Rock and classical music have traditionally had an ambivalent relationship: one is synonymous with refinement, sophistication, formal training and is historically elitist. The other is bawdy, sexy and unbridled. From the musical rock operas of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeff Wayne to classically trained prog heroes ELP and Yes, these odd musical bedfellows were always destined to cross-pollinate. The fusion of the more massive tonality of drums and guitars with the lush sonic vista of an orchestra enriched both genres, in turn, spawning genre subsections where both guitar and the violin were kings. Kiss, Deep Purple, Metallica and others have all tried to add a different flavour to their music by using an orchestra.
When Evanescence released an orchestral re-imagining of some of their most loved tracks in 2017, it came as no surprise; after all their music naturally lends itself to the symphonic. What was more astounding was why it had taken them so long. The live version filmed during their American tour captures the grandiosity and scale of the project that the studio version doesn’t do it justice.
So many symphonic metal bands throw a smorgasbord of sounds into the recording that it becomes a muddy electronic mess. Luckily under the careful arrangements of Will Hunt, the group have not fallen into this trap, and his reworking embellishes the original songs rather than drown them with unnecessary sounds.
The orchestral score compliments Amy Lee’s semi-operatic vocal. There’s no interplay with the band here, she’s pushed straight to the front of the stage. It’s exposing and leaves her with no place to hide. Thought the 90-minute set she never falters or waivers, charging ahead on full belt and demonstrating an impressive range worthy of many a prima donna. She glides into Lacrymosa with ease, replacing rock chick with a sophisticated symphonic rock diva. Going between the Steinway and the mic in a flowing red gown, Lee maintains grace and poise throughout the show. Bring Me To Life loses its industrial overtones and makes way for a cinematic crescendo giving the song a whole different interpretation. Lee's dramatic and demanding vocal performance quickly turns this track from a rock anthem to an operatic aria. Unravelling offers a momentary respite for Lee with a beautiful piano interlude, before she returns to the front for Imaginary which is boosted by the careful use of the electronic and a more substantial drum presence.
Synthesis' success lies in its light and shade. Like all the best cinematic and classical scores it allows the music room to breath, with Lee’s powerful and graceful vocal soaring above. Lost In Paradise becomes a swelling orchestral opus and My Immortal's tugging strings and emotional depth shine through the spacious arrangement. Throughout the set, Lee uses her voice as an instrument in the true sense of the word, which is another reason why this live recording works so well. She’s at one with the music and not trying to break away and do her own thing.
Twenty years in the making this re-working stays very true to the original vision for the band's music. It’s an epic display of Evanescence's work and one that deserved to be recorded in an environment where it could flourish rather than be confined to a sterile studio.
Groupie rating 5/5