"They threw us out of the office. They said, 'A chick and a piano? Are you kidding? On rock radio?'"
According to Wind-up Records president Ed Vetri, that's what a radio programmer said back in 2003 when Wind-up knocked on the station's door to solicit airplay for a new band. It indeed had a chick and a piano. The woman was Amy Lee, singer of Arkansas rock band Evanescence. The song was "Bring Me To Life," which first appeared on the soundtrack to the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Garner movie "Daredevil." The rest is history.
The PD's name? Vetri politely wouldn't say. But to be fair, Evanescence was nothing like the bands then dominating the rock channels. Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit merged rap and rock. Mudvayne and System of a Down sounded jerky and chaotic. Korn, Slipknot and Staind were down-tuned and morbid. That was one reason Lee's mezzo-soprano broke through the ocean of testosterone: a melodic counterpoint was overdue. Female rock fans also appreciated having someone of their own gender to look up to — an anti-thesis to pop entertainers who co-wrote her music and didn't rely on Auto-Tune.
Evanescence dodged the alleged curse of the best new artist grammy (the band won it in 2004) by selling 7.7 million copies of its Wind-up debut, Fallen, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album was propelled by "Bring Me to Life" and follow-up hits "Going Under," "Everybody's Fool" and "My Immortal." The monstrous success still had a price: conflict between Lee and co-songwriter/guitarist Ben Moody resulted in his abrupt resignation while Evanescence toured in support of Fallen. The rest of the band that was together at the time of the album's release — bassist Will Boyd, guitarist John LeCompt and drummer Rocky Gray — later exited, the latter two under bitter circumstances. And Lee later admitted she considered calling it a day after completing touring for sophomore album The Open Door.
Ten years on, while Lee continues with Evanescence, Fallen has aged gracefully. It's easy to hear why the band was among the class of rock groups that went multiplatinum at the turn of the millennium. Its formidable combination of power and melody was more than enough of a foundation to withstand the trends of its time.
On the 10th anniversary of the Mar. 4, 2003 release of Fallen, take a look back at the album with this classic track-by-track take.
1. "Going Under" — "Bring Me to Life" introduced Evanescence to the world stage, but lead-off "Going Under" is just as impressive as the band's career-defining debut, and would have been the first single if the "Daredevil" soundtrack hadn't given fate a nudge. The stop/start cadence of Moody's rugged guitars, rippling piano and Lee's defiant wail pack a startling wallop.
2. "Bring Me to Life" — From the sparkling piano to the epic choruses, to Lee's siren call, "Bring Me to Life" remains Fallen's definitive track. Wind-up Records acquired the soundtrack to "Daredevil" specifically to get Evanescence heard, and the gamble paid off enormously. This is the only song on the album where Lee does a duet, joined by 12 Stones singer Paul McCoy. Its power and almost frightening exhilaration is undiminished.
3. "Everybody's Fool" — Fallen arrived when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were scandalizing the parents of their teen fan bases with scanty outfits and overtly sexual posturing. Lee, long adamant about not portraying herself as a sex symbol, allegedly was angered that one of her tween sisters idolized pop stars with superficial images. As she sings, "Icons of self-indulgence/Just what we all need/More lies about a world that/Never was and never will be," Lee can hardly keep the sneer from her voice.
4. "My Immortal" — This piano ballad slays any doubt about whether Lee's vocals were the real deal. As she sings about being exhausted by a ghost who won't stop haunting her, she throws her voice wide open as she recounts all she's done to comfort the nagging spirit. When "My Immortal" was released, guitars were stripped onto the second half to make it more appealing to rock stations. It worked, but the album version is the superior cut.
5. "Haunted" — While this is another song about haunting, you don't hear the resignation that's apparent in "My Immortal." Instead Lee's fighting both being possessed . . . and her desire to give in to it. "I can feel you pull me down/Fearing you, loving you/I won't let you pull me down," she declares.
6. "Tourniquet" — If Evanescence had wanted to shoot for hit No. 5, "Tourniquet" would have been a good bet. Gray wrote the song, which looks at suicide from a Christian perspective. As the song's subject lays dying, they wonder if they accept Christ in their final moments, their soul will be redeemed, or if Hell is inevitable.
7. "Imaginary" — The outro of "Tourniquet" -- a humming orchestra that abruptly transitions into waltzing violins -- blends into the introduction of "Imaginary." Lee sings of "watching my purple sky fly over me" in a field of paper flowers while surrounded by a ticking piano, crashing drums and the returning voices of the Millennial Choir, which all paint a picture of the heavens shooting overhead.
8. "Taking Over Me" — This midtempo song is the lyrical opposite of "Haunted": The production of the former emphasized feeling overwhelmed by someone's obsession with you. and now the tables are skewed and the subject is willingly being consumed by their desire for another. "I look in the mirror and I see your face/If I look deep enough," Lee sings imploringly. "So many things inside that are just like you are taking over."
9. "Hello" — The chilled atmosphere of "Hello" starkly contrasts with the warm tone of "My Immortal." The song was written as a tribute to another of Lee's sisters, who died at the age of 3 (Lee was 6 at the time.) Whereas the lyrics to "My Immortal" wearily accept a loved one's death, "Hello" relates, from a child's perspective, the dawning agony of realizing someone is gone forever.
10. "My Last Breath" — By the time they reach this track, listeners are familiar with Evanescence's reliance on breathing and drowning (as well as sleeping and dreaming) as emotional metaphors. The references to air indicate a struggle for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival, which aligns with Lee's comments of how some of Fallen's lyrics were drawn from an abusive relationship.
11. "Whisper" — The last track on Fallen does anything but. With the guitars and tempo taking a bit of a back seat on last few songs, the finale reunites them with Lee's commanding voice. Fallen signs off with the booming Millennial Choir singing in Latin, ending the album on a foreboding note.
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