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100 Albums: "Fallen" by Evanescence

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Evanescence
Title: Fallen
Released: 2003
Genre: nu-metal

Evanescence was a nu-metal band from Arkansas founded by guitarist Ben Moody and singer/pianist Amy Lee that blended abrasive guitars with soft, sweet piano and vocal melodies. It was a pleasant variation on the formula that had been established by Korn and then embellished by Papa Roach and Saliva (and it was absolute catnip to a Nine Inch Nails fan like myself). Their first two singles originally appeared as the most memorable things from a mortifyingly bad Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. The soundtrack exposure lead to an album and was immediately greeted by some kerfuffle about whether or not Evanescence was a "Christian" band or not. Bring Me To Life, the debut single, had guest vocals from the singer for the Christian metal band 12 Stones. Since the album didn't have any cursing on it and a few oblique references to God/Jesus (which I suspect is more an artifact of Southern American culture than anything else), it was glommed onto by the religious kids with goth tendencies and even misfiled in a few record stores. I remember it being genuinely shocking to a few concerned parents when the subsequent live album contained an f-bomb or two.

One thing I'll say about Fallen, there is not a hair out of place on this record. Every dang note is "just so" from the opening staticky guitar-crunch to the ever-varying levels of processing on Lee's voice. This came out before everyone knew what Autotune sounds like, so the layered harmonies were still fairly impressive. Metal has always been obsessed with technical perfection, but this band tries to also be emotionally resonant. As such, the record flops back and forth between crunchy rockers and gentle piano ballads like the fantastic My Immortal--the single would have a remixed bridge that included the rest of the band, but I prefer the Amy-Lee-with-piano album version. Lee sings with an air of desperation that makes the melodrama inherent in the lyrics play reasonably authentically. If you're going to sing cheesy lines like "These wounds won't seem to heal, this pain is just too real" you need to sing them as though your heart were actually breaking, and Lee pulls it off.

Sixteen years later, the album has lost a little bit of its luster. Nu-metal has come and gone and the dark broody aesthetic of early-aughts rock has been completely supplanted by music that's brighter and more fun. But it's an interesting relic with some catchy tunes and you can't help but admire how well-executed it is, even in a pre-fab-for-Hot-Topic kind of way. Like I said above, it tries to be both technically impressive and melodramatic, and that's honestly where this band really soars: bringing together elements that have no business belonging side-by-side and making it work, whether it be the angst-filled religious connotations, the treacly sweet vocals being digitally chopped up and warped, or the crunchy guitars augmenting dainty piano melodies.

Further Listening: The same year the album released, Moody quit the band and nothing they've put out since has been... well... good. This is another case where the stars aligned to make one single memorable record before the stars got bored and moved on to other projects.


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100 Albums: "Untitled (IV/Zoso)" by Led Zeppelin

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: untitled
Released: 1971
Genre: classic rock

Is there a more epic album opening than Black Dog? Plant screaming "Hey, Hey, Mama..." and a trio of musicians exploding into that proto-metal riff behind him? There's a reason Led Zeppelin is always included in discussions of who might be the greatest rock band of all time: Plant's bluesy wail, Bonham's impossibly huge drum sound, Page's guitar work--and tone, when people talk about "vintage guitar tone" they're talking about Jimmy Page--and Jones's bass and keys (bassists are the unsung heroes of rock, and Jones's bass work here is low-key phenomenal). They're an iconic band, and this is their most iconic album.

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