Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Evanescence (Self Titled Album)

Evanescence makes profound, lyrically deep, and darkly romantic music that speaks to the soul...if you’ve the soul of a tween or particularly moody teen, or actually are a tween or particularly moody teen. Granted, when I was of that age, I probably would have felt this same way about a band like Evanescence. That’s the age when most kids are discovering the original late 18th and early 19th Century romantics in school, realizing their mortality, and generally experimenting with grander thoughts about the world and their place in it. Although Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, et al were quite a bit more profound with their words than Amy Lee is on her second full Ben Moody-less project album. That’s really what Evanescence is now. Now completely devoid of all the former members that came together to make Fallen (2004), the Amy Lee helmed/Ben Moody-less project called Evanescence, marches on. Amy and her main songwriting partner Terry Balsamo (also of Cold) continue to churn out the moody nu-metal styled goth rock. Wow, that description sounds so much like a cliché now over a decade since the inception of “nu-metal” as a real category in the rock/metal canon. Nu-metal hasn’t held up too well over the years. At least grunge got a decently imitated. Nu-metal has drowned in its own ponderous weight and allowed moody punk to gain a foothold in its targeted market (and greater acceptance in the pop culture arena) in the form of emo and its many derivatives.

Notwithstanding, Evanescence, while not nearly as profound lyrically or inventive musically since Moody left, still holds some of the appeal that attracted yours truly, as an elder statesman of rock fans, to them from the outset. Amy’s voice and serviceably heavy, chunkily chugging, and down tuned guitar go together quite nicely. As for Moody, Evanescence's former songwriter and guitarist, he now makes music with Amy’s other rejected band members as We Are The Fallen, which is fronted by vocally gifted American Idol loser Carly Smithson. They are a much more interesting project than Amy’s current Evanescence. Any band that pulls off a brilliant nu-metal cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” that actually really, really rocks, has got to be something special. Taking nothing away from Ben Moody and Amy Lee as separate songwriters and musicians, Evanescence would have remained much more interesting if the old rock cliche of the battling band members and ego clashes didn't destroy what was such a good thing...Evanescence's story is tragically romantic though, if you consider it tragic that both are still millionaires no matter what their bands' names are.

(Hotness will sell records, but they will only stand the test of time if the hottie can sing...and boy can Amy sing.)

Getting back to Evanescence 2.0, their newest album titled Evanescence, and their principal songwriting director Amy Lee though, as long as she decides to makes music as Evanescence there will be an audience for her no matter who is backing her. Her voice really does stir the young, and at times immature, romantic in you. While her lyrics border on trite (nothing here matches the lyrical, metaphorical, and visual, via its smart video, appeal of “My Immortal”), her vocal delivery is the most powerfully sensitive and seductive sound this side of Sarah McLauchlan. When Amy sings the silly lyrics “My Heart is BROOO-OOOO-AAHHH-OOO-KEN!” in the aptly titled “My Heart Is Broken,” you actually believe it is. Her voice lifts you up into the mist of her sorrow and intermingles her plight with yours sonically. (I told you that Evanescence can bring out the adolescent romantic in anyone—as evidenced by my own trite overindulgence in sappy romantic imagery just now.) Mix this voice with above mentioned sludgy guitar work, and Evanescence is the perfect sonic backdrop (or background soundtrack) to a glum October afternoon or evening. 

Evanescence isn’t all gloom and glum though. While the lyrics are often filled with moody angst, the music is often uplifting. Amy’s soaring voice, the soaring strings, and (surprisingly) the soaring guitar parts that juxtapose against the sludgy ones are…uh, to engage in some more romantic overindulgence…quite…heavenly sounding…and honestly, not ALL of the songs are lacking in an attempt at originality and out of the box (for a nu-metal group) thinking. Amy pulls off her best imitation of the Smashing Pumpkins’ experimental Mellon Collie sound that showed up on songs like “Thirty Three” from that album. “Secret Door’s” lush strings and harp strumming are reminiscent of something along the lines of the Billy Pumpkin’s more melancholy (pardon the pun) and non-“grunge in furs” outings. “Swimming Home” is firmly in the aforementioned Sarah McLauchlan’s territory with its dreamily pulsing synths and electronically washed piano. The comparison is valid. Sarah has inspired more moody female goth and goth rock singers than just about anyone, and she did it with style, class, and some great songwriting. Amy's getting there, but she's not there yet.   

While Amy Lee’s group will not win any awards for poetic lyricism, Evanescence is a work that plays well in the background, and sometimes shows flashes worthy of the band's, and Amy Lee's, headlining chops.  


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