Sound: Amy Lee began recording this self-titled album in 2009 with producer Steve Lillywhite with a release expected in late 2010. Amy later dropped Lillywhite as the producer stating that he was not the right fit and started over with producer Nick Raskulinecz. After dropping Lillywhite, Amy Lee left the studio and worked with the band to rewrite the album, and while keeping some of the same songs they were reworked with the band. The album that would have released under Steve Lillywhite's watch would have been an album of songs written exclusively by Steve Lillywhite and would have been heavy with solely acoustic arrangements. The album that was released under Nick Raskulinecz shows Amy Lee co-writing the songs with the band as a cohesive unit, and while retaining the Evanescence Sound', it is also bringing in elements that are only possible with a band writing together.
Amy Lee has stated that the album is a statement about her falling back in love with the band itself and greater collaboration as a band than in her previous releases as Evanescence. Guitarist Troy McLawhorn has returned to the fold, which is a good sign in and of itself. This album could best be described as goth rock with elements of nu metal and a lot of electronic and string instrumentation added in for an almost chamber pop feel to it. While in the past the instrumentation was almost solely used for creating the right atmosphere to act as scenery for Amy Lee's voice, the instrumentation has taken a more important role having interesting elements of its own. Also, on this album there is now some harp added in, which is played by Amy Lee. Probably about half the songs are heavier, with good riffs and guitar lines, and a few simple yet effective guitar solos. The other half of the songs is more electronica or acoustic (with piano and/or harp as the main instrumentation). As a side bit of trivia, I have read that Kelly Clarkson has been making statements about wanting to do a duet with Amy Lee after hearing her single What You Want'. That would be interesting if it ever happens.
I am reviewing the Deluxe Edition of the album which has 16 tracks and clocks in at just over an hour. The standard edition has 12 tracks and I would seriously recommend getting the deluxe instead as the bonus songs added New Way to Bleed', Say You Will', Disappear' and Secret Door' are solid tracks. Secret Door', while being a more acoustic track with a lot of harp, is one of my favorite tracks from the album. Really, the sound and instrumentation on the album is eclectic enough to remain pretty interesting throughout. // 7
Lyrics: Amy Lee's voice is as phenomenal as it has always been. Before moving forward with this section of the review, I want to say that my brother who is much more a fan of Amy Lee's voice than of Evanescence as a band says he feels like her voice is mixed too low and the music is too busy during a lot of her vocal parts, which I don't agree with. If you are primarily a fan of Amy Lee's voice, you may feel the same as my brother. I personally feel the music and her voice have found a really good balance on this album better than on past releases. The music manages to really help her voice shine and her vocal parts add value to the song as a whole. Amy Lee has stated in interviews that she did her vocals last during the recording of the album, as many parts on the album were very difficult to accomplish vocally. Well, the vocals really turned out pretty good.
The lyrics are about the Ocean, being broken, and relationships (love songs), which is fairly normal faire for Evanescence with the addition of the Ocean as a theme in the song Oceans'. Amy Lee has stated a lot of the lyrics are like a love song to the band and to her fans, and the album's material is predominantly based on her relationship with Evanescence as a band. Really, listening to the album as a whole I feel like most of the songs are about Amy Lee working out her own self worth and identity. The lyrics from What You Want' start out Do what you, what you want / If you have a dream for better / Do what you, what you want / 'Til you don't want it anymore'. The lyrics from My Heart Is Broken say I will never find a way to heal my soul/ And I will live 'til the end of time/ Torn away from you/ My heart is broken'. Talking about the song End of the Dream', which seems to be a contemplation of mortality, Amy Lee has said 'It's about understanding that this life isn't forever, and how you have to live it, embrace even the pain, before it's all over. As much as it hurts, it just means you're alive. So don't be so afraid to get hurt that you miss out on living.' // 9
Overall Impression: There are five or six songs on here that really stand out, and then the rest while they seem pretty solid just kind of take a place in the background to me. My favorite songs on the album are Sick', What You Want', Made of Stone', Never Go Back' and Secret Door'. I really enjoy the direction that Evanescence seems to be going as far as becoming more of a band. I do enjoy Amy Lee's voice, but I enjoy it much more in the context of a well put together band. I will put a few of the tracks off the album on my mp3 player, but I do think it is worthwhile to purchase the whole album instead of just buying up the most interesting tracks. I would like to see the next release come sooner, and I would like to see the next album be an even more collaborative effort than this release. This self titled release by Evanescence' won't make my top 3 releases in 2011, but may make it in my top ten. // 7
- Brandon East (c) 2011