The question about which musical category Evanescence belongs in—rock, alternative rock, gothic metal, arena rock, piano rock, Christian rock—has been an ongoing debate. They don’t seem to fit neatly into any of these categories, probably because they are a mixture of all of them.

To sum up their biggest problem, think back to when you last ordered from a fusion restaurant (Indian-Chinese, for example) and the food was almost good, except for one little element that made the whole thing unsavory. In certain instances it could be the overbearing sauce or an undercooked shrimp, but in the case of Evanescence, the tainted ingredient is Amy Lee’s voice.

That’s not to say that Amy has a bad set of pipes—she would fare pretty well on Broadway or in Disney cartoons. It’s just that every time an Evanescence song comes on the radio, the music seems innovative and well crafted, until Amy takes a breath and starts singing. Her emoting vocals dominate every song, to the point where she is little more than the Jessica Simpson of hard rock.

The parallel is apparent on their new album, The Open Door. It seems that guitarists John LeCrompt and Terry Balsamo, bassist Tim McCord, and drummer Rocky Gray are aching for a more hardcore product, but with Amy’s hand placed firmly on their creative crotch, it just doesn’t happen. This is especially true when there are four Amy’s singing on every song, belting out words from her bottomless lungs. If this record was released with just the music and no vocals—or with someone else singing—it would be a delight.

At this point, the CD lacks an obvious break-out single. Which one is the next “Bring Me To Life” or “Going Under”? If I had to guess, I’d say the opening track “Sweet Sacrifice” and the second track “Call Me When You’re Sober” are the most radio-friendly (even though I imagine Amy making out with Nick Lachey under a waterfall in the videos, but I think someone else already did that). Those are the only songs that don’t excruciatingly wane after a minute.

As for the worst song on The Open Door, it’s a toss up between “Lacrymosa” with its abominable choir and the obnoxious “Lose Control,” which features Amy crying for about five minutes. My best advice is to skip those tracks, or just close this door all together.

Now I’m quite aware of Evanescence’s prior success with Fallen, which sold 14 million copies worldwide; with such high fan anticipation for this one, it shouldn’t do much worse. But to cast my vote in the everlasting debate, I think they are best labeled as family friendly rock. Just remember kids, if you purchase the latest hip CD and your mom sings along to it on the way to soccer practice, then something is seriously wrong.

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