If you went to the Daredevil movie, or if you watch MTV or listen to rock radio, chances are you’ve heard a song called “Bring Me Back to Life”. You know the one, the tune that sounds as if Sarah McLachlan was hired to front Linkin Park. It’s a quality single, and a timely one, a song that appeals to aggro nu-metal boys and dour high school girls alike. The combination of lunkheaded hard rock with miserable, sensitive lyrics sounds so simple, you end up wondering why some pop svengali didn’t think of this sooner. However, the more you hear the single, the more you realize that despite the refreshing dose of melody, it’s still nothing more than a bombastic distraction from the usual dreck. It’s a welcome change from the male-dominated, tuneless music that dominates today’s modern rock, but it’s still as useless and derivative as the rest. Only this band has a cute goth chick singing.
The band in question is Evanescence, and despite owning one of the most idiotic band names in recent memory, the Little Rock, Arkansas band have made an interesting major label debut. Though the new album, Fallen, is basically as unoriginal and dumb as everything else in its genre, it has a small handful of transcendent moments, but a complete lack of musical adventurousness has the band mucking around either in stultifying nu-metal riffage, pretentious high school journal caterwauling, or even worse, both.
It’s all about the singer Amy Lee, whose pale, goth-from-a-shopping-mall mug adorns the cover. As well it should be; if it weren’t for her soaring, enchanting, angelic voice, Evanescence would be nothing, and that singing of hers works very well on the harder songs. Her voice swirls around the by-the-numbers guitars and drum machine on “Going Under”, as she makes such banal lines as, “50 thousand tears I’ve cried,” sound sincere, while Lee and 12 Stones vocalist Paul McCoy make “Bring Me Back to Life” sound like a love song between a Lilith Fair girl and an Ozzfest dude. Meanwhile, “Everybody’s Fool” and the very good “Haunted” take things to a more over-the-top, theatrical level. Though they claim to be a secular band, Evanescence doesn’t shy away from topics of the spiritual variety, and the best example is “Tourniquet”, a song originally performed by Christian metallers Soul Embraced, which effectively combines a more classic metal sound with lyrics that are surprisingly even-handed.
Though most people who buy this album are doing so based on hearing only “Bring Me Back to Life”, the real surprise, and biggest disappointment, upon hearing Fallen is the abundance of weepy, syrupy, tinkly piano ballads which bog down the album so much, it’s unbearable. One of these things on a record is fine, and “My Immortal” (which was also featured in Daredevil) fits the bill, with Lee doing her McLachlan/Tori Amos schtick, but the rest of the ballads are nothing but overkill. “Imaginary” is gag-inducing, with such ridiculous lines as, “In my field of paper flowers/And candy clouds of lullaby,” and the entire second half of the album slogs along at a seemingly unending pace; “Taking Over Me”, the maudlin “Hello”, and the boring power ballads “My Last Breath” and “Whisper” bring Fallen to a screeching halt.
Evanescence could have been on the verge of something really cool here. With Amy Lee’s voice, and that look of hers, she could have become the next metal goddess. If she wants to play dark, heavy rock music, she’s better suited to music that goes headlong into the bombast and musical adventurousness of more classic-sounding heavy metal, much like that of Iron Maiden, Queensryche, and Type O Negative (if she sang something closer to Cradle of Filth’s Damnation and a Day, it would be the coolest thing ever, a headbanger’s dream). Unfortunately, Lee has surrounded herself with a bunch of faux-musicians of limited ability who can’t manage any better than the sludgy, one-dimensional, downstroked guitar chords that pass for metal these days. Evanescence comes closest on the fine “Tourniquet”, but the band didn’t even write that one, and the rest of the record opts for pointless crooning. Until the band takes things into more creative territory, Fallen will be nothing more than just another one-album wonder, and that phenomenal voice of Ms. Lee’s will be wasted. There are glimpses of something really good here, but by the time they decide to improve, Evanescence’s silly name will wind up being more prophetic than they realized. They’ll just vaporize into nothingness.