At the close of Evanescence's new album, ``The Open Door," singer-songwriter Amy Lee can scarcely believe how happy she is. ``It's been such a long time coming and I feel good," she sings on ``Good Enough."
Indeed, it has taken the Arkansas-spawned chanteuse three years, two lost band members, one sexual harassment lawsuit against her former manager, one messy breakup with singer Shaun Morgan of Seether , and approximately 45 minutes to get to this moment of romantic peace.
Although we don't want to begrudge Lee her joy, we wish she could've gotten there a bit sooner, if only because ``Good Enough" showcases the goth heroine's most unclenched and luxurious vocal to date. And if ``Door" featured more open-throated crooning and less teeth-gritting anger it would be a much more interesting record.
As it is, Lee competently follows up 2003's Grammy winning ``Fallen" with more of the heaving, yearning pop metal that propelled that record to multiplatinum status. Guitarist and co-songwriter Terry Balsamo ably replicates the sound conceived by Lee and original cofounder Ben Moody, who abruptly quit midtour in 2003.
So, like previous hits ``Bring Me to Life" and ``Going Under," the songs on ``The Open Door" are a mix of Lee's ethereal soprano, piano interludes, and layers of serrated guitar crunch that conjure visions of Sarah McLachlan fronting Godsmack . If you've heard the hard- charging opening salvo that is ``Call Me When You're Sober," you know the drill. Moods come in two shades: black and blacker. Lyrics tend toward repetition of words like `` darkness, " `` haunting, " and `` rage. "
Eventually all of the macho riffing begins to feel dutiful, especially on a song like ``Your Star," as its lovely filigreed piano lines are forced to cower under the weight of all that brawny ax work.
But nobody makes with the spooky as efficiently as Lee these days, and songs like ``Cloud Nine," with its woozy, horror-movie keys, and the plaintive ``Like You" were tailor-made for sobbing on your bed. You can practically hear the wax dripping off the candelabras in the background of the no doubt darkened studio.
Even ``Good Enough," the lone glimmer in the gloom, has an incongruously downtrodden groove. But Evanescence fans are unlikely to want it any other way.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.