Release Date: October 11, 2011
After a five-year long hiatus that kept fans jonesing for more, the female-fronted powerhouse Evanescence finally released their third album in late 2011. This band, originally from Little Rock Arkansas, but now consisting of members from all over the United States including Florida and California, this quintet has made quite the name for themselves with this album cycle. Lead guitarist Troy McLawhorn (ex-Dark New Day, ex-Seether) and drummer Will Hunt (ex-Eye Empire, ex-Dark New Day, ex-Black Label Society) have joined the band as full members along with guitarist Terry Balsamo, bassist Tim McCord, and Amy Lee-Hartzler (vocals, piano, harp) to form the current line-up for Evanescence.
You may be wondering, if this is the third album by the band, why is it self-titled? When questioned about this, Lee stated that this is the first album that she really feels is a group collaboration and that each and every member has brought something to the tracklist. It’s the first time that Lee is actually writing with a group instead of her usual solo or one-on-one writing style as was the previous method for Fallen and The Open Door. Lee thinks that this is the album most like the true style of Evanescence, so she thought it only fitting. Another fitting thing was the first single chosen to break the silence from this band, titled “What You Want.” Lee calls the song “fun” and it is the perfect song to get you amped up and excited for the return of this phenomenal band back to the spotlight. Will Hunt’s booming drums lead off the first single in five years with a mantra of “do what you want,” this song is about freedom and Lee realizing that Evanescence is what she wants to do and what she’s always wanted to do. Fully packed with powerful vocals, epic piano, and heavy guitars by Balsamo and McLawhorn and ending with tons of cymbal from Hunt and a fading out of Lee with the original mantra to really drive the meaning of the song home, there isn’t a better first single on the album.
If you’re looking for a song to get you through a tough break-up, look no further than track number two and “Made of Stone.” Lee’s strong electronic influences from when she first began working on the record include Bjork, Massive Attack, and Portishead and are really shown in this song with the synth-keyboard sounds throughout. The piano preceding the bridge has almost a dream-like quality to it, while the chugging riffs of the three guitarists match up with the tom slams of Hunt to really get your adrenaline pumping through the song. “Made of Stone” is really a great “screw you” anthem, just like we’ve previously seen in “Call Me When You’re Sober” from The Open Door, their sophomore album that says “I’m not gonna play your game anymore.”
Lee was very highly influenced during the writing process of this record by natural disasters and other monumental events that impacted her life during the recording period. One of these events included the time she and husband Josh Hartzler spent with the organization Restore NYC, a group that helps victims of sex trafficking. The second single from this album, “My Heart Is Broken,” was actually written about this experience, though the title implies that the song is about heartbreak and it is, just a different sort. Lee wanted to write something for them that helped to convey what she thought it felt like to be trapped and alone in the horror some of these people were going through. Originally, the piano part of this song was written on harp by Lee, but as the song progressed and the boys came in, it became faster and faster, so Lee decided to go with the more powerful instrument of the piano for the melody, bringing this song to be a strong, melodic piano ballad; this album’s “My Immortal,” if you will. This song begins with Lee’s soft, angelic voice accompanied by a piano and strings until Hunt jumps in with drums and epic guitars come in not long afterwards. McCord offers great grounding in this song by playing almost exactly what McLawhorn and Balsamo are playing; a sort of light at the end of the tunnel for these trafficking victims. For the bridge, a great build-up with strings to more of the chugging of the guitars occurs and leads back to Amy and her piano singing the song title and chorus before the rest of the band jumps back in to finish the track.
One of the main themes of this album is the acceptance of death and moving on from it to something better and exactly what that something is, depends on the listener. For Lee though, that something begins to take shape via track five of Evanescence. “The Other Side” is a band favorite, not only on the record, but to perform live as well. As previously stated, this song is about death, but not necessarily the mourning of the loss, it focuses more on the celebration of the life aspect and being united once again later on. It seems to take the previously released “Together Again” and elaborate on “The Other Side” of that song. This is by far the biggest showcase of talent for drummer Will Hunt on the record. With no set rhythm pattern throughout and the repeated seven bass pedal rapidfires, there is no question of Hunt’s talent as a drummer here. McLawhorn and Balsamo follow suit with the guitars going in the same staccato succession as Hunt and McCord brings it all together nicely on bass with a few points throughout where only he can be heard playing the rhythm, namely right before the bridge. This song is both beautiful and dramatic and Lee’s vocals just amplify that tone. When Lee comes in with piano in the bridge, the song seems to raise to the borderline of this otherworldly place where the band is trying to find. At the end of the bridge, Lee sings alone with her piano and some strings, then the rest of the band comes back in to finish the descent of this track.
Single number three is “Lost In Paradise” a song that seems to be about Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. Not only is the title eerily similar, but Lee sings of how “we’ve been falling for all this time, and now I’m lost in paradise,” a large motif from the work. The first half of the song features Lee with piano and strings in order to capture your attention and keep you in an entranced state with her angelic voice and piano melodies, much like Satan as the snake in the poem. This is a slightly softer song than on the rest of the album, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still rock. “Lost In Paradise” is the most intimate and emotional track for Lee and the one where she feels most vulnerable, because she is sort of apologizing to the fans for being gone for so long and taking so long to realize that Evanescence is what she really wants to do with her life. It seems to be a sort of prequel to “What You Want.”
