Indefensible Positions: TheKenWord Defends The Open Door

Every once in a while the metal scene collectively pisses on a band or record and someone needs to step up and defend why they like it. We normally don’t spend a lot of time defending shitty records, but sometimes genuinely interesting or good records get lampooned by an overly conservative heavy metal scene and that calls for a professional contrarian to defend it! If ever there were professional contrarians, it would be the staff of AMG. So here we are to re-hash a record from our past that (some of us) love that everyone else seems to have soured on (or never liked in the first place).

By the time of this writing, what must’ve been a thousand different ways to talk about this album occupied my mind. I considered delving deep into my past to illustrate its importance and relevance. Then I thought that I shouldn’t put too much effort into such talk, since it puts way too much emphasis on my personal attachment to this record and its profound impact on my life. Back and forth and around again I fought with myself to figure out what to do here. How can I make this work without also alienating the readers from myself, this amazing blog, etc.? Then my workmate, in all of his metalheaded wisdom, told me, “Fuck ’em!” By golly, he’s right! So, come hell or high water, I hereby claim my right to defend Evanescence’s The Open Door.

Back in 1995, Evanescence appeared out of Little Rock with a gloomy brand of gothic rock. After a demo and three EPs (not in that order), Fallen released in 2003 to multiple-platinum-selling fanfare on a global scale. It was modern and fun, but the majority of it lacked soul. It also earned the unfortunate genre tag of nü-metal thanks to a single song (you know exactly the one of which I speak), when not one other song on that record even remotely qualifies. Years passed, band members shifted, founding member Ben Moody left to write for pop artists such as Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson, blah blah blah. 2006 rolls around, The Open Door drops and suddenly Evanescence sounded like a proper gothic rock/metal-adjacent group, fully invested and committed to their music as opposed to their sales (though it too sold very well regardless).

First of all, the improvement level between Fallen and The Open Door is nothing short of insane. With the exception of lyrical content (which still retains some of the angsty qualities that riddled their debut—more on that later), every aspect of the music changed. Electronica influences find themselves greatly reduced. No more do we have guest rappers or hyper-modern atmosphere. In their place are thick guitar motifs that swerve and groove with attitude, grandiose symphonics and an unmistakable flair of drama. Even at its most overblown (looking at you, “Lacrymosa”), The Open Door maintains a consistently high level of song quality as opener “Sweet Sacrifice” hooks you with an incredible vocal line and my all-time favorite riff backing the chorus, and every song after that only tightening the record’s vice-like grip.

Evanescence’s main asset, of course, is the immense talent and skill of founding songstress Amy Lee. She posesses a strong, dark-coloured mezzo-soprano dripping with sultry character. On The Open Door, Amy delivers an unfuckwithable performance. Every ounce of her being channels directly into the music, each cut seemingly reflecting a part of her soul and instilling a sinister cynicism to her expression. One listen of “Sweet Sacrifice,” “The Only One,” “Snow White Queen” or closer “Good Enough” should be evidence aplenty to that end.

Vocals aside, something special occurs on The Open Door. While obviously not the heart-wrenching miasma that emanates from depressive doom acts like Clouds or their ilk, The Open Door nevertheless resonated with me because it is honest, spilling everything out in the open. From the seething melodrama roiling within “Call Me When You’re Sober” to the grieving desperation of “Like You” to the vengeful sensuality of “Lose Control” to the self-deprecating subtlety of “Good Enough,” Evanescence pulls you through one misadventure after another, affording an almost perverse pleasure reveling in stories of abuse, emotional blackmail, betrayal and self-loathing. Additionally, while the lyrics don’t always make a strong case for themselves poetically, they make up for it in clarity. There is no question whatsoever as to what each lyric makes reference, opening easy access points into which anybody can ingress. As a result, listeners can witness the retelling of the artists’ personal experiences while simultaneously processing their own. That method of storytelling is key to Evanescence’s identity, and it wasn’t until The Open Door that the band took full advantage of it.

In the end, I can’t expect anything I say to change anybody’s mind. If you hate this, or think it’s boring, or whatever; my words may mean nothing to you. But The Open Door means everything to me. It carried me from the darkest places through which I barely traversed, remained patient with me through periods wherein I treated everybody I cared about with hatred and resentment, and it continues to be my companion as I work tirelessly to improve myself. As cliché as it sounds, I would not be the person I am today without this album. For that I owe Evanescence, and The Open Door, a life debt.

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