Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Popular Option For Poser-Goths: Fallen By Evanescence!

The Good: Great voice, Some interesting lyrics
The Bad: Some lame rhymes, Tries to be something inorganic
The Basics: While presenting lyrics about death, dying and loss, Fallen mixes a sound that is hard to reconcile and appears to be about exploiting the untapped Goth mainstream market.

I'll begin this review by simply saying that the popular music world is better off with Evanescence than without it. It's nice to hear a sound that combats the Blonde Revolution. This is not a band with a Blonde Wonder lead singer. But it's also not the best it could be, largely due to keeping a pretense of being something it does not appear to be.

Fallen, the breakthrough album for Evanescence spawned the radio-popular single "Bring Me To Life" and had such radio-friendly singles as "Going Under" (which appropriately ended up on the promos for Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel) and "My Immortal." The group quickly gained a reputation as the premiere Goth band of our time.

That's rubbish.

Evanescence's lyrics are darker than the average popular band, to be sure. For example, on the track "Hello" lead singer Amy Lee plaintively sings "Rain clouds come to play again / Has no one told you she's not breathing?" It is atypical to hear so many songs about death or the state near death on a popular album that we hear on Fallen. And the album works on that front. Unfortunately, that's not what makes it what I'll call "poser Goth."

Goths are supposed to be dark and mysterious, indifferent and hard. It's what the subculture stands for. Did you think it was just wearing black?! Fallen is way too exposed for that. This is an album of yearning. Even on one of the less good tracks, "Everybody's Fool," there is anger and hurt, as the narrator wails "Have you no shame, don't you see me?" The exceptional "My Immortal" is a cry of pain, the expression of an open wound of loss.

And "My Immortal" leads me to the argument I make with Fallen and Evanescence trying to be something it is not necessarily. Evanescence is packaged as some form of pseudo-Goth music relying on the radio on the heavy metal chords to break through the emotions of the lyrics. On "Bring Me To Life" the band rocks hard and includes Paul McCoy for additional guitar and vocal support.

But that's not who Evanescence actually is. On Fallen, "My Immortal" is not plagued by the guitar noise that comes to usher in the last stanza. Instead, Amy Lee's voice carries the song. The song is about loss and sorrow and there is no grand climax to that, there is just the continuation of sorrow. On Fallen, Evanescence mortgages appearance for substance and it works. The radio edit of "My Immortal" is designed to sell discs to those who enjoyed "Bring Me To Life." It's too bad, because the album version is far superior, much the way Natalie Merchant's original, non-pop produced version of "Jealousy" was.

The climax of the album continues this same essential problem. Fallen goes out on a big, Goth-like chant with "Whisper" when the song before it, "My Last Breath" is the perfect closing track to an emotive album. It is melodic and seductive, crying out for the attention of "Holding my last breath / Safe inside myself / All my thoughts of you / Sweet raptured light it ends here tonight." It is a song of an ending and it sounds like an end. It's too bad the band chose to not close with that track.

And some of the lyrics are plagued by typical, overdone rhymes. On "Everybody's Fool" we have the overdone "be/me" rhyme with "Never was and never will be / You don't know how you've betrayed me." And "Hello" rhymes "again" with "again." I loathe that. I call it Avril Syndrome. Evanescence is better than that.

What works completely from start to finish on Fallen are the vocals of Amy Lee. She has a great voice, not quite Sally Ellyson of Hem, but she's impressive. Through all the chaos of background instrumentals and occasional clunky lyrics, Amy Lee's voice is a force to be reckoned with.

In the final analysis, though, Fallen is a darkly-themed pop album that is trying to fill a market niche that is screaming for exploitation. While Evanescence has effectively capitalized on that, it is unclear if they are the right band for that. The schizophrenic way they present themselves is disturbing as opposed to genuine. This is a good album for anyone looking for a different sound, though. Or if they have a poser-Goth they need to get a gift for. This is Goth the way Hot Topics is Goth.

The best track is easily "My Immortal" (though I continue to find myself more and more impressed by "Imaginary") and the worst song is "Everybody's Fool."

For other, similar, works, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Open Door - Evanescence
Tear The World Down - We Are The Fallen
Icon - Imogen Heap & Frou Frou


For other music reviews, please be sure to visit my Music Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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