Review Summary: The dark times of gothic/symphonic metal, part 4
As we've just seen, Amy Lee used to struggle without a guitarist and songwriter like Ben Moody. Can Ben recreate the magic of "Fallen" without a singer and songwriter like Amy? Unfortunately, no.
We Are the Fallen is one of the most obvious Evanescence rip-offs out there, literally being named "fallen", being formed by Ben Moody and featuring a dark-haired, pale-skinned singer who got her start singing "Bring me to Life" on American Idol. That obvious resemblance made people take notice, some immediately latching onto the band, and some like me being more skeptical. But aside from any doubts I might have, what is their only album "Tear the World Down" really like?
The first song, and lead single, "Bury Me Alive" has a sort of catchy main riff, and has a way of sticking in your mind. In fact, a lot of the songs, like "Burn", "St John", the title track and "Don't Leave Me Behind" kind of stick with you, because of their instantly memorable choruses. Ben is good at finding memorable melodies, and crafting an interesting mix of riff, melodies, violins, pianos and dark atmospheres, and you can still hear that in the good parts of the album.
For example, "Burn" has some interesting guitar and violin work. "Through Hell" has some nice dark riffs and industrial songs, and an intense chorus. It's the only time where the blatant Evanescence imitation actually sounds good. "St John" is a dark and nervous track about being trapped in a creepy hospital, and it's probably the most creative song on the album.
By contrast, "I Will Stay" and "Paradigm" are nice and mellow, without being full ballads. That kind of song is another of Ben's songwriting strengths.
But there are many obvious problems. "Bury me Alive" is too melodramatic even for me, being about someone who treated the narrator so badly that it's not like he's killing her, no, it's like he's burying her alive. Carly Smithson's delivery doesn't help. She's clearly a very gifted singer, but through most of the album, she's clearly trying to mimic Amy's mix of plaintive crooning and passionate belting. The problem is that she's doing it too much, overworking her vocal chords and her larynx. It sounds overwrought and, again, melodramatic. Worst of all, it sounds fake: for most of the album, she sounds like she's playing a character. Unsurprisingly, when she's singing in a more natural way, like on "Paradigm" or the more symphonic metal-influenced "Without You", she sounds better. But she rarely sings like on "St John" or "Without You".
And the songs she has to sing aren't that good either. Like "Bury Me Alive", they are mostly overwrought melodrama about troubled relationships, often using metaphors related to death, hell and destruction, and of course some pseudo-gothic clichés like burying, angels, hell and asylums. In fact, they feel like a list of clichés, nothing that was ever personal to anyone, and nothing that involved any passion or effort. And that's when they don't make honestly baffling choices, like the title track which begins and ends with an eerie choir, but has to ruin it with a singsongy chorus with some weird, nasal vocals from Carly. Or "Paradigm", which, rather pretentiously, refers to a good relationship as a paradigm. Or "Bury" and its repetitive riff and clumsy lines such as "All I did was love you, now I hate you". Or "Don't Leave", which is so repetitive the first riff already plays the same melody as the chorus. While the album still includes some of the best things about Ben Moody's style of songwriting, they just don't feel like his best or most memorable songs. I can't really say I enjoyed any of this, and in fact, there's a lot on this album I will barely remember or will be glad to never hear again.
The strangest thing about this album is how, despite the talent involved, it ended up being so generic and underwhelming. There's barely anything that distinguishes this from all hundreds of mediocre Evanescence rip-offs. In fact, of all the Eva rip-offs, this might be the most charmless and soulless. Sure, it's not completely terrible, there are a few good songs like "Without You", "St John" and the bonus track "Samhain". But even with a few shining moments, everything about this album screams cheap imitation, in a truly off-putting way. Much like Tristania and Nightwish, Ben Moody learned the hard way that he couldn't replace Amy that easily, especially if he didn't bring his best songwriter efforts. This might have ruined his career to a wider audience, and to me, it revealed his limits as a writer. So, no congratulations for you, We Are the Fallen.