Not Bubblegum Power Pop: Blackjack Power Pop
Myriad self-contradictory elements of Evanescence and their debut full-length release, Fallen, are destined to alienate legions of potential fans. They’re a Christian-rock band. How well does that play in today’s overwhelmingly secular music scene? A Christian-rock band that, in their stand-out track “Tourniquet,” deals frankly with suicide. Did I just hear a few thousand Christian-music fans spend their money elsewhere? Add to that a talented lead vocalist, Amy Lee, going through a distinctly Goth-rocker fashion phase, orchestral arrangements not unfavorably reminiscent of Jethro Tull, and some strong piano work that harks back to Meatloaf’s heyday. It’s obvious that this Little Rock, Arkansas, quartet definitely has something different going on. And that’s another thing: Little Rock? Arkansas? When did the last rock sensation hail from Arkansas? Could it have been, way back when, Black Oak Arkansas? (Topical side note: These days, former Black Oak guitarist Harvey Jett also works in contemporary Christian music.)
Evanescence impresses most in its straight-forward layering of Ben Moody’s powerful, if relatively simple, lead-guitar work beneath Lee’s resonantly memorable vocals, stippled with a modicum of electronica-inspired sonic footnotes. Bass work is solid, just enough to put you in the occasional head-banging mood, even if you forewent that sport at your last concussion. Perhaps “Bring Me To Life” best showcases the band’s range in a tight, four-minute bundle, leading with a piano melody and Lee’s vocals, transitioning to a guitar-heavy, nicely orchestrated rock anthem featuring some of Moody’s 311-style, white-boy-metal rap, which succeeds better than you might imagine. “My Immortal” is the most balladic track on the album. Again, arrangement and orchestration are fine work; Lee shines through as usual, but she hints at greater emotional range.
Lyrically, Fallen is full of angst, but not much apathy. You’ll find this lack of attendant ennui from a relatively young band either refreshing or disappointingly uncomplicated. On an album devoid of abstract metaphor, the suicide-cocktail “Tourniquet” is perhaps the most lyrically direct. And, sometimes, things can be well conveyed in just so many words. “Tourniquet” will likely prove this band’s most controversial song; without the Christian-rock label, the track’s content wouldn’t even merit a mention.
Fallen’s production values are high, as well they should be: this isn’t the latest release from alt-rock elders Grandaddy or Coldplay. If you’re looking for the new, new lo-fi experience, look elsewhere. This is movie music. Indeed, both “Bring Me To Life” and “My Immortal” are included on the Daredevil soundtrack compilation.
In the end, Fallen is a guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, most of the album makes liberal use of the winning formula behind “Bring Me To Life.” One hopes their sophomore effort will bring extended range to their obvious talent and innovative spirit. But their debut is a guilty pleasure worth the price of admission. Don’t let the Christian-rock label scare you away.