Album review: Evanescence – Synthesis

Having effectively formed a huge part of the rock sound of the 00’s, Evanescence have returned with their new studio album, Synthesis, but will a collaborative effort with a full orchestra to re-work the past go over well?

The album begins with the purely orchestral instrumental track called “Overture”. Starting things off in earnest in much of the same vein, “Never Go Back” continues with a piano back with weeping strings as Amy Lee’s unmistakable vocals ring out across the track. As we approach the midpoint of the track, the album starts to sound more familiar to Evanescence’s back catalogue, with electronic drums underlining the grandiose sense of scale of the more orchestral instruments composed and arranged by David Campbell.

In previous albums, Evanescence has made massive genre-defying leaps across their sound. From intimate and heart-rending tracks such as “Hello” and “My Immortal” to the emo-rock “Wake Me Up” and “Everybody’s Fool”. The focal point for all of their work, has been focused on Lee’s vocals.

On the subject of previous work, there is in fact many a reworking of previous tracks from older albums: “Lacrymosa”, “Lost In Paradise”, “Bring Me To Life”, “Imaginary”, “Lithium”, “Your Star”, “My Heart Is Broken” and “Never Go Back”, “Secret Door” and “Your Immortal”. This gives a clear indication as to where the album gets it’s name from; by blending  and synthesising the older, rockier tracks with the orchestral arrangements.

In the case of “Lacrymosa”, the former track was good, but felt a little rushed and under-engineered considering how complex it was supposed to be. However, with David Campbell’s hand to this do-over, the track is given a new lease on life. Lee’s voice is separated from the melody far more than it previously was, and where previously the electronic rock elements clashed with the violins, here they are both tempered well. “Secret Door” sees the addition of strings and a perfectly appointed harp working wonders here too.

“Imaginary” and “Lithium” are similar, the moody industrial synth and orchestral strings replacing the distorted guitar make for an excellent change of pace and the track feels totally rejuvenated. Thus far, the more minimalistic works that have seen a makeover are responding well to their overhaul. “Lost in Paradise” and “Your Star” become eerie, operatic masterpieces in their new and refreshed form as well, with the additional complexities from an orchestra highlighting Amy Lee’s voice which, since we first truly heard it 15 years ago, sounds more mature, richer and evocative than previously, which was still an impressive benchmark even then.

“Bring Me To Life” however, is a different matter. Maybe it’s the emo kid in me railing against change, but the absence of the duelling vocals and grungy, Drop-D guitar tuning being replaced with synth and orchestra is jarring, and no real improvement on the work. It’s still an impressive and excellently produced piece, but there was no real need to alter the work from the album, Fallen, in this reviewer’s opinion.

“My Immortal” takes a punishing change in its new incarnation as well. Instantly recognisable, the hugely powerful song has been ripped off by literally dozens of talent show finalists trying to push their vocal limits. Originally, the track was simply Lee, with her piano, singing straight from the heart with a ‘band version’ following as a bonus track where the final minute was given the addition of a sensitively placed guitar solo and drum accompaniment. However, the intimacy has been lost within the grand movements of the orchestra.

The entire album is not ALL previous work however. “Imperfection” rumbles onto the track listing with threatening synths with violins in a minor key, weaving amongst one another to accentuate Lee’s vocals over a rapid, pacing electronic drum line. It’s a good show of new work, and thankfully shows there’s still new life emerging from what was beginning to sound like a re-hashed greatest hits album. In “Hi-Lo” we hear more of the ominous electronic samples with a twinkling celesta under a simplistic drum beat whilst Lee’s impressive range and vocals ring out across the melody and draw us into the far more intimate track before exploding into a full orchestral crescendo blended with distorted guitar amidst the violin solo.

If nothing else, the album is certainly interesting. As a long term fan from the band’s opening days, I’ve listened to the albums many times, but it’s extremely refreshing (for the most part) to hear them in this new, re-worked light.





Author: Steve, Southgate store