Evanescence’s third album is self titled for a reason: 15 years after its formation, the multi-platinum band has made the most collaborative, united album of its career. And it rocks.
“Coming back together is such a beautiful and happy thing,” co-founder and lead singer Amy Lee says of making “Evanescence,” the group’s first album since 2006’s “The Open Door.” “We’d bring a song to the whole band and arrange it in a group. That’s something that really stands out against the other records. There’s a tight band at the center of everything, giving it a very tangible energy.”
The cohesion is evident in every note. The album, produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Alice In Chains, Def Tones), packs a wallop with a unified vision that can only come from a group working together as a creative unit.
Led by Lee’s operatic, passionate vocals, Evanescence has sold close to 25 million albums since its 2003 debut, “Fallen.” The project’s premiere single, “Bring Me To Life,” snagged the band a Grammy for best hard rock performance. Other massive hits followed, including “My Immortal,” “Going Under,” and “Call Me When You’re Sober,” establishing Evanescence as worldwide tour headliners.
After a break following the conclusion of the tremendously successful tour behind “The Open Door,” the band— Lee, guitarists Terry Balsamo and Troy McLawhorn, bassist Tim McCord and drummer Will Hunt— came together to write a number of songs for “Evanescence” before heading to Nashville, where, under Raskulinecz’s tutelage, they penned another six songs.
“We were just sitting on a little stage in a circle with Nick standing there air-shredding on a drumstick. He’d say, ‘Stop. After the bridge, why don’t you do a breakdown and then go into an instrumental thing.’ He directed us,” Lee recalls. “It was really good for us to have that outside perspective.”
The group then retreated to Nashville’s Blackbird Studios to record. “Nick got it. He understood what we were going for,” Lee says. “The thing he was going to amp up was the band side, which was what we wanted to focus on.”
“Evanescence” crackles with an urgency that seeps through each of the 12 tracks. Opening slab, the hard-driving “What You Want,” is about Lee’s decision to head back into the fray after the band’s hiatus. “It’s totally about going back to being in Evanescence,” she says. “It’s motivating myself not to be afraid. I’m writing about the chaos of life and that you can’t control all the crazy things that happen to you.”
The stunning video for the single, helmed by award-winning director Meiert Avis from an idea conceived by Lee and her younger sister, Carrie, traces the history of the band combined with gothic imagery of New York. It ends with the group’s members walking into the ocean. “I can’t make a video without some water,” Lee laughs. “It’s either going to rain on me or I’m getting into the water. Here, it represents us moving on into this unknown thing; going into the future.”
The wrenching “Lost In Paradise” opens with Lee’s haunting solo piano before exploding into a sweeping, string-laden tale of torment. “It’s the most intimate song on the album,” Lee says. “This song came out in a moment where I felt lost, I was at war within myself. It’s raw and open.”
“It was Nick’s idea for the band to come in where they do,” Lee says. “I love how big and important it’s become for all of us. It started out as this tiny, raw thing and it’s become one of my favorite songs.”
Heavy, chugging guitars propel “The Other Side,” a story of love that survives whatever tries to destroy it, including death, while the rhythmic, multi-layered “My Heart Is Broken” takes the listener on a journey of escape. “That was inspired by victims of sex trafficking,” Lee reveals. “It’s about trying to find your way out.”
The album closes with a last-minute addition: the dreamy, atmospheric “Swimming Home,” a tune that exposes a side of Evanescence that fans have never seen. “That song is the biggest departure,” Lee says. “It came from a phase when I was making music that was ethereal and programming driven. Thematically, “Swimming” addresses “crossing over into the next life. It’s the bittersweet acceptance.”
The break between “The Open Door” and “Evanescence” provided the band with much-deserved rest, but also some clarity as to how important what they had created meant to them.
“I do have a new perspective and a big part of that for me was being able to step away and knowing for certain that I’m here making this record because I love what I do,” Lee says.
Lee spent her time away from the band with her new husband and learning how to lead a “normal” adult life in her adopted hometown of New York City. “Evanescence is my life’s work. I’ve been working on it since I was a young teenager,” Lee says. “By the time we finishing touring ‘The Open Door,’ I just wanted to nest a little bit... and build a life that didn’t revolve around my being in Evanescence.”
But then the muse came calling and Lee and her bandmates felt an urgent need to express what was building inside of them. “The reason our music is epic and dramatic is because the biggest emotions that I ever feel, the music is the only way to get them out of my heart,” Lee says. “Words alone aren’t enough. It heals my heart to make music.”
Now, Evanescence’s thoughts have turned to returning to the road. “This record is so geared for live shows,” Lee says. “We were thinking about playing live the whole time we were writing it.”
Making the return all the sweeter are the fans. “I can’t describe how great it feels to have their support. I love so much meeting them before and after the show. If feels like they’re growing with us,” says Lee.
Though already superstars, Lee and her bandmates have the enthusiasm of newcomers as they look to a future that is brimming with possibility through “Evanescence.”
“This moment right now between us and the fans, it feels like a celebration, a homecoming, a family reunion,” Lee says. “We’re so happy to be back.”