Evanescence's third studio album (and first in five years) is the type critics love to hate: it comes from a pretentious band full of oversized drama and digestible darkness that has sold more than 20 million albums in a relatively short career. If Fallen (2003) was a surprise smash hit, and The Open Door (2006) a worthy successor, five years without music (in today's short-attention-span world) is still the kiss of death, unless your name is the Strokes. That's too bad — this album achieves the power of its predecessors in a simpler, straight-line way. All the stuff I really don't care about (the sugar-coated Christianity, the vampire image) is still there, but Amy Lee's powerful vocals are intact and the band has mastered the formula of perfect verse to epic chorus to perfect verse again as if they felt they no longer have anything to prove. The Goth-metal guitars are as badass as Lee's voice, the drums are ferocious, and the production by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Rush) makes everything sound perfectly in place. Perhaps too perfect, sure. But that studio error-phobia and the songs' undeniable commercial appeal don't change the fact that, take it or leave it, Evanescence still has it.
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