Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Doors of Perception

Evanescence, The Open Door, Wind-up/Sony

This is probably the first and last time I'll write about a #1 record on this site. I've always been more interested in music that's off the beaten path. I doubt that will ever change. Long story short, I was asked to review The Open Door, then the offer was rescinded. Since Wind-up Records was kind enough to send me the CD, even after I let them know it was no longer necessary, I figure the least I can do is listen.

Over the years, Evanescence has been labeled both Christian and Gothic. Joy Division and Bauhaus aside, I'm a fan of neither genre, but I'm not so sure it matters. I hear more hard rock--hard piano rock, that is--on the follow-up to major label debut Fallen than anything else (that album went platinum six times over, sold 14 million copies, and garnered two Grammys). It's kind of like Sarah MacLachlan gone metal, if that makes any sense.

In the liner notes, the quartet gives shout-outs to the late Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott (Pantera), so I don't think the metal thing is all in my head. Ben Sisario, in The New York Times, describes Evanescence as a "vaguely gothic, vaguely metal band led by the elaborately coutured Amy Lee." And John LeCompt, bringer of the heavy riffs, thanks "Pastor Perry and Family Church" and "My Saviour Jesus Christ."

That's about as Christian as The Open Door gets. It doesn't mean the foursome isn't religious, but their music sounds secular. I scanned the beautifully designed lyric booklet and found more Gothic than Christian imagery, although I suppose that's a matter of perspective. In "Sweet Sacrifice," for instance, Lee sings of "burning ashes" that "blacken the day." Then in "Lithium," she reveals a desire to "stay in love with my sorrow." There's even--shades of Siouxsie--a song called "Lacrymosa." Somehow I doubt Amy Grant will be covering it anytime soon.

As I suspected, Evanescence isn't for me. Granted, I haven't heard Fallen or Origin, the demo that got the Arkansas group signed, but I doubt they'd change my mind (the line-up has altered since 1998, but I understand the basic sound has not). That said, I now have a little insight into their popularity. The Open Door has all the crunch of metal and the darkness of Goth combined with the melody and introspection of folk-pop. If that's what "the people" want, I can't really blame them. But nor can I join them.

Endnote: Programming provided by DJ Lethal...of the House of Pain. Lee thanks him for giving the record "spooky, sexy thump!" Lethal was the one non-Irish member of the LA rap trio, but he did his bit to make Gaelic hip-hop a reality. For that, he has my respect. Images from the official Evanescence website.

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