It’s the summer of 2003 and EVANESCENCE‘s soon-to-be mega-hit “Bring Me to Life” comes on the radio/TV. How many of you are singing along with Amy Lee and Paul McCoy? Come on, fess up, there’s no judgment here, as most of us knew those lyrics willingly or unwillingly and the song’s chorus is catchy enough to warrant at least a slight head nodding. Or maybe it was “My Immortal” that got under your skin? Truth be told, not many bands make it big with the first singles released off of their debut album, but this is, in short, the story of EVANESCENCE’s “Fallen.” The record was released on March 4, 2003, through Wind-Up Records and today we are celebrating its 20th anniversary!
Recently, “Fallen” was certified diamond by the RIAA for sales and streams of ten million units in the United States, thus making it the band’s most successful album to date, while back in 2004 it won Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Hard Rock Performance, and had good charting positions. Being their debut, the album was in the works for years, as the band was formed back in 1995 by Amy Lee and Ben Moody who penned the songs, though working separately mainly due to major creative differences. Maybe this is the reason Moody left the band shortly after the release of “Fallen” to pursue new musical avenues. Regardless of the backstage drama, the tracks that made it onto the album are just as beautiful and deep as they are commercial and accessible – exactly what Moody wanted – hence the success and positive critical reception.
But these songs also have a darker edge to them, as they were written when Amy Lee was not in the best emotional place and found a way to express all the negative emotions through music and lyrics. It is always eye-opening to read about where a song/album comes from and how music can act as a lifeline for people. In this particular case, “Going Under” and “Bring me to Life”’ are about a toxic relationship and its dire consequences, while “Everybody’s Fool” deals with the glamorization of the pop lifestyle and “My Tourniquet” (a SOUL EMBRACED cover) talks about suicide. On the same note, “Haunted” and “Takin’ Over Me” are about obsession, with “Imaginary” being about the need to retreat to a safe haven. So, while the music might be catchy, ethereal, haunting, and beautiful, the lyrics run deep into troubled waters. No wonder so many people were drawn to this bunch of songs, because music can be cathartic not just for the artist creating it, but also for the person listening to it.
Spearheaded by nu-metal/rap single “Bring me to Life,” hard-hitting piece “Going Under,” and emotive piano ballad “My Immortal,” EVANESCENCE – alongside LINKIN PARK, THREE DAYS GRACE, and GODSMACK – dominated the scene and kindled the ’90s nu-metal flame. However, it was the merging of symphonic and Gothic undertones that made “Fallen” such a huge fan-favorite, while Amy Lee’s powerful soprano voice became instantly iconic. Polished and filled with hooks and beautiful orchestrations, this album’s biggest selling point lies in its dramatic feel and theatrical vibe that go hand-in-hand with the string sections, gorgeous piano melodies, and the efficient use of the Millennium Choir (case in point: “Whisper”). All the while, down-tuned guitars and powerful riffs act as a clever contrast to all that beauty, though they complement Lee’s vocals quite nicely. In between delicate piano ballad “Hello,” symphonic-infused “Imaginary,” or dark “My Last Breath,” “Fallen” is so much more expansive than the usual trappings of nu-metal that the label is not enough to consistently describe this offering.
In conclusion, the main merit of “Fallen” is that it breathed new life into the genre, showing what nu-metal can be when moving away from certain patterns. At the same time, this album established Amy Lee not just as a top-tier vocalist but also as a good songwriter and lyricist, and the subsequent success of “The Open Door” (2006) and “Evanescence” (2011) proved it. The downside of it all was the friction and conflict between her and co-songwriter/guitarist Ben Moody, who ultimately left the band. I guess no great success comes without a price, as “Fallen” has stood the test of time and 20 years later still resonates with the same emotional impact as it did back in the day.
Written by Andrea Crow
Bring Me To Life
Taking Over Me
My Last Breath
Amy Lee – vocals, choral arrangements, piano, keyboards
Ben Moody – guitars, tribal percussion, programming
David Hodges – piano, keyboards, additional programming; string arrangements