Tales from the Jugular

Listening to Others: Evanescence Vocals

By: Frank Hill
Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004
I was riding home from work the other day and Evanescence was playing on the rock station. Some song about "falling forever" or whatnot. Since hearing the catchy, yet overplayed single "Bring Me to Life" a million times, I'd usually flip the station for something else--maybe some Skynard or some Eagles. Instead, I let the tune play and instead of writing it off as mindless rock that appeals to the masses, I opened my critical ears a bit.

Evanescence sold over 6 million copies of their last CD. That's a hell of a lot of sales for a band and I think they are only second to 50 Cent this year. I never bought it, but they're definitely doing something right for a lot of people. What is making them stand out and could I draw from that and use to relate to the current hard rock scene?

They had some controversy because of their former Christian roots. The band were apparently known for openly being a Christian rock act prior to the release of the current album ‘Fallen’. But now they seem keen to distance themselves from their past. As a result, their label Wind-Up, intended to pull all copies of the album from Christian-related shops.

No big deal. Controversy abounds in the music industry. For some, it's a weekly occurrence.

Singer Amy Lee has said that "I don't think metal fits us. I don't think nu-metal fits us. I don't think anything fits us...it would take, like, 10 words for me to give a name for it. I think we're something completely new."

Well, I think I can describe it and it's not at all new. It's female-fronted rock with gothic overtones. Musically, there's nothing special: rock chords over standard rhythms. The gothic part comes in with the lyrics which to me are just a step above those who write poetry and rhyme "fire" with "desire". Every teen says that their girlfriend/boyfriend is the air that they must breath and all that claptrap. I'd swear that every Evanescence song is a mini-opera of some near-death, depressed character and their loving savior. I'm not knocking it. I'm just pointing out the overdramatics that it contains.

Then there was the situation where they guitarist left them in mid-tour. No biggie there because the singer is the center of media attention anyway. There are certainly other female singers out there like Dido and Gwen Stefani and there are plenty of rock bands, so what is setting Evanescence apart. I know that Amy Lee is the key.

Then it hit me that she isn't doing something new, but she is doing something few are doing in the commercial rock world--she wails. I'm listening to the song chorus and her delivery is what is striking me. She just belts the words out with the major-league lung capacity that you don't hear from Nickleback, Linkin Park, Puddle of Mud, Three Doors Down, Saliva and all of the other homogenous rock groups. Her vocal energy charges up a city block where their pseudo-talk singing barely powers a lightbulb.

It may be why some have erroneously thrown them into the metal category. Sure, it's not metal, but I think you could put her vocal stylings side-by-side with guys like Axl, Sebastian, Halford, Dio, Owens, Tate and other new gods of the mic like Sean Peck and Wade Black.

Current chart-toppers like Manson, Sully, Durst and Davis, thought good in their own right, don't have the prowess, so the question then is: where have all the vocal gods gone? They're still around, just not in the mainstream like it was back nearly a decade ago. Maybe by some twist of Fate, Amy Lee and the return of the original Judas Priest and the metal god, Rob Halford, will usher in 2004 as the Year of the Vocalist.

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