Album Review: Evanescence – Synthesis

By Paige McCluskey, Contributor
[BMG; 2017]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Lost in Paradise”, “End of the Dream”, “Imperfection”

Whether you’re a fan or not, you’ve probably heard of Evanescence before. Their first mainstream hits, “My Immortal” and “Bring Me to Life”, gained viral status on the Internet for their extreme angst and emo nature. But not many people know about Evanescence’s evolution from gothic rock to a more experimental, yet still rocking, sound. This sound turns sophisticated on their fourth album, Synthesis. The album’s distinctive, turning Evanescence classics into orchestrated masterpieces, while also throwing in some new tunes. But can this album stand on its own without being pulled back by the past?

First, the bad news – namely “Bring Me to Life”. Evanescence’s biggest song starts off rough, mainly because of how off-volume and loud Amy Lee’s vocals are next to the orchestra. It ruins the flow of the song until the orchestra picks up. It’s like when a band makes an acoustic song, but the singer doesn’t change their voice to fit in. Even though “Bring Me to Life” was mocked for the cheesy rap and emo lyrics, it’s a song that was meant to rock, and the orchestra only dulls the song’s original edge. There’s been a lot of relief, especially from Lee, that there’s finally a rendition without the rap part, but this version takes the rock away, too.  Also, some of the songs can hardly be called “experimental” because they barely change. For example, while the strings in “My Immortal” add a smooth little oomph to the piano and the tone, the song still sounds the same.

Despite these qualms, the album is still pretty fantastic. Some of the songs were meant to be on this album, and retain old beauty while twisting in unique effects. This can be seen in songs like “My Heart is Broken”, with its swelling orchestra, “Lacrymosa”, which jumps from mysterious to explosive, and “Secret Door”, which intertwines strings and harp to create a dreamy effect. One of the best examples is “Lost in Paradise”, which sounds ethereal, yet lonely. The strings, electronics and vocals thread together to create a beautiful song that wouldn’t sound wrong at the climax of a fantasy movie.

A complete overhaul is also not a bad thing. “Imaginary” becomes mountainous, adding layers of instruments that snowball into an epic ending. “End of the Dream”, an already great song, is easily one of the best tracks on the album. It begins with Lee’s vocals in near silence, before the sudden spike of music hits, turning into a dark, grand and strange combination of strings and electronica. Again, it’s another song that wouldn’t be out of place on a movie score.

More highlights include the new songs. The first, “Hi-Lo”, is okay, if not a little anticlimactic in the first half, but the violin solo by Lindsey Stirling ties the ending up nicely. The other, “Imperfection”, rocks as hard as an orchestra can rock. The song has awkward “rap”-like moments, but the band and the sailing vocals take center stage, a haunting anthem about suicide. “Imperfection” is also the very last song, and it’s a perfect display of everything coming together one last time to deliver an emotion-packed punch.

Overall, Synthesis isn’t an entirely new album, but it’s more than enough to tide fans over before Evanescence’s next album. It’s experimental but doesn’t lose track of its traditional sound. While some of the songs skimp on being “innovative” or just don’t work, many of them were able to gracefully adapt and become individual, new songs. It’s a promising album that demonstrates how much Evanescence has grown up since 2003.

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