Some say the devil is in the details. If that’s true, the particulars of the Evanescence story add up to an epic allegory involving a Judas-like betrayal of the band’s early Christian fanbase during its rise from a little-known Southern goth-metal band with religious underpinnings to a massively successful mainstream band in the secular pop world.
From the beginning, Evanescence was well crafted and well-marketed. Lead singer Amy Lee had the right goth look, from her ghoulish make-up and left-eyebrow piercing to her Victorian-style clothing, corsets and fishnets. Her ex-boyfriend, original guitarist and co-founder Ben Moody, was in a Christian praise and worship band when he met Lee at a church youth camp and was smitten by her voice and piano playing. Still in their early teens, the two formed Evanescence in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1998 and developed a following on the Christian rock circuit. They eventually fleshed out the band’s lineup with keyboardist David Hodges, guitarist John LeCompt, bassist Will Boyd and drummer Rocky Gray. After recording a few independently released EPs, which included clearly Christian-themed songs such as “Give Unto Me,” the band signed with Wind-Up Records, home to other successful religious-leaning rock acts such as Creed and 12 Stones. With Evanescence’s involvement, Wind-Up’s early marketing plan included a push to Christian music fans, and the band’s 2003 debut album, Fallen, was sold in both Christian and secular music outlets.
That’s when the story of Evanescence took a drastic public detour. In April 2003, a month after the release of Fallen, Lee and Moody renounced their association with Christian music in an interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine that included profanity. It riled their Christian fans and Wind-Up immediately posted an apologetic letter on the Christian Music Central Website announcing that the band members’ statements made it clear they considered Evanescence a secular band and that the aptly titled Fallen would be pulled from Christian retail outlets.
It didn’t affect album sales at all. Fallen became a huge success, reaching Number One on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Christian chart and Number Three on the Billboard 200. Its singles included “Bring Me to Life” (Number One Modern Rock; Number Five Pop, 2003), “Going Under” (Number Five Modern Rock, 2003) and “My Immortal” (Number Seven, 2004). The album went on to sell more than 15 million copies worldwide and Evanescence won two Grammys including Best New Band. But chatter on Christian Websites polarized the group’s religious fans and tensions within Evanescence created a schism among its members. Even before the Entertainment Weekly scandal had broken, keyboardist Hodges left the group because he had mistakenly believed Lee and Moody wanted Evanescence to be part of the Christian music scene. Then, six months after the dust-up, Moody left due to “creative differences” and was replaced by Terry Balsamo of the Florida-based metal band Cold.
In 2004, Evanescence released a live album, Anywhere but Home, which reached Number 39 on the Billboard 200. If it wasn’t already clear that Lee was the focal point of the band, the October 2006 release of The Open Door established her dominance once and for all. The album shot to Number One on the Billboard 200 and produced another Top 10 single, “Call Me When You’re Sober,: written about Lee’s post-Moody relationship with Seether singer Shaun Morgan. Shortly before The Open Door’s release, bassist Will Boyd left and was replaced by Tim McCord of the California metal band Revolution Smile. Six months after the album came out, guitarist John LeCompt announced that Lee had fired him via cell phone and that drummer Rocky Gray had also decided to leave the band. Lee replaced the two musicians, who had been with Evanescence since its Little Rock days, with drummer Will Hunt and guitarist Troy McLawhorn, both of the metal band Dark New Day. That lineup toured through late 2007.
After his departure from Evanescence, Moody underwent treatment for substance abuse problems and then began collaborating with pop stars such as American Idol singers Kelly Clarkson and Daughtry as well as Avril Lavigne, Lindsay Lohan and Celine Dion. As of 2008, his solo debut, tentatively titled Can’t Regret What You Don’t Remember, had not yet been released. He also has worked on various projects with Hodges, who has remained a vocal member of the Christian music scene.