In the spring of 2003, when Evanescence emerged with their debut album, Fallen, it was unlike anything anyone had ever heard. Among the predominantly male nü-metal and post-grunge acts that were popular at the time, the female-fronted band offered rock fans an oasis of sorts. Pushing the alternative sound to the edge of a gothic rock opera, the album’s powerful-yet-ethereal sound blended cathartic metal riffs with haunting, piano-driven melodies. At the helm was Amy Lee and her gripping, emotive vocals.
The album was the culmination of a partnership that began years earlier when Lee and guitarist Ben Moody met at camp. Before long, the teen duo was playing gigs around Little Rock and establishing their signature, cinematic sound with the help of local friends and musicians and a 16-track recorder to create multi-layered instrumentation. By the turn of the millennium, Evanescence had grown to a trio (with the addition of keyboardist David Hodges) and independently released several EPs and a full-length demo, Origin, which caught the attention of Wind-up Records.
As a testament to the depth and maturity of Lee and Moody’s songwriting, several tracks from the band’s earliest days were incorporated into their debut. Among them were “Whisper,” “Imaginary,” and “My Immortal,” which would become one of the band’s most enduring hits. Producer Dave Fortman (Slipknot, Mudvayne, Simple Plan) was a perfect fit for the band’s unique vision. Lush, iconic string arrangements by David Campbell (Aerosmith, Alanis Morrisette, Green Day, Linkin Park), drums by veteran musician Josh Freese (the Vandals, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails), and a layer of full choir arranged and directed by Lee herself completed the picture.
Many of the songs on Fallen were deeply personal to Lee. “Hello,” for instance, was written about the loss of the artist’s younger sister, who passed away when she was a child, while two of the album’s biggest hits, “Going Under” and “Bring Me to Life,” found the songwriter coming to terms with an abusive relationship. Speaking to Chik Magazine in 2003, Lee shared, “The point of this whole record and band is to let people know that they’re not alone in dealing with bad feelings or pain… I’m going through it too.”
That sense of kinship resonated with fans around the globe, as evidenced by the album’s record-breaking success. In its first week, Fallen sold 141,000 copies in the U.S. – a mind-blowing achievement for a relatively-unknown band. Within a month, Fallen received its first Platinum certification, while outside of the U.S., it broke the Top 10 in more than ten countries. Much of the band’s stratospheric success can be attributed to its singles, including “Bring Me to Life,” which led the album and was a Top Ten hit in more than 15 countries. The following year, the song received a GRAMMY® for Best Hard Rock Performance, while Evanescence earned the award for Best New Artist.
Fallen would set Evanescence on a path to global superstardom and influence a string of bands to follow. 20 years later, it remains one of the bestselling albums of all time, while its enduring appeal remains strong. Most recently, “Bring Me to Life” surpassed one billion views on YouTube, while Fallen earned a rare Diamond certification from the RIAA, marking an astonishing 10 million units in sales in the U.S. alone.
This retrospective offers a poignant and personal look at the impact that Fallen had on one young fan.
Originally published on the album’s tenth anniversary, this Billboard feature offers insight into every Fallen track.
This in-depth Rolling Stone video interview finds Amy Lee recalling the band’s rise to stardom.
DEEP CUTS WE LOVE...
“Haunted” - As the title suggests, this song is about being possessed by a spirit…or an unrelenting relationship.
“Everybody's Fool” - A biting commentary on early aughts celebrity culture – particularly the sexualization of teen pop stars.
“Whisper” - The album’s closing track builds into a dramatic crescendo, culminating with an eerie refrain by the Millennium Choir, who repeat the Latin phrase "Servatis a periculum / Servatis a maleficum,” which (according to several sources) translates to “Save us from danger / Save us from evil.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- Fallen ranks as the sixth best-selling album of the 21st century, ranking just behind Adele’s 25 and ahead of Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.
- The album art for Fallen, which features a close-up headshot of frontwoman Amy Lee (captured by photographer Frank Veronsky) was taken on the singer’s 21st.
- Meat Loaf technically brought Amy Lee and Ben Moody together. When they met at summer camp, Lee was playing the singer’s hit “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” on the piano. Moody was instantly taken with the musician and introduced himself on the spot.
- Before it was officially released as a single, “Bring Me to Life” appeared on the soundtrack to the 2003 Marvel film, Daredevil, starring the soon-to-be couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.
Words: Sophie Smith