Another 'Door' Opens for Amy Lee

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006

Evanescence's "The Open Door" is its first studio album since 2003's "Fallen," which sold 14 million copies, about half of those in the United States. The new album came out Tuesday, but singer-songwriter Amy Lee had stepped through a metaphoric door long before: What you sense is a stronger Lee, for the first time in control of her life and art.

It's as if she'd "Fallen," but she could get up.

"I hope so -- I feel like it's a journey to being the new me," Lee said recently from New York, where she was rehearsing for the first Evanescence tour in two years (at the 9:30 club on Wednesday) and sounding decidedly upbeat.

"So much has changed in my life -- I was going through so many things in the making of the record, and before the making of the record, all the hurdles I had to get over to get to a better place."

Lee is not exaggerating. "The Open Door" is the first Evanescence album since the departure of co-founder, lead guitarist and Lee's longtime songwriting partner Ben Moody, who abruptly quit in 2003 in the middle of a European tour. He was replaced by former Cold guitarist Terry Balsamo, who would suffer a stroke from a torn neck artery as "The Open Door" was being recorded last October.

Also last year, Lee changed managers (and ended up suing and being sued by her former manager) and split from her boyfriend of three years, Seether frontman Shaun Morgan. And in July, bassist Will Boyd quit the band, replaced by Tim McCord, the former Revolution Smile guitarist who promptly switched instruments.

There was some continuity: Like "Fallen," "The Open Door" was recorded with producer Dave Fortman. And it does feature familiar goth-rock crunch, brooding lyrics, Lee's searing fallen angel vocals and elegant piano, epic melodies (including one co-written with Mozart) and just the right dashes of strings and choirs.

Those strings, Lee suggests, are not just weepy underscoring for a raven-haired drama queen.

"Everyone goes, 'Look at all this drama of the past four years lumped together into one setting' -- well, that's just life," she says from the vantage point of age 24. "Life throws you things -- I don't think my life is that much more dramatic or tumultuous than anyone else's. Mine's just in all the papers -- it's sensationalized," she says with a mix of laughter and indignation.

"There were things for me to get over," Lee adds. "I could just have shut up and stayed stuck in a lot of negative situations and not done anything, and on the outside it would have looked like everything was fine for me. I had to actually purge something out of myself and write a whole lot of music. This album is very special to me because I do open myself up a lot more. I really did everything that I couldn't do before, or was afraid to do before, in my writing and everything else."

Though Evanescence formed in the late '90s in Little Rock, the band didn't have much presence until the March 2003 release of "Fallen," its multi-platinum sales boosted by massive airplay for two of its songs featured in the soundtrack for "Daredevil." The crunching metallic "Bring Me to Life" and majestic "My Immortal" helped Evanescence win a pair of Grammys, including best new artist.

On the new album, quiet moments are found in the haunting ballad "Good Enough" and the spare, somber "Like You." Like the previous album's "Hello," "Like You" is about the childhood death of Lee's younger sister. "I can't help but be affected by that, and if it's my place to express myself and all the things that have been most deep and the most painful and have just touched me, I feel like it does honor her."

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