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The Open Door

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  • After much success with their debut album, Evanescence returned with “The Open Door” amid skepticism that without founding member Ben Moody in the fray, the album could be a setup for disappointment among fans.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, for “The Open Door” if anything, is more far reaching and versatile than the tight, no nonsense approach the debut album’s overall production had surrounding it. With their sophomore effort, even Lee’s poetic and powerful vocals seem to have found new boundaries to cross as instrumentally the album also finds new horizons to reach for. With progression like this, I can only imagine what the next studio release will be like.

    Track 2 is “Call me when you’re sober” and has an awesome, driving guitar piece at the beginning of it, and coupled with Lee’s vocals seem to be a little more elongated and crooning at times which tells me right off the bat that the band seems to perhaps be breaking out of a shell of some sort. The backing vocals are done well also, giving the song a sweet combination of soothing vocals and driving guitars. Track four clocks in less than four minutes long but has a lot of staying power, as like the first album features some sweet piano parts that are backed by a haunting vocal effort by Lee. A Beautifully written song, “Lithium” is not one I will forget anytime soon. Track five is “Cloud Nine” and is crazy in the fact that at times, it sounds to me like an easy going, almost bluesy tune before implementing a ghostly, haunted house sound in the background. The band’s ability to change so much in sound within the structure of their songs and still deliver a talented performance in both vocals and instruments makes them much more than just a band of “teen angst” popularity. Track eight has a slow, somewhat ballad feel to it while track nine (Only One) is a track that showcases pretty much Lee’s beautiful voice and another nice piano opener before winding up to a grunge style guitar riff that helps finish out the song. 13 tracks in all, “The Open Door” is every bit a success for this band as their magnificent debut, and in some ways I must say I think I like it a little bit better. Strong Chorus, Melody, and varying changeups in Tempo and Rhythm are surrounded by a sometimes pensive, artful approach that overall makes “The Open Door” anything but a disappointment for this new fan.

    Posted on March 3, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I want to preface this by saying a few things: The only reason I ever checked out Fallen and Evanescence is because I was mesmerized by Amy Lee’s voice. She is perhaps the finest young singer out there today, and probably my favorite. Her tone, control, and inflections are just riveting and endlessly dramatic. However, as much as I loved Lee’s voice, Fallen – on the whole – was a VERY mediocre album. That statement alone will send 5000 Evanescence fans crying foul with “this review wasn’t helpful” votes, but hear me out:

    As good as Lee’s voice is, the majority of the music on Fallen was mostly just plain bad. Too much of it sounded like a bland Linkin Park ripoff (as if they weren’t bland enough). The sole exception being a really good drummer – the guitars and bass on Fallen were just terrible. I say this coming from a music lover’s background. Someone who feels actual music makes music good as opposed to catchiness or a good voice or lyrics. Fallen had great vocal performances in spades, and My Immortal is in my pantheon of all-time great songs. But the rest was just sub-par from a song-writing and musical standpoint.

    With all of that out of the way, I get to The Open Door. Boy, did Lee and co. surprise me with this album. I will simply say that everything is vastly improved. It’s denser and much more complex than Fallen, without losing an ounce of what made Fallen a success. That being outstanding vocal performances, and the right combination of catchy hooks and darkness. I honestly didn’t expect an album like this from Evanescence so soon – an album that will seperate the Evanescence fanboys and fangirls from those who genuinely enjoy music as art.

    Amy’s voice has actually grown in leaps and bounds since Fallen. She has learned how and when to mix her haunting, wispy vocals with her towering, belting vocals. Besides that, we have a whole new lot of inflections from Amy, including a dark and almost menacing low register. All of this is combined with perfect control and a highly dramatic delivery that brings to mind opera without being over the top. Speaking of leaps and bounds, the guitars on this album are exactly that. Gone is the puking tone from Fallen’s Ben Moody, and here is a tight, “dialed in just right” metal tone from the much more competant Terry Balsamo. Besides the tone, the interplay between the guitarists is actually pretty good. Nothing on the level of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, but still darn good for a mainstream band. On the whole, the guitars go from what was an annoyance on Fallen to genuinely enjoyable on The Open Door. The drums and bass also provide a solid backbone and a driving momentum for most of the songs. While perhaps a bit forgettable compared to the rest of the album, they’re by no means bad.

