23 March 2013

Mini Shots: Evanescence


After many years of bashing them whenever I can, now is probably the time to be a bit more honest and less angry towards the band I owe so much. I have come across as a rebellious child kicking and screaming every single time I hear of Evanescence. Most of the time, my outbursts come from an irrational place. How some bands continue to get recognition despite boring both my ears off never ceases to baffle me. How some of the more interesting musicians do well enough to keep making music while others lay on their backs, basking in fame and glory while they mass produce thin-skinned balloons pisses me off.

Do I sound like a hipster? Hmm, perhaps. "I liked them before they were cool" is not a commonly used phrase, although "I liked them before they began to suck" sounds more like me. Minor technicality I guess.

In late 2006, this band saved me. An exaggeration to some, I guess, but Evanescence really did kickstart my changing preference in music. Pop lost its appeal to me at some point as it sounded very shallow. Whenever people would talk about the latest hit, all I would hear was about how the beat was awesome or the melody catchy... and that's it. Lyrics were irrelevant. The next thing the world knew, that one hit song would vanish into the trench of the lost and forgotten, never to be mentioned again. Why did such a music genre and its followers have such a short attention span? Were there any songs worth hanging onto? Apparently my dissatisfaction with what society thought was "cool" lost its appeal and I tried to find something different.

Evanescence was the first step. They were my diapers, my training wheels, my crutches... then I outgrew them. I could find new music on my own, I could try out other bikes, and I could walk without feeling intimidated. The journey was long and many changes happened, but I'm happy where I am. Now, I need to come to terms with where it all began. Hopefully, I can do this in a more mature fashion than some of my past rants.



The Early Works (Evanescence EP, Sound Asleep EP, etc.)
1995-2000

Ah, the days when I did extensive research on these guys. This definitely prepared me for other bands I found some time later, especially when I wanted to complete my music library. Looking back, this early material was pretty easy to find. Thank you evanescencereference.info for your abundance in information.

The oldest work by Evanescence is not noteworthy, but there is a nice charm to their songs. Melodramatic, long, and over-the-top? Kind of. This isn't doom metal, but many songs feel pretty drawn out. "Understanding" is the prime example of this. Listening to it now is the equivalent of watching a lone house cat with brittle bones trying to fight off a pack of food-deprived hyenas. It's just... overdramatic. The acoustic track "October" suffers from the same problem, though lacking an organ and all the theatrical sampling. On the other hand, the first EP has my favorite version of one of my most disliked Evanescence songs: "My Immortal." The piano riffs are rather choppy, but it feels less polished, though in a good way. With the lyrics being slightly different from its later versions, this felt like a brand new experience. A surprising, but welcoming change.


One song that remains dear to me, however, is "So Close". The lyrics are simplistic and vague, though a simple image of unrequited love is painted nicely. It's so innocent and bittersweet, that it appeals to the much younger kid in me who had many crushes, but never attempted to act on those feelings. "So Close" is one of the few songs that actually sounds polished enough to not be a simple demo. Although it's a shame that such a gem has not been brought to more attention, I'm just glad it was not redone as many times as poor "My Immortal."

Overall, these two EPs are not bad starts for the band. Heck, Evanescence sounds far more ready for a record deal than Lacuna Coil and My Chemical Romance with their first releases, which were unbearable listens from start to finish. As a bonus, Amy Lee's vocals were not yet towering over everything else in the song. And there was much rejoicing.


Origin
2000

A rare album indeed. Only 2500 were ever made.

One of my greatest investments ever. I bought a copy of this for $50 and it took one month for it to be shipped from... Russia? I am a hundred percent certain that my copy of this is indeed a bootleg, but it's fairly convincing. Much research has taught me what was a very convincing bootleg and a bootleg that even a blind crack addict would recognize. At the end of the day I still do not feel ripped off... although maybe I should. :/

Regardless, this is my favorite Evanescence release. Very much like the preceding EPs, many songs feel unpolished. Unlike the preceding EPs, the songs are shorter, sweeter, and more to-the-point. "Field of Innocence" can arguably be a more concise "Understanding"... but it does not change the fact that the song still makes me cry.

