Preview: Evanescence, Japan 2007

Difficult journey to a smooth, mature sound

That 'difficult second album' is one of the clichés of rock music, and like most clichés it just happens to be mostly true. Most bands that enjoy enormous success with their first albums, as Evanescence did with their 2003 debut Fallen, almost always run into problems the second time round. The freedom brought by vast wealth combined with the additional pressures of writing, rehearsing, touring, promoting, and living with people you perhaps know too well can prove a volatile mix.


Some bands survive by compromising their standards – producing an inferior second album – and taking time to adjust to their new status and lifestyle. Other bands, however, are almost ripped apart, but then emerge in some way stronger and more mature. Listening to Evanescence's second album, The Open Door,  it's clear that the first of these options hasn't been followed. Evanescence has had the difficult second album, but it has enhanced rather than diminished their music.

Formed by singer Amy Lee and guitarist Ben Moody in the late 90s, when they were in high school, the band initially became popular in their hometown Little Rock, Arkansas. They developed a sound that counterpoised Lee's emotive alto and soprano singing with a hard rock sound and 'gothic' lyrics. The gothic element was also reflected in the band's name, a word that means "the act or state of vanishing away," suggesting something mysterious or ghostlike. Lee's vampish, raven-haired beauty was the ideal image for this combination of elements, so that after Fallen released in March 2003, it sold 14 million copies worldwide.

A few months later, however, Moody suddenly decided to quit the band over that other rock cliché 'musical differences.' Moody claimed he wanted to stick to a more defined rock sound while Lee was keen to experiment.


"Amy is much more creative than I am," he admitted in a recent MTV interview. "I'll be the first to admit it. I am a bit more commercial minded, I guess. I like structure in songs, and I like making songs people can adhere to. I still like to be creative, but she is more educated musically, and she wanted to explore that."

Exacerbating these differences were the pressures of work and competing offers of work with other famous musicians that Moody received following the band's success.


"One of us had to go, and it's not one of those things where you can take the time off, because then the whole thing would have went to crap."

Since leaving Evanescence, Moody has worked with a variety of other female performers, including Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, and Anastacia, becoming the go-to-guy for female rock singers trying to develop a harder, heavier sound.

A more recent split occurred last year when Lee fired her manager Dennis Rider, who then sued her for breach of contract. Lee countersued, charging a wide range of offenses, including breach of fiduciary duty, physically abusing women, professional negligence, and making unwelcome sexual advances toward Lee herself.

With so much going on that could distract or diminish a creative artist, Lee has managed to emerge stronger in large part because she has found the perfect writing partner in the unlikely guise of guitarist Terry Balsamo, a one time member of the now much-derided Limp Bizkit and the 'rage and angst' metal outfit Cold, who joined the band in 2003, following Moody’s exit. Balsamo has co-written most of the songs on the new album, and his powerful but sensitive guitar playing is the perfect foil for Lee's musical urge to explore.

While the hit single Call Me When You’re Sober, co-writen by Lee and Balsamo, largely depends on the Evanescence formula established by Lee and Moody, it is also enhanced by classical touches, including strings. Other tracks also show Lee’s urge to explore. Lithium and Like You are Tori Amos-style piano-driven ballads with Wagnerian rock flourishes, while Lacrymosa veers closer to classical music with its complex orchestrations and choir recorded in an old chapel.

"This record is totally inspired by the crazy stuff that's gone on over the past year or so," Lee told Rolling Stone magazine this April. "Terry and I were writing together for a year and a half. And throughout it all, everything happened. It was really this what-the-hell’s-going-on kind of time."

Part of the chaos referred to included Balsamo suffering a stroke last November due to a blood clot formed from a torn neck artery caused by too much head-banging on stage. Luckily he has recovered, proving, as with Evanescence's 'difficult second album,' that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

2007 JAN 25 Thu - OSAKA : ZEPP OSAKA
2007 JAN 26 Fri - NAGOYA : ZEPP NAGOYA
2007 JAN 28 Sun - YOKOHAMA : BLITZ
2007 JAN 30 Tue - TOKYO : ZEPP TOKYO
2007 JAN 31 Wed - TOKYO : ZEPP TOKYO
2007 FEB 1 Thu - SENDAI : ZEPP SENDAI

Colin Liddell
International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun
1st December, 2006



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