"The Open Door," the eagerly awaited new album from Goth-rockers Evanescence, should come with a warning label: "This disc may cause severe depression - listen at your own risk."
Though their latest collection of songs is overwhelmingly dark, the quintet from Little Rock, Ark., manages to escape the "sophomore slump" that seems to plague so many promising new artists. Their breakout CD, 2003's "Fallen," was a tough act to follow, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide and anchoring the group on radio playlists with the singles "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal."
Despite some major changes in the band's lineup - including the departure of co-founder, guitarist and manager Ben Moody - their sound remains essentially the same: the strange but amicable marriage of churning guitar riffs to lead singer Amy Lee's silky soprano.
The new songs also make greater use of sweeping orchestral arrangements and backing vocals by a full choir, further adding to the sense that a Gothic cathedral or a somber opera house would be perfectly appropriate venues for their performance.
A classically trained pianist as well as the band's chief songwriter, Lee's lyrics beg the question, "Hasn't this woman ever been happy?" The CD's opening track, "Sweet Sacrifice," features disquieting lines like "I dream in darkness/I sleep to die/Erase the silence/Erase my life." The lyrics are par for the course on this lineup of overwhelmingly melancholy compositions. Still, it's well-executed music, and it's an ideal soundtrack for life's moodier moments.
The album's first single, "Call Me When You're Sober," is a scathing missive to Lee's ex-boyfriend, Shaun Morgan of the rock band Seether (with whom she collaborated on last year's hit song "Broken," from the "Punisher" soundtrack). With no effort to hide her still-raw emotions, she accuses, "Don't cry to me/If you loved me/You would be here with me/Don't lie to me/Just get your things/I've made up your mind."
The band deftly balances scorching rock anthems with reflective, piano-heavy ballads like "Lithium" and "Good Enough." The latter lays bare Lee's insecurities in an intimate-sounding setting - just her and the piano. "I'm still waiting for the rain to fall," she sings, "Pour down real life on me/Cause I can't hold onto anything this good enough/Am I good enough/For you to love me too?"
Perhaps chosen with intentional irony, "evanescence" is actually an obscure term that means "to disappear gradually, vanish or fade away, as with a vapor." Though they may have done some shape-shifting for "The Open Door," the new disc is proof that this Evanescence isn't going anywhere.