Album Review: Revisiting "Synthesis" by Evanescence

By Selene Jade

I cannot tell you how excited I was for this album to come out, and now that we have a new album on the horizon, I’d like to take one more look at this album, as it is in essence, an overview of the last 13 years of Evanescence music. With 3 new Instrumentals, 2 new lyrical songs, and 11 remakes of some of Amy Lee's favorite releases with a full orchestra and new synthetic beats as well as guests instrumentalists like Lindsey Stirling and Amy's old harp teacher joining in, it was a mix of old and new in a awe-inspiring artistic way that only she could accomplish. If you're anything like me when it comes to music, you only got about halfway through the album before you started to cry. The album art encapsulates the feeling this album has, of Amy breaking out of her cocoon, rising from the ashes, and truly achieving the unthinkable, perfecting even her best songs in ways only she could have dreamed of.


This instrumental intro track uses the melody from one of the unreleased demos for the Fallen song Whisper. It's incredibly stripped down, to the point where the only thing that really grasps your attention is the piano, striking one key over and over again, despite the strings carrying the melody for the first half of the song.


This remake from their self-titled third album starts off right with the melody from the bridge of the original, which is arguably the most intense part of the song, but somehow Amy finds a way to build up from it, by starting it with only the piano and slowly adding in the orchestra before anything is sung. The first minute of this song could stand alone if it wanted to and it wouldn't be a disappointment. Already this is a very different tune from the original, which was very rock centered, with a lot of bass and percussion, while this has none at all. When the vocals do start, the music fades almost completely, and since it's the first time you hear her voice in the album, it is more than gripping. When the music does return, it's not even close to the natural orchestral sound of the overture or the intro to this song; it's almost entirely electronic, which is in stark contrast with Amy's voice that is soaring over the beat and melody. It then turns into an interesting mix of the electronic and orchestral sounds, to the point where they blend so perfectly it is hard to tell them apart. At one point the music cuts out abruptly and all you're left with is one word - Alone. It gave me goosebumps. We finally get back to the bridge, and this time it's only the strings, at least at first. It builds, and builds, until the vocals shake you to your core with their shear ferocity and range. It's impossible to tear your attention away from them until the very end, when she belts out the last line and somehow transitions it into a haunting murmur, and it all ends.


This song was originally supposed to be released in their self-titled album, but it was cut. It's a song about loneliness, and not being enough, and dealing with that pain when you aren't even sure how to express it. Somehow she manages to convey this through the music just as much as the lyrics. The orchestra is quiet in the background, behind her somewhere, and is made to sound even more quiet and far away by quality of her voice as she sings just above a whisper. You expect to hear her voice crack like she's crying, but she maintains a silky sound. Even when she does let her full voice show, it feels far away, and nearly drowned out by the orchestra which is now playing at full force, almost as if she is crying out but still cannot be heard. When the second verse starts she is back to singing at a whisper. The melody is the same but the music has changed again from orchestral to completely electronic, which is slightly unsettling, but then slowly moves into a mix of the two which would be more comfortable if it weren't for the dark tones Amy is setting with her voice and lyrics. There is a nice instrumental towards the end of the song, with a violin solo by Lindsey Stirling which suits the song well and is just downright impressive and transitions back into the vocals perfectly.


Yet another song from their 3rd album, My Heart is Broken is one of the only songs Amy Lee has written for Evanescence that isn't personal. She wrote it after volunteering at a friend's organization to rescue victims of sex trafficking, and wanted to write a song from their point of view, being trapped, alone, and afraid, with no one to turn to. This version of the song doesn't change the verses or the melody, it simply adds new depth to Amy's performance, with new nuances in the tune, beautiful harmonics, and orchestral strings merged with electronic percussion. The end of the bridge brought shivers up my spine as she gracefully sang the high notes at the end and it transcends into a solo from the woman who taught her how to play the harp, which incidentally is the instrument she composed this song on. This song is the perfect example of knowing what to change, and what you need to preserve; there are no mistakes made here.


