[Note: This review is being submitted since this album released today in Poland]
Evanescence. There’s not many people who haven’t heard of them. Hailing originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, they hit it mighty big with their debut full length album Fallen. Selling over 15 million copies worldwide, it made them into one of the biggest rock acts in the world. Lately it seems they’ve been having their share of controversy. First the departure of Ben Moody and him later confessing that he had bipolar disorder after which Terry Balsamo of Cold then stepped into his shoes. Then there was the episode where Amy Lee announced to the world that Cold had broken up upsetting Cold fans everywhere. These are knocks that rock stars all take as part of being new to the whole famous-so-watch-what-you-say thing. The thing people were looking forward to was their new album (The fact that it is one of the top ten albums being ordered on iTunes stands testimony to this). So here it is.
The line up on this album:
Amy Lee – vocals, piano
Terry Balsamo – guitars
John LeCompt – guitars
William Boyd – bass
Rocky Gray – drums
I’ve always enjoyed listening to Evanescence. It’s true that their songs have a tendency of sounding alike but it is good music and there’s no denying that Amy Lee’s got a powerful voice. So when their new album came out, I went and got it. I was a little scared at first if I had done to go out and buy it so quickly as many mainstream artists over the past couple of years have released some mediocre to bad albums as follow ups to good albums. As the first song Sweet Sacrifice
started, that fear began to grow. It sounded like something out of Fallen and made me wonder if this album would become Fallen Pt.2, something the world really did not need.
But once the album actually kicked in, it kinda drew me in. It wasn’t very different, not in terms of musicianship, not in terms of songwriting, not in terms of overall production. They didn’t really do too much new on this album, but they’re doing whatever they did on the past album much better this time around which is not a bad thing. Let me explain.
I think one question most people are wondering about is the kind of effect new guitarist Terry Balsamo would have on the band. I don’t know good or bad, but the guitars don’t sound too different to what Ben would’ve probably done. Mostly chugga chugga hard rock riffage. But the guitar lines themselves are much darker than on the last album. There are a few good riffs distributed over the album and also a lead but not much else in the album ( Lose Control
and Weight of the World
are two of the better songs guitar wise with some good riffs and interludes). There are more effects used on the album (I’m guessing that’s a Cold thing) but more or less its there for just the same purpose as the last album: the wall of sound. The rest of the band is the same and sound pretty much the same.
At this point I would like to note that the bass and the drums are still relative letdowns on this album. I thought they were the weakest part of the last album and it doesn’t change here. The bass follows the guitars around 99% of the time and is actually distinctly audible only when the guitar doesn’t play. Also the drumming is oversimplified to very simple 4/4 beats in a lot of cases; there’s just a little bit of cool fills and exciting double bass drumming (which he does use sparingly on this album). Don’t get me wrong. The drumming is solid if a little unimpressive just like the last record but their drummer is pretty good and can do some real cool stuff. The drumming on Weight of the World
is pretty much the best stuff he does on the album.
On the upside Amy Lee is singing beautifully on this album. She has now incorporated a couple of new styles of singing in the album and does the change to falsetto more often and very well; from a commanding powerful high note to a soft falsetto and still hitting the notes bang on which is not easy. Another notable style inclusion is hints of Broadway. In fact the whole album does sound like a one-man (or in this case woman) musical (Opera meets Rock meets Broadway actually) which was actually a pleasant surprise. The lyrics however, have not changed in topic that much; mostly still relationship based angst.
What has improved on the album in terms of musicianship is the background orchestrations. They’ve become more intense with more complicated and on many occasions very well composed and arranged string sections. Also the use of the operatic voice has increased and thus the influence of Wagnerian Rock shows through very strongly here, especially in songs like Lacrymosa
where samples from Mozart’s Requiem have been used and probably makes for one of the best songs on the album.
Once I finished listening to the overall album a couple of things struck me in retrospect. The first thing that surprised me about the album was its consistency. There’s no song that can be labeled bad. In fact all songs go between 3.5 and 4. Only Lacrymosa
and Good Enough
, the last song on the album which is the softest song on the album with just the strings, piano and Amy Lee are the only ones that go to 4.5. There’s just enough variation to stop things from getting boring. And not many people have doubted their melodies.
The second thing that I liked about the album on the whole is a softness that’s been added to the songs. This is mainly due to two reasons. First, unlike the previous album there’s no demarcation between the piano ballads and the rock ballads, with a more mix and match situation, with the piano being used nearly on all songs. The second is the use of more majors and minors as opposed to pure power chords. There’s some of that technique too where you use notes from a major scale while using chords of the minor scale which suddenly seems to be a female rock/metal band fetish (seriously, like Lacuna Coil – Swamped, Wicked Wisdom – Bleed All Over Me, Arch Enemy – We Will Rise
etc.) but here it gives it the album a whole happy sad mood (the best example for this is the last song Good Enough).
The techno influences on this album are closer to their Origin days, which is pretty cool. Some really nice samples have been used throughout the album and sampled beats are still used during the verses of quite a few songs.
On the whole, Evanescence’s new release is a more than a worthwhile listen. The album is more brooding, though slightly less dark, overall, than their previous offering. Despite the lack of growth of musicianship individually, on the whole the band has managed to come out with an album that’s strong, fun to listen to, usually touching and even though doesn’t really offer too much new, does whatever they tried to do in Fallen much better. Amy Lee was quoted saying that she felt very free as a writer with Terry around and it shows on the album. For their next album, however, I wish they explore a little more of their progressive influences, as they’re capable of pulling it off IMO.
My Rating: 3.75/5 (Note: this is only after the initial couple of listens…. And it might actually grow on me with time. I think this is that kind of album)
Weight of the World
All the other tracks are on the same level of good.
Maybe the distorted voice intro to Cloud Nine
makes it the worst track on the album