One of my greatest fears is losing what makes me feel like a little kid. The best way for me to channel my inner child is to squee and go insane over the next new thing I found and will spend loads of time on. When I return to it later on, I return to my reverie with a wide smile. "Field of Innocence" warned a much younger me that the adult world is much harder, scarier, and far less freeing than childhood. Talking to yourself and escaping into dreams can freak out others enough that you might get thrown into the loony bin. As a result, I still cling to my young child and refuse to let go of it as the transition into adulthood marches onward.

I could go on and on about several other tracks, but this is a "mini shots" post. Still, I can list off a few more favorites. The atmospheric "Even in Death" is a creepy, morbid song that I wish Evanescence could return to once or twice in a while. "Whisper" is not as epic here as in Fallen, but it gets a much better intro. "Lies"... is awesome. The guitar riffs. Enough said. "Eternal" is a beautiful instrumental end to a well paced and decently composed album.


"Where Will You Go" was the first Evanescence song I heard that was not from Fallen or The Open Door. Interestingly I enjoyed it a lot more than anything I previously heard from the band. Where did I first find this song? ...from a Fruits Basket anime music video on Google. It was simplistic, but pretty well put together.

Out of all of their works, this is the one album I always return to without fail. Origin never wore off me. This might be where I placed the most attachment to Evanescence, because things start to go downhill, albeit very slowly... at first. We still have the wide assortment of demos and extra versions of songs already done on the EPs and Origin!


Pre-Fallen Demos and Outtakes
2000-2003

I am basing this category on what was provided by the following link: http://evanescencereference.info/music/. One's first instinct would be to run like hell if free songs are available for download. Near the very bottom of that page is an excerpt from an interview in which Amy and Ben give permission to download any of their early demos (just buy Fallen for realz though. Common sense, I know.) This is probably when I solidified my opinion on freely downloading music online. If it is too difficult to find the original copy in stores, on iTunes, on Amazon, etc., then I might consider doing it the "illegal" way. These demos serve as an example, although the original artists granted permission, which they have not yet revoked. So, what do you think about that, world governments that want to strangle the internet with their bare hands?


Anywho, I'm off the soapbox.

No song from Fallen is brand new, which is interesting as you get to hear how each track has evolved. It's like watching someone create multiple drafts of the same idea for a research paper before turning it in. And it was a pleasure to go back and listen to what the songs from Fallen were originally like. By this point, "Whisper", "Imaginary", and "My Immortal" have four, five, or SIX versions; "Bring Me to Life", "Everybody's Fool", and "Haunted" have two. I'm not even counting their final copies! Have fun keeping track of every single song and its version! Have a ball if someone gets a demo name misspelled! "Bleed" gets hit the most with this problem: "I Must Be Dreaming" and "Bleed (I Must Be Dreaming)" are some common alternate titles.

The rest of the demos are tracks that will never see the light of day on an official CD under a record company. It's a shame, since "Surrender", "Bleed", and "Before the Dawn" can stand on their own pretty well. ...Fine, maybe a few tweaks can be made, but they're pretty decent!

There was one more EP release before Fallen, titled Mystary, which has several songs from Fallen as well as a track that did not make the final cut: "Farther Away." That and "Breathe No More", released on the Elektra soundtrack, were supposed to make the cut, but didn't for some reason. Both are great tracks worth looking into, though.


Now... at long last...


The Multi-Platinum Smash Hit
2003

Here it is... the final draft, turned in on time to the teacher with high expectations. And in the eyes of the world, Evanescence aced it. I, for once, agree. Fallen is indeed a good album, and not because of "Bring Me to Life" or "My Immortal." The entire album is well crafted. The songs are tight, the lyrical hiccups are minimal, and the melodies are catchy enough for radio listeners, yet melancholic enough for snooty hipsters like me. It's the best of both worlds.