As one of the singles for both The Open Door and Synthesis, and one that hadn't previously been changed like Bring Me To Life had, this was the song that originally gave me a taste of just how good this album was going to be, and it made my expectations very high. As a pianist and a singer, I have played and sang both the original classical Lacrymosa, and Amy's version of it, many times. It's exhilarating to play, with your fingers going at a speed you can barely keep up with, and just as fun to sing, as long as you can reach the high notes - all in all, it's heavenly. I didn't think this song could get any better... I was so wrong. It lets you know right away that this is not the same song, with Amy's vocals bare over a monotone beat, with only hints of the melody sprinkled throughout, teasing you but never giving you the satisfaction of hearing it through to the end, making you want more before the first verse even starts. Every time this song gives you more, it pulls back. The orchestra will take over the song for a moment, and you think maybe you hear a choir in the background, but before you can really enjoy it, it's quiet again. Considering the lyrics for this song are so taunting to begin with, this only makes it that much more so. After the bridge she finally gives us what we want, and need at this point. Full orchestra, full vocals, holding nothing back. On top of that she harmonizes with notes so high they're unearthly. But she can't end it with us feeling too satisfied. When her voice cascades upwards, all we want is one more note, and we stops it and the music abruptly, just shy of that, with just a simple humming fading out the end of the song. And I wouldn't ask for anything less.


This, like Never Go Back, was originally a rock song, but this one had a much more extreme change. The humming from the end of Lacrymosa starts out this song, and her vocals are dark and foreboding, echoing against the bleak walls I imagine around her. She draws out every note and every word. Chimes in the background start the melody, but instead of ending it in harmony, it's dissonant and eerie. You want so badly for the music to start and end this uncomfortable feeling, and when it finally does you don't have to wait long for the crescendo. She spreads her wings and everything else follows. The emotion in her voice swells and you can feel everything she feels. The music nearly surpasses her at the end, everything is pounding and it overtakes your senses to an awesome degree right up until the end.


This song was honestly the one I was least looking forward to. There's already so many versions of it. But most people only know the one from Fallen. There is one big difference between this version (and all other versions for that matter) and the version that was all over the radio in 2003. Amy Lee never wanted a male voice in this song, but studios were convinced it wouldn't sell without one, not if she wanted to make it in the rock genre. Thus, the rap duet was added. This time, she got to do the song exactly how she wanted it, with no one's voice but her own. Almost immediately you can hear a difference in her voice, it sounds almost younger, like it did years ago when the song was originally released. You hear the old electronic melody that was so iconic, but it quickly becomes something very different, and so does Amy's voice. It transforms into the strong voice we've now become accustomed to. Once the second verse starts, we're all on the same page. We all know this is not the same song, nor the same person. Her background vocals aren't in the background, in fact they're much too close for comfort, like she's whispering right into our ear. When it comes time for the bridge, she does something surprising. She sings her half of the duet, leaving space for the other, but filling it with nothing. Everyone who listens will remember what used to be, but is no more. The reason this is important is because her half was never in any of her original demos, it was written specifically for the duet. Leaving it there as a remnant of what was is more powerful than just removing it altogether and trying to erase the past. Instead she embraces it, which I love. When the song reaches its end, the orchestra is so strong you won't even be able to hear what's underneath unless you listen closely, but it's the same single note melody that faded out the original song. The attention to detail and paying homage to the past is something that is most noticeable in this song, you just have to know where to look.


This instrumental is very different from the rest of the album, but it somehow manages to feel part of the whole. The brass section is put on display for this one, almost giving it a jazzy feeling, but the strings keep it feeling classical. It's a very interesting and original piece, despite being only over a minute long.


Imaginary is another song that has undergone countless edits, but this one is by far the most drastic. In all the ones before, she seemed innocent and sweet. Right off the bat this song starts out with hard beats and an even harder tone to Amy's voice. As she sings, it almost seems detached from the feelings, as though she doesn't feel them, but she sympathizes. It isn't until the bridge that she seems truly vulnerable and longing, and the music conveys this as well, instantly softening. It bolsters up during the instrumental, and you think that you're going to hear the hardened voice again, but she surprises you. She sings the same words as before but with more feeling and less suppression until the end. This song from start to finish changes so much and expresses so many different emotions; it's truly a work of art.


