After seven years away, one might have been forgiven for expecting Evanescence to mark their return creatively reinvigorated, with something bold and dramatic. And, in fairness, ‘Synthesis’ is bold and possesses a certain brooding gothic drama, as one would expect from the band. But if the title suggests a progression and stylistic, creative evolution, then the orchestral reworkings of songs from their back catalogue accompanied by only two news songs fail to fulfil. They certainly don’t say ‘creative reinvigoration’.
That is an ambitious work isn’t in question: for this project they’ve got together with a full orchestra in collaboration with producer Will Hunt, and orchestra arranger and composer David Campbell.
Opener ‘Overture’ may be but a minute in duration, but brings with it all the portent of strings and piano that you’d expect from Evanescence, particularly in orchestral format, and it paves the way for a brooding rendition of ‘Never Go Back’. With the guitars replaced by strings and the driving tempo of the original pulled back to something altogether more sedate, it’s a significant reworking, and what’s also immediately striking is the mechanised-sounding industrial-tinged beats which clatter, thud, and stutter at the back. It’s this NIN-meets-Linkin Park feature which shapes the album’s sound as the grand orchestral crescendos.
They go all out for the power balladry on the swooping, sweeping, string-soaked theatricality of ‘Bring Me Back to Life’. It’s a song that’s perfectly suited to this kind of bombastic extravagance.
New songs ‘Hi-Lo’ (written a decade ago but previously without a home) and ‘Imperfection’ (which closes the album) sit comfortably alongside the rest of the material.
Given that Amy Lee’s piano has always been a core element of the band’s sound, ‘Synthesis’ perhaps isn’t really the sonic shift it’s pitched as, and doesn’t offer a radical new insight into material. In fact, it sounds exactly as you’d expect it to. Needless to say, fans – and there are many the world over – will be elated by this. It’s well executed, and it emotes powerfully and movingly in all directions. But the pace is decidedly fixed on the mid-tempo, the restylings become quite predictable very early on, and it feels incredibly safe.