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Review: Evanescence – ‘Synthesis’

EvanescenceWhen a rock or metal band opts to go with the orchestration approach of reimagining an album or previous material, it does tend to be in the live arena. The most recent example being Alter Bridge at the Royal Albert Hall, a recording of which will hopefully see the light someday. ‘Synthesis’ is the companion piece to ‘Synthesis Live’, the tour which currently sees Evanescence out on the road with a full orchestra. ‘Reimagining’ is such a dirty word, thanks mainly to numerous movies re-hashes which are not worth mentioning, but on ‘Synthesis’ it’s not quite as dirty. It’s not an instant album (or at least it wasn’t for me), it might take a few visits before a full appreciation can be found. It’s also lengthy, at sixteen tracks long, but some of these are short musical interludes. Two new tracks are included, the stunning ‘Hi-Lo’, which features a guest appearance from violinist Lindsey Stirling, and the trip-hop tinged ‘Imperfection’. Both showcase the versatility and staying power of vocalist Amy Lee, and her abilities have not diminished in the six years since the last Evanescence album… but what about the new versions of older songs?

Evanescence have always been an atmospheric band, using the arrangements of renowned composer David Campbell to great effect. Here, they ramp up the orchestrations, add some electronica, and throw out the guitars. As horrible as it sounds to say, turning the guitars off does actually work really well, and the bold move pays off. ‘Synthesis’ is hugely cinematic. ‘Never Go Back’ will get you sticking a tenner down on Amy Lee performing the next Bond theme! Without the huge guitar sound that normally accompanies her, Lee does shine constantly throughout. ‘My Heart Is Broken’ is like a subtle lament upon which she pours her heart out, but the arrangements behind her help the song soar to new heights. ‘Lacrymosa’ is a tense few moments that are quite hard going, but stick with it. ‘Secret Door’ is similar to the original, haunting and beautiful with stunning arrangements, with ‘Lost In Paradise’ also working well. It is strange when the part on the original where the band crash in passes, and instead of guitars and drums, it’s a massive string arrangement… one of the standout moments on the album. As for the biggies, ‘Bring Me To Life’ is stunning, the layers of the original have been stripped back, and it’s just Lee and another Bond-esque arrangement. The ambient electronica in the background is never overpowering, and sits perfectly alongside the orchestrations. I would have liked to have heard ‘Lithium’ with just Lee at the piano. The starkness would have been tailor made for the song, but the arrangements are toned down slightly here, and her voice is the key instrument. ‘My Immortal’ is even more stripped back. With the exception of a subtle string arrangement, it really is just Lee at the piano. That moment on the original just over three minutes in when the band appears never arrives. The song is no less potent without them, and in fact, I’d go as far to say  it’s actually more effective without them.

Bold, brave, imaginative, and available now. More information on all tour dates here

Review: Dave Stott

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