You'd only know this song if you got the deluxe version of their third album, or the more recent vinyl release. This B-side has always been a favorite of mine; the harp sounded just as magical as her voice, and I could clearly imagine myself in a garden as I looked up to see the people I loved and yearned for that kind of majesty and reconnection. I wasn't sure if this song would suit the synthetic sounds they were adding in to all the others. But Amy Lee never disappoints. They hit you with that right away, and once you hear the full orchestra, the synthetic melody merges with the woodwinds just as magically as before if not more so. As you listen to this song, you feel like you are transcending right along with her, unlocking heavenly secrets and glimpsing perfection.


This song is a very stripped-down version of the single from The Open Door. All attention is put on the vocals and the lyrics, and the emotion in them. The music is but an echo of the deep feeling and powerful vocals Amy pours out. The chimes in the background and her harmonizing and sometimes dissonant vocals only amplify the main melody even more. There are times when her voice cracks with what feels like emotional pain and turmoil, the like of which she's singing about in the song. In the end, she seems to transcend the song in an ethereal way, and the music only follows her.


As hard as it is to pick a favorite song out of all of her works, I have to say this is it. I've played it so many times at this point that the pages of sheet music are falling out of the book. I didn't think there was any way to improve upon this song, but I was badly wrong, as this is also now my favorite song from this album. The first thing I noticed is the key change. This song has an incredibly upbeat and happy melody compared to the original, and while the tune of the lyrics haven't changed, the music has. At this point in the album is when I started crying. The song took on a whole new meaning for me. It's brimming with hope, and when I listened to it I felt like I could let go of the past and get lost in paradise with her.


This song, originally from The Open Door, starts out with the same melody as the original. The difference is the humming underneath it, fading in and out on both sides. When the singing begins, it echoes in an unnatural way and coincides with the ethereal background vocals. This abruptly changes at the chorus, where percussive beats that before had been only a whisper suddenly surround your senses, along with many new unfamiliar sounds, and even her voice takes a darker turn as she sings the main melody and the background. During the bridge she lets her voice carry the entire melody, with nothing underneath but a few beats reminiscent of heartbeats, a very courageous thing to do, and the music comes back in as her voice crescendos and starts to brim with vulnerability and need, and finally, strength. The music carries the rest of the song right up until the end, long after the vocals have finished, but it doesn't get boring for a second of it. It's so powerful that it completely grips your attention.


The multiple versions of this song are very different, but the level of emotion was always roughly the same. Since this song wasn't written about a topic personal to her, but rather to a former member of the group, I wasn't sure if throughout the years, she could turn it into something she identified with. She blew me away with how raw and emotional this version of the song is. The music doesn't take away from her at all, it serves to highlight how unfiltered, raw and real her voice and emotions are in her performance - if you can even call it that. During the bridge her voice is so captivating that any other part of the song just gets tuned out and fades in comparison, but once her part is done all that's left is the music that ends up being just as captivating. You can hear the pain in her voice, but even so her execution is perfect and it isn't painful to lists to, it's comforting.


The third and final instrumental of the album got my attention right away. I've played Evanescence's song Hello from the album Fallen enough times to recognize the melody throughout it now being used in a new song. This was a deeply personal song for Amy, as it's about one of her sisters who died when she was a child. Quite a few songs have been written about her since then. The In Between is also part of the intro for the music video for Imperfection, the next song on this album, which may explain why the video is of a little girl who is struggling to come to terms with the death of someone close to her. This instrumental uses only a piano instead of the full orchestra or any artificial sounds, and feels personal, dark and foreboding, as if something is going to happen, or has happened and you just don't know it yet.


The last song on the album is a completely new song written about dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide. This is much more edgy than any of her previous songs, it's the only officially released song to be labelled as explicit, and right away you can feel a difference in attitude in the beat and in the vocals. She seems almost angry, but also begging, pleading not to be left behind. The short instrumental feat halfway through the song is harsh and dissonant but somehow perfect in that moment, and of course there's no shortage of impressive vocal feats in this song either. This is also the only song on the album that I can clearly hear an electric guitar in. Overall, I think this song shows the direction Evanescence will be going in, in the future, and I am very excited to see that unfold as it happens.

You can follow Selene on Twitter @oceanselene