The several of best aspects of the demos were brought into their final versions, and the band sounds professional enough to let you know they've been playing music since 1995. Those eight years really paid off for this multi-platinum hit. 17 million copies sold worldwide... and its' only a debut album... damn.

Although I prefer most of the demos, I still greatly enjoy "Going Under", "Tourniquet", "Imaginary", and "My Last Breath". They remain as favorites.


My enjoyment of the band is still pretty high at this point. Nothing has happened yet.


Anywhere But Home
2004


I confess... I only bought this for "Missing", which is a fucking depressing but beautiful song.

Commenting on how great an act Evanescence is live requires me to be there to see them. This is not enough for me to go on. All I can really say is that they are decent enough, but Amy's voice sounds quite strained at points.

Originally, I would say to get this for "Farther Away" and "Breathe No More", but with them readily available on the lovely link above, this is an album to skip. Sure, you can buy it if you are a fan of live albums, but really, this is nothing worthwhile. And download "Missing" for a buck on iTunes. There, you will not lose any sleep now.



The Open Door
2006

Although it NEEDS far more views since it remains to be the most viewed post on my blog, see my review of The Open Door for more details. In a way, I probably should have given a rank 2. Maybe because of it's 1.8, some might think it's a piece of shit, which is not true. Two songs are absolute garbage, a few are miracle gems, and the rest are just "meh".

This album just came out when I started to follow Evanescence. At the time I really enjoyed it in its entirety. The pre-Fallen demos still caught my ear more than these songs, but I still liked them. Over time, though, the album started to lose its luster. I continued listening to the older works and ended up ignoring The Open Door. When I started trying out other alternative rock bands such as Breaking Benjamin, Linkin Park, and Three Days Grace, my enjoyment of Evanescence was still pretty strong despite this album's slow descent into forgetability.


Then I discovered Lacuna Coil and the gothic metal genre: my adoration for the band changed very little. Then Evanescence goes on hiatus for a few months: I'm still hopeful. A few years pass: I'm impatient, but hanging on. Then I found Pandora Internet Radio: still little change. Months and years pass by until the final nail in the coffin.

February 14, 2010: I found HIM. With a new cool, massive library to browse through, and no updates in ages, Evanescence disappeared from my life.

They were a guide to help me find the kind of music I enjoy... And, when I did not need them anymore, I chose to move on. But I needed to hear their new album, just to make a fair, appropriate end to this relationship.

Even after waiting, I still wish it could have ended better.


The Self-Titled Album
2011

Despite being just as boring, this is nothing like A Thousand Suns. No one has managed to piss me off as much as Linkin Park. I will never forgive them for that abomination of an album and no one will ever dissuade me. Yes, Evanescence entered that ridiculously long, antisocial hiatus, and I already made my case on this. However, Amy's responses in interviews quelled my anger and I let go of the worst of my rage. They had to rewrite their material and went through many producers: that really sucks. :'(

All that's left is confusion. Mainly of why I just cannot bring myself to be cheering their return.

Evanescence... is just "meh". There are no songs I hate, but there are none I like. I feel... nothing. Some can say that is the ultimate insult to any piece of work: if you feel nothing towards it, than what is the point of its existence? Interestingly, I don't have that mindset in this case. Yet I still cannot remember what a single song sounded like. No melody, no lyric, nothing. I should be angry... but I can't. I'm just... disappointed.


I wish I could say more to be fair... but I can't.

I'm sorry.

... Pretty cover, though!


Final Notes

Looking back, I think my interest in Evanescence was strong with their early material, but not in their new work. I for some reason could not "connect" with it as much. So, yes, I did like Evanescence before they evolved. I liked them on their journey to reaching the top and when they made it. Maintaining that status is where the appeal lost me. It's like enjoying the drama in a romance leading up to when the couple gets together, but losing interest when watching the marriage years.

