One of the things I found very interesting were the comparisons, often heated and unfriendly, that were made between Within Temptation and Evanescence. As a huge fan of both, in my mind they were always two very different bands. Evanescence was born from what appeared to be Christian rock beginnings (Amy Lee has repeatedly denied Evanescence was ever intended to be a Christian rock band) that eventually evolved into hard rock with strong symphonic and gothic components as Amy Lee went her own way from the early days. Within Temptation grew from Gothic Metal into Symphonic Metal that rode the edge with hard rock. Though the personalities of both bands met about the same time, it was Within Temptation that produced its first album (1997) years before Evanescence was finally able to (2003). In my opinion, this extra lead time and experience working together would definitely help Within Temptation define itself and refine its sound sooner.
In my mind there is an obvious difference in the compositions produced by the two bands. From the final product, I always felt Amy Lee was singing more personally as the very definition of the singer/songwriter. I don't know if that's how it really was, but that's what it FELT like. Listening to Evanescence it felt like Amy Lee was pulling from deep within herself which made for very honest, personal, gritty and often sullen music. These to me are the reasons why this music is awesome and why I love it, but I know not everyone does. Add Amy Lee's signature powerful haunting voice and this became Evanescence's signature sound with the added emotionality that many people can identify with. This in my opinion is what makes Evanescence unique and stand out from everyone else.
The feel is different when Sharon den Adel sings. There is drama and a refined cinematic experience to the music of Within Temptation. I never felt any song by Within Temptation was the product of only one person, but a collaboration of the band rooted in ideas. The end result was something that to me felt very carefully crafted, extremely beautiful, and even haunting. Your imagination grapples onto the songs and the music becomes personal from within the listener. Their songs seem bolstered, refined, and carefully sculpted with the help of several hands. In whatever creative process Within Temptation uses, the ideas in the songs eventually reach a form where they seem to take flight and become timeless within the listener.
I want to be clear by saying that I don't see one as better than the other. They are two different ways of achieving moments of beauty captured in time. Functionally, Metal Bands can and have redefined themselves as members leave, but Amy Lee IS Evanescence. Without Amy Lee there is no Evanescence. From their last album it felt at times like they were ready to burst out and become a full symphonic and gothic metal band. Personally I would love to see them break convention and transition to Symphonic Metal. In my opinion they are essentially there, but even more so in their live performances. I suppose if that was something Amy Lee and the band was thinking about doing, I, for one, would welcome and encourage it. Everyone, especially artists, should live free and by their own rules, not by those imposed by others. Though I imagine they would probably get resistance from their record label, but that's to be expected. You can still be mainstream with hard rock or alternative but not really with metal, symphonic or otherwise.
And on the off chance you've followed me this far, here are the two songs that sat at the nexus of this old controversy. What's even more silly is the songs are 4 years apart. These are two great bands in 2 different genres, but beyond the superficial similarities, both are different, unique, and stand on their own merits with their own individual feel and sound. The beauty they create is unique to each and personal to us.
Bring Me To Life - official music video, Evanescence (2003)
What Have You Done - official music video, Within Temptation (2007)
A better comparison is this:
What You Want - official music video, Evanescence (2011)
Faster - official music video, Within Temptation (2011)
Two great bands, two great sounds, two ways to paint beauty onto a canvas of sound.