I like Evanescence, even though it's not the fashionable thing to do among metal cognoscenti. What's important to note here is that I've never seen them as a metal band, even if they added some metallic crunch to their gothic tinged alternative rock sound, and that what pissed me off in their massive hit, Bring Me to Life, was the rap line they added to the chorus. Sure, it helped them crack the big time and I'm happy for that, but the demo version doesn't have that and it's better for that. Both these points have meaning here and I'll explain why.
While I've always been a little bitter that the trendy rap bit meant that Evanescence got the success that Lacuna Coil deserved, I'm not letting that thought define me for eighteen years. The reason that I mention it is because, once they broke the mainstream, they ditched that angle and it's nowhere to be found on this album. So anyone who doesn't want to hear that doesn't have to worry about it. This can safely stand or fall on its own merits, outside of any flirtations with trendiness.
Well, mostly. It became obvious pretty quickly that the best songs here are the more overt pop songs. Every time I hear Evanescence, they reinforce to me that they really don't need to the metal aspects, because it really isn't what they do. They're a damn good pop band who are still somehow pretending to be a metal band because, I don't know, it lends them street cred or something. Amy Lee has a voice that could sing metal, but that doesn't mean that they're a metal band. Don't look at them that way and they'll likely improve in your eyes.
It was Yeah Right that underlined that for me here. There are some interestingly powerful drums on Broken Pieces Shine, the first song proper after the decent intro, Artifact/The Turn, and some neatly resonant bass on The Game is Over, but these songs are heavy without ever being heavy metal. After those two, Yeah Right shone out for me with its teasing pop sensibilities. And other songs underlined it further. Wasted on You sounds to me like Emilie Autumn singing Creep by Radiohead and whatever crunch is there really doesn't matter. My brain was stripping it away and listening to the pop cover as it played.
And, as the album runs on, I found myself doing that often. Whenever a song brought in a quirky pop element, my brain automatically applied the de-crunch filter to hear what it would sound like deep in its essence. The clockwork that kicks off Better without You echoes Emilie Autumn's quirky steampop and the song should have carried on in that vein. Except the crunch shows up to hide it because that's what it's apparently supposed to do. There's a neat Kate Bush style backing vocal on Use My Voice, in different sections to the more routine woah woah one, and that should have helped shape the song, but it's mostly drowned out.
Now, there are points where the crunch works and points where the album doesn't even when it's not obvious. Far from Heaven is a musical theatre style ballad that only serves to highlight how much Amy Lee is far more comparable to someone like Lady Gaga than someone like Floor Jansen. And, after it, is Part of Me, with some decent doomy riffs that are perfect for Lee to soar over. So I wouldn't want to throw out any absolutes here, especially given that I enjoyed this album. I'm going with a 7/10 but it's worth mentioning that, as slick as this is and as obviously commercial, I still much prefer the Marianas Rest album I reviewed before this that also got a 7/10 from me. And I guess that's the bitter truth.