"I couldn't have written this album four years ago," admits Amy Lee, as she takes a breather from recording a Live @ VH1.com session. "I couldn't have played it four years ago. I've grown a lot as a musician and a singer. I'm challenging myself a lot more."
Lee has a lot to live up to. Evanescence's debut Fallen sold 14 million copies worldwide, but it came at a cost. First co-founder Ben Moody left the band to work with Avril Lavigne. Then replacement guitarist Terry Balsamo of Cold suffered a near-fatal stroke. And months before the release of The Open Door, bassist William Boyd left the band. But don't ask Amy about drama-she leaves that for the music. Here's her guided tour through this autumn's essential Gothic soundtrack.
The dynamic opener, all chugging riffs and vocal arabesques. Evanescence is back.
It's the one song on The Open Door that's about the same abusive relationship which was the source of all the songs on Fallen. It was appropriate to put this song at the beginning, but it comes from a much stronger standpoint than Fallen. It's not saying, "I'm trapped in fear and somebody save me." It's saying, "Fear is only in our minds ... I'm not afraid anymore."
"Call Me When You're Sober"
Lee plays the woman scorned. Key lyric: "Must be exhausting to lose your own game."
It's very obvious who it's about. I know that people would read between the lines and think it's about my ex-boyfriend Shaun Morgan [of Seether], but I wanted to be completely clear. I needed so bad to say exactly what I was feeling for so long. Music is therapy for me. It's my outlet for every negative thing I've ever been through. It lets me turn something bad into something beautiful.
"Weight of the World"
A relentless rocker with Eastern motifs and distorted vocals.
I live for the rock songs. With the line-up changing, I think a lot of people thought it would be more of the "My Immortal" stuff. But "My Immortal" was Ben [Moody]'s song! I was always trying to pull us in a crazier direction. Songs like "Weight of the World" and "Sweet Sacrifice" and "All That I'm Living For" are so amazing to me because of the adrenaline. Especially when we play them live.
"Don't want to forget the fear of lithium." One of several songs Lee sings in a lower register.
I wrote the chorus on the guitar when I was about 16. I always thought it was a cool chorus, but I never used it for anything. I started playing it on the piano and the verses came out. I have a pile of pieces stowed away in my mind that maybe I'll use some day. In a way it's an old song, but not really. It grew up.
A vocal tour de force, using strings, studio effects and Lee's own layered moaning.
It's about breaking up. There are a lot of relationship struggles on the record. I always write about what I was feeling, because then it's genuine. I was struggling with a relationship and felt like a waste of space. The first lyric says it all, "If you want to live, let live/ If you want to go, let go/ What are we doing here?/ Because I can live without you."
"Snow White Queen"
Industrial beats usher in one of Lee's most powerful vocal performances.
I went through some weird experiences with stalkers. It's weird how it works. My lyrics are so intimate that people feel like they really know me, and I don't know them at all. My privacy had been completely invaded and there were a couple of nights where I couldn't stay at my house. So I wrote a song about it through the eyes of the stalker, and with my perspective, too.
It means "related to sadness." Which becomes obvious when you hear it.
I saw Amadeus when I was nine years old and fell in love with Mozart. The part of Mozart's Requiem called "Lacyrmosa" is my favorite piece of music ever. I always wished we could cover it, but with programming and guitars and make it cool. It's our moment to try all the things I wanted to and couldn't, so I started messing with it in Protools. Terry wrote some riffs and turned it into this awesome metal epic.
Tense, mournful ... and the closest The Open Door gets to Fallen's world-beating ballads.
"Like You" is maybe the most intimate song on the record. It was about losing my little sister when I was a child. On the last record, I wrote "Hello" about her. "Like You" is her place on this record.
"You don't remember my name, I don't really care." The anger's in the music.
Terry uses a lot of delay and noises. His guitar playing is really creepy! He also uses a lot of half-step two chords, which I love. I felt like I wasn't really allowed to use stuff like that before, because Ben didn't like it. But songs like "Lose Control" go from C to a C sharp, back and forth. I love those. It's that Portishead influence.
"The Only One"
Like Sarah McLachlan if she was singing in the ninth circle of hell.
The song is about some of my experiences as a teenager with close-mindedness. I thought the people around me seemed lost in a world that I really didn't belong in. It's kind of spiritual. We originally called the track "Tuna Afternoon," because I made tuna noodle casserole that day. We still call the song "Tuna Afternoon." Sometimes it's hard to get past that working title.
The jet-propelled coda was inspired by Terry Balsamo's Pantera fixation.
A couple of years ago, I felt so alone that I was dreading going on tour. We had just arrived in Lisbon and I was in my room feeling jet-lagged, weird and tired. I had just been home where I could see the stars at night. But when I looked out the hotel window in Lisbon, I couldn't see anything because we were in this big city. That was the last straw. I felt so depressed, I just started singing this song.
"All That I'm Living For"
An opening salvo of guitars keeps up the momentum, in spite of Lee's delicate delivery.
I love that song. It feels really different for us. The lyrics are about my writing process-how I put the song together, why I do it, and how I'm trying to fix all the things that are wrong with me through music. The first line says, "Save me from the night again/ I can feel the separation from the living." It's always night time when I start writing, just as the dusk is setting.
I'm okay, you're okay. All pianos and gentle vocals, ending the album on a hopeful note.
I had gone through a lot of difficult things during the writing of the whole album, and by the end of it, I had stepped away from those bad situations. That's really hard. You have to be really brave and strong about it. After doing that, I felt so amazing. For the first time I felt like I could write a song based on how good I felt. I have never done that before ever.