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Evanescence

A vehicle for louder-than-life chanter Amy Lee (also a classically-trained pianist), the aptly-named goth-metal act EVANESCENCE have proved a good bet to succeed in the fickle music biz since rising to the plate in 2003 with their smash hit, `Bring Me To Life’. Although dogged by transient personnel changes throughout the band’s lifespan, three sets: “Fallen”, “The Open Door” and “Evanescence” have topped the charts in either the US or the UK.
Formed in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1995, guitarist Ben Moody had met Amy after complementing the 13-year-old’s unique performance of MEAT LOAF’s `I’d Do Anything For Love…’ at youth camp. The budding singer-songwriter and Moody quickly formed a musical partnership, crafting their gloomy, SARAH McLACHLAN-goes-nu-metal-lite, sub-goth, pro-Christian rock. A series of limited-edition self-financed EPs proved popular at gigs and after expanding to a 3-piece – with the addition of fellow Christian David Hodges (keyboards) – EVANESCENCE recorded the “Origin” demo-CD set to sell at concerts. Featuring a handful of songs that would appear on their debut album proper, this in turn led to a major label deal with Sony subsidiary Wind Up. Although co-author Hodges bailed for Christian pastures new after laying down tracks for their debut, and drummer Rocky Gray and guitarist John LeCompt were drafted in almost immediately, the buzz for FALLEN (2003) {*7} was such that it cracked the Top 10 on its first week of release. Spurred on by the success of the aforementioned `Bring Me To Life’ single, with Paul McCoy of 12 STONES (which had previously appeared on the soundtrack to the movie, Daredevil), the album topped the charts in as many countries as one wished to name (US No.3). Incidentally, the lyrics of the song was inspired by Amy’s long-standing friend and future hubby (married in 2007), Josh Hartzler.
Showcasing Lee’s admittedly powerful vocal chops against a piano-led backdrop swathed in the usual goth fall-backs of ominous keyboards, horror film strings and operatic choirs, EVANESCENCE had now fulfilled their early promise and potential. While their chart profile remained high with attendant UK Top 10 hits, `Going Under’ and `My Immortal’, the Grammy-winning band’s stability remained volatile; no sooner had they found bassist William Boyd (who’d toured with them earlier) than Moody left abruptly, citing creative differences – the latter would subsequently be replaced by Terry Balsamo (ex-COLD).
Amy, meanwhile, occupied herself with a SEETHER collaboration (her beau at the time was singer Shaun Morgan) on the Top 20 hit, `Broken’. Keeping product in the shops (and the US Top 40 through Wal-Mart), EVANESCENCE released the obligatory stop-gap CD/DVD, ANYWHERE BUT HOME (2004) {*6}. Although there was no sign of a B-side cover of NIRVANA’s `Heart-Shaped Box’, a rendition of KORN’s `Thoughtless’, brought attention for the Parental Advisory authorities who didn’t think to thump a “sticker” on the package – one rule for Christians then!
As if cursed for the band’s goth-metal stance, delays for the band’s sophomore set – on top of the departures of Moody and Boyd to contend with there was a stroke for Balsamo and a change-over of managers – was put aside when comeback single, `Call Me When You’re Sober’ (a dig at her ex, Morgan), rocketed into the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. Mixed reviews for THE OPEN DOOR (2006) {*5} mattered not for their multitude of fans who helped catapult the rather average set to the top of the charts. Derivative and deeply doom-laden, the TORI AMOS-esque Lee and her pensmith-pal Balsamo churned out run-of-the-mill symphonia like there was no tomorrow – it was a goth thing. But for `Sweet Sacrifice’, `Lithium’, `Good Enough’ and a loyal and sentimental fanbase, the set might’ve hit the bargain bins sooner rather than later. Note too, that Tim McCord was drafted in to complete their promotional tour.
Once again, a drastic cull was unavoidable when Gray duly quit after the firing of LeCompt, their respective berths taken by Will Hunt and Troy McLawhorn. Dispensing with high-profile producer Steve Lillywhite, and enlisting fresh knob-twiddler Nick Raskulinecz, Lee, Balsamo and Co finally delivered album number three, EVANESCENCE (2011) {*6}. Pulling off another platinum-selling set after five years away was no mean feat, and with the yearning, nocturnal grime of `What You Want’, `My Heart Is Broken’ and `The Change’, the cathartic outfit – a metal BJORK-meets-MADONNA anyone? – were still on track.
In November 2015, former stroke patient Balsamo bailed; replaced by German rhythm guitarist Jen Majura (born Jennifer Majura Indrasen). Enthusiastic long-serving devotees of EVANESCENCE anticipating a set of off-the-peg pieces would be disappointed when SYNTHESIS (2017) {*6} was nothing more than symphonic and stringed re-treads of earlier cuts. Nevertheless, the theatrical arrangements of Amy’s “Phantom Of The Opera”-like `Bring Me To Life’, `The End Of The Dream’, `Never Go Back’ and subsequent single, `Hi-Lo’ (ft. Lindsey Stirling), still managed to find an audience to propel the record into the Top 10.
© MC Strong 2004-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Nov2013-Nov2017

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