    In terms of song-writing we hear an artist learning to write multi-faceted and well structured songs that actually go somewhere. Sweet Sacrifice and Call Me When You’re Sober rock as hard as anything on Fallen, but both are exceedingly better structured with some – surprisingly – good, interlocking guitar work. The dark, haunting numbers are equally as accomplished. Lithium builds perfectly into a momentous finale with Lee’s voice looming large over the hulking guitars. Like You is as bleak as anything they’ve done. With disturbing lyrics that match the somberness of the music.

    Elsewhere, the multitude of experimentation works much more often than it doesn’t. Snow White Queen starts out as a brooding piece before bursting into one of the best choruses on the album. Lacrymosa might be THE highlight of the album. Sampling a piece from Mozart’s Requiem we hear a near brilliant fusion of dire classical and gravely gothic metal. This piece builds from just the strings of Mozart’s piece into a colossal finale with grinding, churning guitars and Amy’s soaring voice mixing with the Lacrimosa chorus creating a truly dramatic ending. Your Star begins with a eerie piano bit, before Lee enters with a ghostly like vocal. The song again builds into an excellent finale with an intricate dual piano/guitar melody.

    The last half of the album is just as rewarding as the first. This is another differing point from Fallen – which fell apart near the end. The Only One and All That I’m Living For actually match the power of the lead singles, and are perhaps even more satisfying with repeat listens. The album closes with its answer to My Immortal in Good Enough. This is a simple gem of a song. It’s not as immediately striking and memorable as My Immortal, but it’s equally as stellar. Featuring Amy Lee at her most confessional and restrained, this is a sobering and haunting song. Sounding little like Evanescence’s usual goth-metal-pop mix, this song bears more resemblence to R&B. In truth, this is as soulful a song as I’ve heard in a long time, and as good a vocal performance as I’ve ever heard.

    The Open Door is not all premium material though, with a few generic numbers. Weight of the World just can’t match the power of the opening songs. Cloud Nine and Lose Control are also rather drab and one dimensional. This would’ve likely been a stronger album if those songs were cut, trimming the album from 13 to 10 songs. These few minor grievances cannot detract from what is still a marvelous album. Compared to Fallen, I was surprised by how much better this album got with repeated listens, which is likely due to it being much more subtle and intricately structured. Another highlight is the outstanding production that allows the details (and Amy’s voice) to shine. This album sounds absolutely magnificant on my high end audio system, and is one of my favorites to listen to because of it.

    Now, compared to bands like The Gathering and Lacuna Coil, Evanescence still has a ways to go. But as a mainstream band trying to fuse pop and gothic metal, they succeed admirably. What we end up with is an album that fulfills the potential shown on their debut, while still hinting that perhaps even better things are to come. I will say that this is an album that uber-fans of Fallen might not easily get into and like (as shown by the polarizing reviews on Amazon). But I extremely respect Amy Lee for delivering a truely dark, confessional album with many musical highlights rather than a banal remake of Fallen. If I only enjoyed Fallen because of Lee’s vocals, I truly enjoy every aspect of The Open Door – from the vocals to the music and arrangements to the production. And that’s as high a compliment as I can give this album.

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • 3 1/2 half years, and Ben Moody-less later, Evanescence delivers the follow up to their debut “Fallen.” “The Open Door” sees the band adapting a few new sounds, but staying firmly rooted in the sound that brought them to worldwide fame. Amy Lee has always been Evanescence, but with Moody gone, she really takes over. She’s definitely the driving force behind The Open Door, and that makes for a record that is her vision. At first I considered the Open Door a sophomore slump, as the first few times through there were only a handful of songs I liked, and none of them grabbed me like say Bring Me To Life, or My Immortal. But thankfully repeat listens did wonders for me and the album, and I now feel it is even better on an overall level then Fallen. The album has some misses, but it has mostly hits. I think it has somewhat of a subtle feel to it, in that the quality of many of the songs doesn’t unravel until you give a lot of attention to them. Overall I think Evanescence delivers a solid sophomore set. If you like the band for Fallen, give this a chance and you shouldn’t have much to complain about.

