Evanescence mark their return with a baroque-inspired rethink
A lot has happened to music since Evanescence took over the charts for a record four weeks with 'Bring Me To Life' back in 2003, at a time when artists were still rewarded for asserting a degree of uniqueness. Whereas pop continues to sado-masochistically strip itself of any intelligibility it once had and with an entirely new line up in 2017 since their debut album 'Fallen' (2003), Amy Lee appears for the most part unfazed. In respect of the twofold tragedy of creative influencers Linkin Park, with the unprecedented death of Chester Bennington and a commercially contrived eighth album, it could be argued that Evanescence may be one of the last nu-metal outfits to still have a potentially universal audience at their disposal.
'Synthesis' (2017), which acquired its name from the band's stylistic amalgamation of 'past' and 'present' (Blabbermouth, 2017), is the first release since their return from hiatus in 2014; consisting of eleven reworked tracks, three interludes and two originals, with 'Imperfect' being theoretically the first original release since 'Lost in Paradise' (2012); all under an extension of their symphonic leanings with a more advanced and rhythmic electronic spine with less emphasis on guitar distortion, perhaps making the case for a comparison with 'Reanimation' (2002). Despite not being able to offer a viable contrast with 'Fallen' (2003), 'The Open Door' (2006) and 'Evanescence' (2011), it still marks a significant shift in progression from their customary symphonically enhanced gothic rock and towards the high cultured roots of neoclassicism. This is effectively showcased by 'Overture', 'Unravelling' and 'My Heart is Broken' which in particular merges itself with the glitched yet syncopated beats and Lee's contribution on the harp. 'Lacrymosa' extends this in its renewed status as a warped theatrical waltz somewhat imitating the phantom of the opera, with a ghostly theremin emitting a sense of unease and despair. Despite becoming less customary as industry practice, Lee continues to sound as alluringly possessed, haunted and pure as ever in 'The End of the Dream' with the rippling strings creating a compelling wall of sound behind her unyielding delivery; the pizzicato overlay in the breakdown post 3:30 serves well as a catharsis to consolidate this intensity.
In parts however, it has to be said that the reworked tracks sound slightly haphazard in places and inconsistent. In 'My Immortal' and the anticipated revised 'Bring Me to Life' in particular, the string arrangements come across as rather meddlesome, however this could feasibly be a case of the originals being so eloquently established in themselves, especially the minimalism in the former, that any subsequent versions can only ever be received as delineated. Although in other cases, the merging of perfectly quantified rhythmic textures and the naturally humanized orchestra, particularly in 'Never Go Back', the strings which were applied to bring out different shades of the band's inherent qualities are made to feel slightly unwelcome amongst the more undaunted metallic elements. Furthermore, being over an hour long the album also starts to sound repetitive and slightly weary and the unorthodox use of a single expletives in the closing 'Imperfection' sounds awkward in relation to the tender subjects of depression and suicide coordinating it; rather than effectively exemplifying feelings related to despair, frustration and anxiety, it comes closer to dampening the spirit that constitutes much of its appeal.
It is also slightly disappointing that Lee, in this particular instance, appears to be imitating the monotonous rap-style that millennial mass consumers have become accustomed to with Ariana Grande, which may be why 'the world's a little more f*cked up every day' sounds more ungainly than it should. The other original contribution, 'Hi-Lo', arguably makes better use of Amy's vocal talents, the bands intrinsic allure and the direction they have sought to pursue in this project as a whole. Despite sounding more like a transition that as a closed book, this album succeeds in displaying an alternate side to Evanescence's repertoire, who continue to remain a distinguished act. It is perhaps a signal that gothic-rock may be resting in Lee's emo past, but not at the expense of the sacrosanct yet mystifying spiritualism that brought her to life.