Gothic Femme Glory: Celebrating 20 Years of Fallen

The early 00s were filled with pop stars and pop punk bands making their debut and creating cultural iconography with their visual aesthetics. One of the most iconic bands of this era, and one that changed the musical landscape for artists to come, is Evanescence. Evanescence came into the mainstream with their 2003 album “Fallen,” pushing the boundaries on what would be acceptable for a mainstream audience and pop radio. To celebrate 20 years of “Fallen,” let’s look back on the album’s significance for heavy music, its cultural impact on teenage expression, and its place in popular music history.

Evanescence was formed in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1995 by lead singer Amy Lee, and then guitarist Ben Moody, with Moody overhearing Lee play the intro to Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love But I Wouldn’t Do That,” and asking her to make music together. Moody would go on to choose the name Evanescence after knowing it’s significance, “The condition of lasting for only a short time, then disappearing quickly and being forgotten.”

The duo would soon find member David Hodges and would release three LPs before releasing their first full-length album titled “Origin.” The album was self-released, with limited quantities released via BigWig Enterprises. “Origin” is now considered the band’s first demo, and what would help the band get notoriety in a small town with no rock scene.

An obvious detail of Evanescence is that they are a woman fronted band, not only in a genre that was (and still is) dominated by men, but a sub-genre that up until then was filled with front men that were on their way to becoming heavy metal staples and icons. Jonathan Davis of Korn, Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Corey Taylor of Slipknot are just a few of the rising names within the genre. Evanescence’s arrival to the sub-genre and genre offered a new energy, point of view, and visual aesthetic for diverse fans and listeners.

Regardless of the scarcity of women fronted metal bands, producer Pete Matthews heard the Origin demo and got the band signed to Wind-Up Records. The band would spend two years putting together their album. While many people believed in Lee as the main vocalist, by the end of the band’s writing in 2002, the label was unsure whether they could sell Amy Lee as the sole vocalist of the band. Lee states, “It was presented to me as ‘You’re a girl singing in a rock band, there’s nothing like that out there, nobody’s going to listen to you. You need a guy to come in and sing back-up” (The Guardian). It was either collaborating with a male singer or not getting a chance at a signed record deal. The band refused and thus were dropped. Yet another opportunity came back when the label needed a song for the 2003 film “Daredevil,” an opportunity where Evanescence would again come into the picture.

Thus, their breakout hit “Bring Me To Life” would feature Paul McCoy from 12 Stones, a song that did not originally include any additional vocals. The song also became the leding single off of their debut record “Fallen” in 2003. Something to note is that it is perhaps the only song on the record to cross over into the nu-metal genre, something Amy Lee was strongly against. She states, “I was very strongly against having any male vocals in our music. …” (AP).

Lee speaking out about her original desires for the song, brings light to the ways in which women would be ignored in the industry at the expense of money and sales.

While Lee was unhappy with the final recording of the album, “Bring Me To Life” became a huge success. For teenage rock fans at the height of Hot Topic and nu-metal, it became a life staple. The ethereal vocals of Lee matched with McCoy’s rougher voice and screams, along with the gothic visuals of the video, made for an iconic and memorable hit.

Personally, I remember dyeing my hair jet black to match that of Amy’s, while I noticed gothic makeup, jewelry, and piercings all around me during this time as well. The single peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 along with 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake (Trash Theory). It was clear that the band’s influence went beyond the music, into the visual atmosphere as well.

The single topped the charts in multiple different countries, granting the band headliner status across the world.

Evanescence broke free of Wind-Up in 2014, leaving Lee open to new possibilities. This time the way she originally imagined them. In 2017, she re-recorded an album’s worth of her songs, including “Bring Me To Life.” The new recording would not include heavy guitar riffs, instead they would be replaced by orchestral arrangements. Now “Bring Me To Life” could actually be called her own.

“Bring Me to Life’ is new to me again after 15 years. It’s difficult to explain how good that makes me feel. Having the chance to incorporate things I’ve heard in my head throughout that long period of time, nuances from the way I sing it live, just pouring the weight and perspective of the life I’ve lived” (Rolling Stone).

Beyond the production details of the song, “Bring Me To Life” is an iconic song and became a staple of the early 00s rock and metal scene because of its intricate musical arrangement. The song is a love story between Amy Lee and her now husband Josh Hartzler, years before they actually became a couple.

“This song was actually written about my now-husband. I’d been in a really bad, abusive relationship, which had been very difficult for a long time. I thought that I was doing a pretty good job of pretending I was OK, but Josh [Hartzler, Amy’s husband], this guy that I didn’t know really well but I liked a lot, we went into a restaurant while my band members were parking the car. When we sat down, he looked at me right in the eyes, and said, ‘Are you happy?’ It just caught me really off guard. I felt very exposed, but it felt good at the same time – like he could see me. ‘How can you see into my eyes like open doors?’”

Besides “Bring Me To Life,” singles like “Going Under,” “Everybody’s Fool” and “My Immortal” displayed the band’s original heavy, yet ethereal and gothic sound they aimed for. This grounded the band once again as nu-metal is not present anywhere else in the album. Further, it proved Evanescence’s staying power beyond a nu-metal record. 

Although the first song released by Evanescence included a rap element, something that Lee was concerned about, it truly had no impact on the overall understanding and presence of the band. 

The legacy of “Fallen” has shown to go far beyond the troubles behind the scenes. It has now become a staple of the early 00s rock and metal scene. A time machine that takes fans back to the era of Hot Topic, chains, piercings, and baggy black cargo pants. 

While labels may have more of a say on the final art product of artists, and musicians like Amy Lee speaking out is important, the artistry of the band thrived in the end. Their most famous record has now finally become what it was always meant to be, a symphonic and softer take than what we originally fell in love with 20 years ago. Although “Bring Me To Life” and “Fallen” may not be the original idea and desired music of Lee, they became a pop culture staple for many fans, particularly teenagers, and is now considered a staple in rock and heavy metal music history, even with a woman singing into the mic. 

Sources:

All Music – https://www.allmusic.com/artist/evanescence-mn0000787428
AP – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ive0Nqv3p4A&t=200s
Dazed – https://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/56815/1/amy-lee-tells-the-real-story-behind-evanescences-bring-me-to-life
Kerrang – https://www.kerrang.com/the-20-greatest-evanescence-songs-ranked
Louder – https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-story-behind-bring-me-to-life-by-evanescence
Rolling Stones – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/hear-evanescences-orchestral-reworking-of-bring-me-to-life-204673/
Trash Theory – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU9PP240Qjc

Mayra Ramales
Mayra Ramales
Mayra Ramales founded The Sound Live in 2014, with the goal of highlighting underground talent. By creating a media platform, she aimed to expand accessibility to music journalist for up-and-coming writers and media creators. She completed her undergraduate degree at NYU and a dual masters at the University of Texas at Austin. She hopes to maintain The Sound Live as a DIY hub for everyday creatives.