    Song reviews:
    1. Sweet Sacrifice-The best comes first. This is my favorite off of the Open Door. It was one of the only songs I immediately liked on first listen, and repeat listens just made it better. Catchy guitars, hooks, and melancholy lyrics add together to make one of the overall best songs the band has, not to mention a surefire future hit single. 10/10

    2. Call Me When You’re Sober-The first single, and a song that deals with Amy’s ex boyfriend, Shaun Morgan of Seether, and his drug/alcohol problems. A decent song, but a FAR stretch from the first single off Fallen, Bring Me to Life. Something like Lithium or Sweet Sacrifice would have been much better first singles. Unlike the majority of the songs on The Open Door this one has a very short appeal, and it won’t take long to get tired of it. 7.5/10

    3. Weight of the World-This song has catchy verses, while delivering a chorus that is mediocre at best. The first time I listened I was expecting it to dive into some big catchy chorus similar to Going Under from Fallen, but then it totally underperforms with a snooze fest chorus that contains similar lyrics to CMWYS’ chorus. Just decent. 7/10

    4. Lithium-The second single from the album, and my 3rd favorite. The song is one of the best songs on the album, and it really has great lasting appeal. The song seems to be about Amy’s struggle with being happy, and her voice really soars here. This will be a huge hit. 10/10

    5. Cloud Nine- Evanescence gives us their “Haunted” for this album, with a spooky and gothic feel that grabs you and doesn’t let go. It’s a song that I can’t seem to get out of my head. Love the verses, and bridge especially. 9/10

    6. Snow White Queen-Here’s where some of those new sounds I referred to come in. Some where between goth rock and tecno, Snow White Queen is a tale about a stalker and his victim. Creepy and weird, my initial reaction was that I hated it, but repeat listens have made me think different. The song has its own unique flair, and I appreciate the band for experimenting. 7.5/10

    7. Lacrymosa-Borrowing from the classic Mozart song, but adding plenty of their own flare, Lacrymosa is another one that shines on The Open Door. The song is one that really demands you listen to it as soon as it starts. Haunting, beautiful, melodic, and soaring vocals make this song so great. 9.5/10

    8. Like You-Similar to Hello from Fallen, in that it’s about Amy’s deceased sister. The lyrics are heartfelt, but I would have to put this as one of the misses on the album. It’s very boring as a song, and just won’t grow on me. 6/10

    9. Lose Control-Probably my least favorite. Despite some clever lyrics, the song drags, and is too forgettable. 5.5/10

    10. The Only One-Another one that’s just OK. It’s starting to grow on me, but it just seems like a filler track. 6/10

    11. All That I’m Living For-This would have been right at home on Fallen. Great all around song, and I could see it as a future single. 8.5/10

    12. Your Star- This has to be the most underrated song on the album. Pretty much every review I’ve read of the Open Door seems to just kind of ignore this song. That’s a shame, because I think if you give this song a chance it’s one of the band’s best. For me it is the only song that gives Sweet Sacrifice competition for best song of the album. The verse starts off slow, building into a chorus that is a lot better then you first realize. The song is very deep as well. Even though I doubt it will ever happen, I would love to see this as a future single, just for the exposure. 10/10

    13. Good Enough- Amy had already hyped this song awhile back, and called it the big ballad, only this time it was a happy ballad. So I kind of drew expectations that this would be the big OMG!, My Immortal song of the album. So when I first heard it I was extremely disappointed that it clearly wasn’t. I quickly wrote it off, and didn’t listen for awhile. Thankfully I came back, and like many songs on the album it took repeat listens for me to appreciate it. Although it is far from My Immortal, or far from the best song on the album, it is still a good song. Amy’s vocals again steal the show, and a happy song is something that’s nice to hear from Amy. Good closer. 7.5/10

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Evanescence has been through a lot since its major label debut “Fallen” rocked the charts in 2003. Songwriter/guitarist Ben Moody departed from the band on account of personal and creative differences with lead singer Amy Lee and has since moved on to work with other artists (Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson), and Lee herself has been at the heart of a well-publicized sexual harassment lawsuit. At long last, however, the band’s long-anticipated “The Open Door” has arrived, having debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts.

