It would be easy, cynically easy, to spend this article trashing Evanescence into the ground – they are, after all, a band who have inspired love and hatred in equal measures with their nu-metal meets female-fronted-goth approach, but the truth is that this third album just isn’t that bad. For sure it isn’t earth shattering, nor is it going to change the minds of those unimpressed by the band’s overtly pop-centred approach in the past, but judged on its own merits – as a shining example of commercially-minded pop-metal with its sights set firmly on stadiums, it is remarkably effective.
Take opening track ‘what you want’ with its eighties-esque cry of ‘do what you, what you want…” and Def leppard style drums all tied together by sharp, undemanding guitar lines. It’s not cutting-edge material and it’s not particularly original, but Amy Lee has a fantastic voice and her latest backing band are clearly on message too when it comes to delivering sharp hooks and anthemic choruses to order,and the result is a huge, sweeping slab of high quality, slightly sugary, pop metal that will undoubtedly crawl all over the charts and, honestly, I’d rather it were that than the bloody X factor… so there you go.
‘Made of stone’ is a better track in many ways. Surging on the sort of lazy riff that made nu-metal so rapidly decline in favour, the slabs of synth and creepy atmosphere of the verse is perfectly suited to Amy’s sultry voice, while the chorus seems destined to feature on a video featuring an awful lot of pouting and moody lighting. It’s actually a pretty cool song, and it showcases Amy experimenting in areas hitherto unreferenced by the band – a slight industrial tinge here, a sprinkle of doom-laden electro-goth there… it’s all sweetened with the ubiquitous strings but they’re less prevalent here than on the last, ridiculously popular, album and there is certainly evidence of growth rather than the simple treading of water which the band could so easily indulge in. A stair-stepping, staccato guitar line introduces ‘the change’ but we’re into more familiar territory here with Amy’s vocal seeking to draw all attention towards itself reminding the listener exactly why Evanescence change line-ups as often as most people change underpants. ‘My heart is broken’ is a suitably teary, piano-laden ballad (although no more syrupy than anything Guns ‘n’ Roses attempted on their last record!), while the real surprise comes on ‘the other side’ which features crunchy guitars and a sweeping chorus tailor-made for the romance scene in an action film. ‘Erase this’ is more standard fare – crunchy riffs and racing piano lines – and while it hardly pushes any boundaries, it’s also a good example of its ilk.
‘Lost in paradise’ is another piano-led ballad that will have most metal fans turning off in disgust as it isn’t, in truth, so far removed from the ghastly orchestrations of chart-pop acts and so on, quickly, to ‘sick’ a track that has an ever-so-slight industrial undercurrent and some taut drumming from current sticksman Will Hunt. Heavier still is ‘End of the dream’ and you can’t help that Evanescence would ditch the dreary stadium-pop ambitions and stick to more rocking fare such as this. ‘Oceans’ employs some strangely Depeche Mode-esque synth, but without that band’s dark moods and delicious wit. Nonetheless, when the guitars kick in its not without its merits and fans of Evanescence’s heavier tunes will no doubt go a bundle on it. ‘Never go back’ is actually pretty cool – a fast-paced rocker that ditches the strings for the verse and actually has Evanescence sounding like a real band rather than a studio product which, ultimately is the biggest problem when listening to them – it’s hard to imagine that this anything more than the Amy Lee project orchestrated from the safety of a studio and suited, ideally, not for the live environment but for expensively shot music videos and promo shots. ‘Swimming home’ is the only song that really makes any sense of the trip-hop claims Amy made in the run up to the album’s release with its lazy beats and skittering synth. It actually works pretty well and it’s a shame the band didn’t apply such techniques more over the course of the album.
So there you have it, there’s nothing really wrong with Evanescence’s self-titled effort – but then that’s hardly a sound endorsement. My biggest problem is that they rarely sound like a band. Where’s the thrill of the playing? The danger associated with bands that tore apart studios and equipment in their quest to craft the perfect rock ‘n’ roll album? There’s no sense of abandon or resolve – everything is so tightly bound up and studio polished that it’s like looking at a manager’s idea of what a rock band should be. There are positive moments here: as far as commercially-minded rock music goes it’s far from the worst thing in the world – there are plenty of strong hooks and exciting moments on offer if you take the time to look – and it is only fair to state that Amy Lee does have a fantastic voice. But to my mind there are so many better bands out there operating on a fiftieth of a budget and making better records that I can’t really see why anyone would be rushing out to buy this… of course I’m in the minority and this album’s probably platinum already so go figure!