...Maybe I'm a reverse hipster.

Sometimes I wonder if Evanescence always had shallow music. I know I made a few comments about how Evanescence sounds like a wannabe gothic metal act, but it feels like the best way to describe them. This band is not awful, yet they sound like a processed, mass-produced imitation of a gothic metal band. They are McDonalds next to your grandmother's cooking. They are diet Coke, or Splenda to standard table sugar.


Their lyrics are vague, but simplistic. There are no heavy references to literature or films that the elite can be impressed with. Amy Lee doesn't rely on play on words, hidden meanings, or double meanings when writing her songs. Don't look forward to any intense guitar solos because Amy's singing will dominate. In fact, all the band members are practically disposable, since second founder and guitarist Ben Moody left, and everyone else cannot last long enough for you to remember their faces or names. I guess the only real props I can give to Evanescence is that Amy is a great classically trained pianist and is known for using a real piano, not a keyboard, especially when performing live.

Yes, I can accept and agree with many criticisms of this band, especially one in particular: "there are far better, more superior acts out there."

Still... they were my first real introduction to everything I listen to now. You cannot simply give a Justin Bieber fan a copy of Rammstein's Mutter and expect them to be converted. You cannot burn a fangirl's entire One Direction collection and force them to sit through a marathon of Dark Tranquility. You cannot expect someone to stop listing to Rihanna and turn to Nightwish to hear "superior" singing from Tarja Turunen or Anette Olzon.

What can you do? Start a station on Pandora, and let the site offer new suggestions. Go to other music sites and look up similar artists to one act you enjoy most. Check Youtube. Research, research, research! It took me years to get out of my music crisis. Now, I feel like I have a slightly larger pool to keep me satisfied until I run into another crisis.

I was on my own for years trying to find what I liked, and Evanescence was there with me along the way. They were my only friend during that phase. Now that I'm out of it, I can still look back fondly on them for what they did. As a reminder for what they did, I keep every single song of theirs on my iPod in case I ever need them again for a few minutes.

So, yes, I guess I'm done with Evanescence for good. I'll stick to what I like and let them move on how they want. Just... let me know if they collaborate with HIM. I might go axe crazy for all the wrong reasons...

*sigh* Looks like letting go takes a lot of time and work... I'll get there. Someday.

Until then, I leave with my favorite Evanescence song.



~ Fangirl

2 comments:

Voltech said...

Evanescence, huh...you know, I think that before this post, I've only actually heard one of their songs. A while back, I watched an AMV for the Mega Man Battle Network anime, and it had "Bring Me to Life" playing. So I can see the appeal of the group.

Then again, this is coming from someone who willingly listened to his brother's misplaced Linkin Park CD once upon a time, so I'm not exactly an authority on music.

In any case, it's interesting to see what an effect Evanescence -- or good music in general -- had on you. I can't say I know every aspect of what you've gone through, but just reading this post made me feel as if I went on a bit of a journey. Shame that the journey -- your journey -- with the group didn't last, but as they say, onward and upward.

Thanks for sharing. As for me, I think I'd better start hitting YouTube. Time to see what I've been missing out on -- for better or worse.

.:Melanie~Light:. said...

Thanks for responding. I always enjoy your feedback. :)

Oh, I'm no authority on music, either. Sadly, I have run into my fair share of music connoisseurs who insult my taste either because I come off as opinionated and rude when expressing my opinion... or they are opinionated and rude themselves. In a way, depreciating my ideas has become a defense mechanism for me.

So yes, feel free to check out some songs on Youtube! Because of how mainstream and general their appeal is, I don't mind anyone who is curious about or likes a band like Evanescence. I was there at one point, I understand completely, and I will not stop you. :)


Now that this rant is finally out of my system, for the first time in years I feel free. Maybe I should re-listen to their music for old time's sake...

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