    While Lee is flanked by talented musicians, she is now the indisputable centerpiece of the band, which was inevitable from the beginning. She wrote all the tracks either solo or in tandem with the band’s new guitarist, Terry Balsamo, and staking a clear assertion of independence. From her impassioned vocals to her forthright lyrics, it is clear to see she has a lot to get off her chest.

    Lead single “Call Me When You’re Sober” seems at once like yet another Kelly Clarkson radio hit, but this actually works well, striding the line between catchy pop and mainstream rock. Constant airplay has not diluted the song’s appeal as it continues to air out Lee’s frustrations with Shaun Morgan, her ex-boyfriend and lead singer of rock band Seether. “Lithium,” the second single, channels Sarah McLachlan with piano/vocal simplicity before the guitar riffs surge, beckoning the psychiatrist’s couch with its deep, dark gloom.

    The album’s opening track, “Sweet Sacrifice,” however, is extremely radio friendly, with a downright awesome hook and sharp lyrics to boot. Meanwhile, the lower-key duo of “Your Star” and “Like You” ruminates with such cryptic observations (“I’d like to be like you/Lie cold in the ground like you”) that comparisons to the psyche of Emily Dickinson would be justified.

    Elsewhere, “Weight of the World” paves the path for a new future, finding Lee declaring “I won’t be held down by who I used to be,” while “Snow White Queen” recounts sexual abuse.

    “You belong to me/My snow white queen/There’s nowhere to run, so lets just get it over/Soon I know you’ll see/You’re just like me/Don’t scream anymore my love, `cause all I want is you.”

    The album concludes starkly with “Good Enough,” finding Lee at her most vulnerable as she puts her guard down, declaring “I’ve completely lost myself and I don’t mind/I can’t say no to you.”

    Listeners who enjoyed “Fallen” will by more than pleased with “The Open Door.” The songwriting might not be as refined with Lee steering the ship almost entirely on her own, but she more than compensates for it with ardor and artistic devotion.

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Major success is a tough act to follow. Selling 6 million copies of its first major label studio album, Fallen, and delivering the mega hits “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal”, Evanescence and front-woman Amy Lee return with the hard charging new album, The Open Door. Despite Ben Moody’s acrimonious departure, Terry Balsamo has made a great songwriting pair with Lee. Drawing its strength from hard guitar riffs and Lee’s soaring voice, the record offers quite a few nuggets of pure rock bliss, enough to get your head banging and your stereo blasting.

    Opening track “Sweet Sacrifice” flat out rocks, its thundering guitars matching perfectly with Amy Lee’s towering voice. “Call Me When You’re Sober” is an wonderfully angry song with dual guitars trading rhythm and melody lines. “Weight of the World” is a fast paced rocker that isn’t too distinctive. “Lithium” is a nice piano ballad with strings showcasing Amy Lee’s vocal and lyrical range. “Snow White Queen” is chaotic and disorganized, but the classically influenced “Lachrymosa” is fantastic, a bizarrly fascinating mix of strings, guitar, piano, and choir that just flat out soars. This song would be a perfect addition to any soundtrack.

    “Like You”, a mid-tempo piano-based track, smartly keeps the guitars in the back of the mix until the crescendo. “Weight of the World” and “Cloud Nine” are solid up-tempo rockers laced with grinding guitar work while “All That I’m Living For” and “Good Enough” are more piano-based emotional tracks. “Lose Control” has a dark piano melody that bursts into crunching guitar on the chorus. “The Only One” is a dark ode that is one of the strongest songs on the album emotionally.

    Strongly produced to take full advantage of Lee’s towering voice, The Open Door is full of growling guitar riffs and emotive piano melodies. The songwriting is solid, and in some cases, exceptional. The loss of Ben Moody is more than made up by the songwriting team of Lee and Balsaro, and this album is one sure to please Evanescence fans and make some converts with some of the singles. Recommended.

    A.G. Corwin
    St.Louis, MO

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now