Founded by lead singer Amy Lee and guitarist Ben Moody in 1995 after meeting at a youth camp, goth rock band Evanescence diligently worked for seven years before signing with Wind-up Records in 2002. The then-duo already had multiple EPs to their name, creating an impressive base of material considering they started while they were in high school. Some of their earliest tracks were re-shaped and included on their first album Fallen, a goth-rock debut that broke into mainstream popularity with radio play and a feature on the Daredevil soundtrack.
Fallen is an album about being trapped in the darkness of yourself and those around you. The contrast between delicate piano keys and hard rock guitar paired with Lee’s powerful vocals create for a dark, eerie sound that pairs well with the album’s anger and grief. Lyrically, it trends towards being trapped–in an abusive relationship, in the cycle of your own thoughts, and in the grief that comes with losing a loved one.
Evanescence was introduced to the greater music world with their first single “Bring Me to Life,” a nu-metal track featuring Paul McCoy of 12 Stones. “Bring Me to Life” is a call-and-response style song with both parties crying out for help. The song was inspired by then-acquaintance and later husband Josh Hartzler asking Lee if she was happy when she was hiding in a toxic relationship, making her realize she had to get out of her situation. “Bring Me to Life” introduced the world to the band’s musical style and garnered a lot of radio play.
In contrast, there’s second single and album opener “Going Under,” a hard rock song about ripping yourself out of a toxic relationship. “Going Under” skips the piano in favor of even harder guitar licks and heavy drums over the chorus. In an interview with MTV News, Lee explained, “The lyrics are about coming out of a bad relationship, and when you’re at the end of your rope, when you’re at the point where you realize something has to change…it’s a very strong song.” Critics praised the song for its anthemic chorus and compared the single to tracks by Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit (for better or for worse).
When facing grief, Evanescence takes a softer tone, focusing on pairing Lee’s voice with the piano. Third single “My Immortal” is a piano ballad overlayed with sweeping strings that explores how painful memories can be when it comes to the death of a loved one. Another piano ballad, “Hello,” explores Lee’s grief over losing her three-year-old sister when she was six and couldn’t quite grasp the concept of death.
Usually when looking back at music, we tend to take the listener’s point of view on whether or not something agees well. With her re-recording certain Fallen tracks for last year’s Synthesis, Lee examined which songs no longer connected to her. The band now avoids the popstar-shaming “Everybody’s Fool,” as Lee feels that the lyrics were written in an angry naive place. She explains in a a Songfacts interview, “The thing I thought I knew then that I know better now is that you never know what’s going on inside anybody, no matter what they seem like. Even if they’re the bully. Even if they’re the popular kid. You never know, inside, what kind of struggle they might be going through, the pain they may be suffering and how their outer image is oftentimes a coping mechanism to that.” On the other hand, Lee loves playing angry album closer “Whisper” live, though she no longer has the same connection to the emotions invoked.
Fallen is marked by a spiritual streak that trends towards outright Christian references at times. Christian markets interpreted hit “Bring Me to Life” as a call to Jesus Christ for redemption and promoted it at such. “Tourniquet,” written by then-drummer Rocky Gray (formerly of Christian death metal band Soul Embraced), takes on the philosophical question of whether God can forgive someone who has died by suicide. It’s not at all surprising that they were promoted to Christian audiences, though this was not their intention. A record representative later contacted Christian stores and radio stations to thank them for the support but emphasize that Evanescence was a secular band and wished to be treated as such, to the confusion of many.
At the time, critics had mixed reactions to Fallen; some criticized the band for their “PG-rated” nu-metal sound and safe choices, while others praised their anthemic choruses and pop appeal. Most critics agreed on Lee’s vocal prowess as the driving force behind the band, something that still holds true today. Fallen is the band’s most successful album to date, both in sales and awards; in addition to it being their highest selling album both domestically and internationally, Fallen earned Evanescence five Grammy nominations (Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, Best Hard Rock Performance, and Best New Artist) and two Grammy wins (Best Hard Rock Performance and Best New Artist).