REVIEW: EVANESCENCE – “Synthesis”
In the alternative metal scene, Evanescence has been an important band, especially at the end of the 90’s, occupying the highest positions in the American and European charts. I personally trained a lot on their songs as Amy Lee’s vocals were amazing amongst all the female metal voices in the scene. However, since then, other genres garnered most of my attention till I rediscovered them in 2011.
In their new album Synthesis, released on Nov. 10, 2017, they introduce new variations with an orchestra and mix old and new songs that run smoothly amongst each other. The orchestral backdrop gives even more extension to Amy Lee’s voice, which is still the core element of the band.
Other things to notice are, firstly, the arrival of Jen Majura in the band in 2015 and then that this new studio album version gives us a chance to discover the band on another way, with less guitars.
The album opener “Overture” starts with a very nice piano intro where the strings/chords give amplitude and an immediate progression feeling to reach the powerful phrasing of Amy Lee singing “Never go back”, a song from eponym ‘Evanescence’ album where there were hard-rock guitars, only now replaced in this album by electronic sounds, piano and strings which come back regularly on the album to land like autumn leaves on a grass full of mud. That helps vocalist, Amy Lee to denounce the lost love feeling. The way she sings is deeper and more authentic, despite those five years dealing with being a mother, she came back with a wonderful voice. “It’s all gone”, but not for Amy Lee, this version of that song is amazing. “Hi-Lo” has more electro-industrial elements mixed with the piano, the angelic vocals and the orchestral chords. I can almost think about “Bring me to life” song sound somehow. Voice reverbs and folksy violins help create a progressive sound where the vocals supplicate and run through to you inducing goosebumps!
We go back to the 2011 ‘Evanescence’ album with “My Heart is broken” where the guitars are not part of this studio version, but are replaced by electronic elements. The swing of the vocals is raised by the orchestral strings and the keyboard bell sounds announce the next track coming from the 2006 ‘Open door’ album, “Lacrymosa”. The main phrasing invites you to be yourself: “I can’t change who I am”, and the violins cry on it while the electronic beats get bigger.
And again a perfect introduction to another ‘Evanescence’ album song, “The end of the dream” revisited with electro elements, keyboard bells and acoustic Amy Lee’s vocals, which let us enter her dream where we can imagine her hiking aimlessly through the woods where she has to “follow her heart” to reach the “end of the dream”.
Nothing to say about the production of Synthesis album, whether the songs are new or sometimes coming from different albums, they perfectly fit together.
While listening to “Bring me to life (Synthesis)”, a song taken from Evanescence’s first album ‘Fallen’, it felt like a remixed version of the original. However, then I reflected on the progressive explosion of the strings/chords and the electronic beats and it seems they wanted to get a more industrial and progressive sound, which can be said about the whole album. Well, it’s a good track for the younger generation to get to know better about the tracks that made Evanescence reach the top of the charts back in the day. This song got the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2004 and also became the main track in the Daredevil movie soundtrack!
On that version of “Bring me to life”, the drums are unforgettable, the last chorus gives them a large space and the cymbals gives even more sweep to that song.
High vocals at the end with a suspended “MI” that leads to the violins-piano interlude of the “Unravelling”, which is the perfect break at the middle of this new album. The violins make your mind fly to outer space, and then you violently hit back to the floor with the electronic beats giving power to Amy Lee’s vocals with another version of “Imaginary”, again from the ‘Fallen’ album. That song has always been one of my favorites from the band, and I might say I prefer that prog version over this new one.
Maybe you will remember “Secret door” also from the 2011 ‘Evanescence’ album which was already orchestral. This version is very similar to its first version, with the electronic sounds amplified. Again, Amy Lee’s voice is deep. Nonetheless, this song didn’t interest me much on the new album.
The new version of “Lithium” from the 2006 ‘Open door’ album is great. I still got goosebumps while Amy Lee pushes her very touching “Don’t let it go”. They have created a dreamy atmosphere with bells, deep and close-to-perfection vocals which leads us to “Lost in Paradise” from 2011 ‘Evanescence’ album. Soft vocals, that lightly brush your skin and when their vocalist says “I have nothing left” and brings us again to a violin prelude, the prog sound comes back to emphasize the phrasing “now lost in paradise”. The refrain is nonetheless still powerful and perfect to get to the old one. The vocals on “Your star”, coming from the same album, break our heart (for good!) from the very beginning. A particular swing I would say, and her “LA” which comes very high followed by a piano phrasing, and the go-back-and-forth of the chords and electronic elements giving that song an epic ending.
And if the coffee was too strong till now, out comes a natural sweetener, the new version of another famous ‘Fallen’ track “My Immortal”.
I was used to the strong guitars from the original version, but this orchestral version makes the vocals even more powerful, deeper and surely with more light. Listening to it, my legs were trembling indicating the onset of goosebumps. We still have all of you Amy Lee, no doubt! Hats off to Amy! This version really made me dreaming for real!
“The In-between (piano solo)” is another interlude, a piano piece of art that makes us enter almost immediately with the first hit of this album called “Imperfection”, which they decided to keep it at the end of the record. “Imperfection” is indeed a very good résumé-song of the actual and future glimpse of Evanescence. At the end of the 90’s, there were considered almost a hard-rock band and they are now evolving towards a more industrial-prog sound having a more powerful voice. Despite their personal businesses to cope with in the last 3-5 years, the band makes a great harmonic-melodic ensemble.
The presence of Amy Lee in the band is a precious asset, however, it seems that their previous hard rock sound is completely absent on their studio sound. I personally think I will rush to check out the ‘Synthesis’ European Tour dates without a doubt. They will probably provide a more guitar-focused sound on stage that will surely be breathtaking.