amy Lee = Evanescence, Evanescence = Amy Lee, and even more harshly, Amy Lee + different bandmates = the same thing. (Even Seether couldn’t resist cashing in on the reworked single “Broken”, which, when given a gold plating by Lee’s miraculous pipes, proved a bona fide chartbuster.)
Yes, I hear what you’re saying, Lacuna Coil has been around, and Nightwish and other female fronted bands have milked the tortured fem-goth vibe for years. Lacuna Coil’s frontwoman Christina Scabbia can moan like a drowning vampire, but she lacks the raw power and mournful urgency that Lee’s wails can hammer into a defenseless eardrum. Lee is truly a vocal freak, and fairly placed alongside Mariah Carey and Celine Dion in terms of ability. Emotionally, she’s off the scale.
The lyrics are as expected: dark/gloomy/suicidal, and though not extraordinary, bring exactly what is expected to a mainstream that craves standardized poppish anthems. Think words like: heart, blood, breathe, wounds, salvation, rape, haunting…well you get the idea. This is not a bad thing in the least. Ultra-poetic/hyper-intellectual lyrics (Cradle of Filth’s albums for example) would have been out of place on an album whose purpose is to propel a few stock themes simply and beautifully. The melodrama police, who say such repetitious melancholy induces yawning should remember that like novels and movies, music often requires the audience to suspend its disbelief. Cynics who imagine for a second that the singer is sincere would momentarily understand the enormity of the sorrow that bleeds from Lee’s voice.
“Bring Me to Life” might have been a little overplayed, but it gives a good idea of what the rest of the album is like. Personally I like “Taking Over Me”, a ditty that would melt even Satan’s withered heart. “Imaginary” is an overpowering ode to innocence. It would be difficult to single out tracks for description; every one has a catchy hook, and one is in all honesty as good as another. The record label could have released singles at random, to the same effect. Though there are thankfully no filler-interludes of owls hooting in the forest, or Tool-esque soundscapes, a couple songs tone it down a little. “My Immortal” and “Hello” for example, act as introspective oases. The tracklist at 13 is respectable but I believe some of the tracks off Origin [Evanescence’s underground album] could have been reworked and thrown on. “Fields of Innocence”, “Lies” and “Away from Me” would have been great sounding additions, but no biggie here, you can simply download these (with Lee’s publicly stated blessing).
Who’d Like this Album
While its tempting to say “anyone”, this album would be more of a hit among the moody, sensitive, introspective sort.
(The hairy, manly metal warriors afraid to admit they actually like Evanescence tend to turn up the Dimmu Borgir to cover the sound of their consciences.) Linkin Parkers., Papa Roachies and System of a Downers should have no problem in transitioning to black metal’s softer sister. As for those who never listened to such music before, this album’s provides a great chance to become acquainted with a work of real substance and depth. In fact, an innocuous album such as this has great potential to as a gateway to a much larger genre, snatching up those souls who had never listened to dark music before and believed black clothing implied devil-worship. At the same time, it delivers some much needed to emotional depth to the youthful masses, which currently gyrate listlessly to songs like “My Humps”.
To Sum Up:
Any objective listener would conclude that this is a girl with genuine vocal talent, a band that knows its chops, an album with nice polish, and a sub-genre that’s not dead yet. The group’s best new artist Grammy was well deserved, although I tell ya, it chafes like a mo-fo to see other artists, mere lyricists or singers (Beyonce) take home Grammys by the wheelbarrow, while true musicians are sidelined…but oh well, that’s another rant…….
So what’s left to say? Bust out the black eyeliner and stay tuned for Evanescence’s second studio album “The Open Door”, out soon.