One of the strongest songs on the record comes in number eight, “Sick.” This song has a very electro/synth beginning and builds up to Troy and Terry playing a dual melody on guitars and Hunt going down the line of toms on drums. When Lee comes in, her voice is almost haunting along with the instruments. The song amps up for the chorus and Lee’s “Sick of it all, sick of it all!” chant makes you want to throw your fist up in the air to accompany her and the beat. After the first chorus, the instruments settle back down to the original haunting melody and you can hear Tim along with the lower register of Terry and Troy. The song continues to rise and fall throughout, however, the bridge seems to rise even higher than the rest and fall even lower afterwards with just Lee screaming the “sick of it all” anthem between instruments, sending chills down your spine, making this track a real roller coaster of emotion for the audience and band alike.
The second half of the Deluxe Edition of Evanescence begins with “End of the Dream,” a song about not fearing death and living your life to the fullest while you still can. McCord shines the most in this song, where he can be heard almost solely throughout, providing the back beat and foundation for the song. Hunt rides the cymbals on this song and Lee plays high notes on the piano periodically, keeping a dream-like quality for these four minutes. The bridge seems like a constant barrage of bass pedal and chugging guitars that emulates the many life experiences that make the adrenaline course through our veins; this same method of play is used to end the song as well, indicating that there will be one event in our life that will be so powerful and heart stopping that it will lead us to the “End of the Dream” as it has here.
Another very powerful track is number ten on the album, “Oceans.” This song leads with a low synth and the sound of Amy’s voice that will cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end. Hunt’s snare grabs you by the lapel and slams you into McLawhorn, McCord, and Balsamo’s heavy guitars. After the first chorus, McCord is very prominent in the song and seems to be creating a sort of rippling wave effect by going up and down the neck of the bass guitar. This song is as big as the ocean itself that inspired a sort of theme for Lee on this record.
More of the nature of events surrounding the recording of this record comes in track eleven. Lee wrote “Never Go Back” about the earthquakes and tsunami that occurred in March 2011 in Japan and about losing all you have and having no control over it. Very strong and empowering though, despite the depressing tone, this is one of the harder songs on the record, possibly to show how difficult it was for the victims of these natural disasters to make it through. This is another track where McCord is one of the forerunners from start to finish. In between Terry and Troy coming in periodically during the verses, it is Tim that plays the majority of the melody during this song with Hunt to keep time. Bass pedal and cymbals dominate during the chorus, as seems to be Hunt’s style in this record. Just about midway through the song, Lee breaks it down with a little piano solo while the boys play along with some of the key chords. When the band builds up after this brief drop, it seems to be the point in the song where the massive tsunami wave is forming until it crashes with the final chorus of the song and washes away with the ending of this track. “Swimming Home” is the calm after the storm that comes with “Never Go Back.” This is the first track on the album (and the only on the Standard Edition) to include Lee on harp, which she learned not too long before this record. This track also seems to have the most electronic influence. These elements coupled with Lee’s heavenly voice create a peaceful ending to the Standard Edition as well as to the life of the album. This song features McLawhorn on acoustic guitar and the first real overlaying vocals on the album. Lee questions “Do you really want me?” in the doubled vocals for the entire song and seems to be pleading with her higher power after death to take her to a better place. The bridge features Lee alone with her piano singing “I was looking to the sky, when I knew I’d be swimming home” as she comes to the realization that it is futile to struggle anymore and that it is better to just let go and let nature take its course. This song also showcases the largest range for Lee on the album. “Nothing can hold me” is the last line of this album heard by Standard Edition holders and it commands a sort of power for Lee and the band as well, leaving a bit of unknown as to which road the next album is going to follow.
Those who decide to buy the Deluxe Edition of Evanescence will get four bonus tracks, including “Say You Will” at number fourteen. The fastest paced track on the album, this song just makes you want to jump in your car and speed down the highway. The intro guitar riff is accompanied by sporadic piano notes and a cymbal roll that ends with the rest of the band coming in to Lee’s “It’s taking you too long to decide and I don’t want to be the one crying over wasted time.” During the chorus, Lee plays high notes on the piano to add to the heart in your throat theme of the song along with questions of “Is this real, is this real?!” The rhythm never slows down for this song, kind of like the way Evanescence has never stopped being a force to be reckoned with in the rock world. For the last song of the album, “Secret Door” has a big job to do and, in just under four minutes, it accomplishes the task of tying this much-anticipated third Evanescence album together nicely. It is a ballad with Amy and the harp complimented with McCord on bass and Hunt during choruses. This song strictly focuses on Lee and her talents as a singer and musician. Lee picked up the harp not long before this album was recorded and this song shows how well she has learned the instrument in such a short time. The song is very fairytale-esque and soothing. It is truly a great way to end this record. This final song of the album offers the listener a “Secret Door” of their own to walk through into a destiny that’s all their own.
From start to finish, this third studio album from Evanescence does not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. It truly is a masterpiece, as is expected by Lee and this seasoned group of musicians.