Eighteen years ago, Evanescence gatecrashed the nu metal party with their squillion-selling debut, Fallen, crowning themselves the scene’s resident goths. Since then, much has changed. Almost a decade has passed since they released an album of original material. Powerhouse vocalist Amy Lee has long been the band’s sole remaining founding member and creative force, and lengthy gaps between records have made Evanescence seem like a fleeting, rather than permanent, fixture in our world.
2017’s Synthesis, which saw the band’s biggest hits given an orchestral and cinematic makeover, hinted at an intriguing new direction – but it was a red herring. On The Bitter Truth, Amy has returned to her rock roots, making an album that will both delight and surprise fans: darkly emotional, empowering and now, politically charged.
Intro, Artifact/The Turn sets the scene, with Amy’s gentle soprano rising amid barely there, bubbling electronics. It’s followed by two songs that are instantly recognisable as the work of their creator; the jagged Broken Pieces Shine is cobwebby goth-rock with a melody as bright as its title, while The Game Is Over edges in and out of the shadows, like light peeking cautiously through a black lace curtain. As with Amy’s voice, which is capable of both capsizing a song and striking emotional gold, melodrama has always been part of Evanescence’s DNA. Back in the day, millions of disaffected teens found solace in her histrionic soul-searching – and tracks like Better Without You, which starts with the creepy tinkle of a wind-up jewellery box, and Far From Heaven are equally exhausting and exhilarating. Elsewhere, Wasted On You has Amy sounding as though she’s tip-toeing through a secret moonlit garden, before wringing her heart out over an ornate piano. It’s the same bombastic sound the band nailed back in 2006 on their second album, The Open Door, and it’s classic Evanescence.
That said, The Bitter Truth has a few tricks up its trailing batwing sleeve. No one predicted this band would record a futuristic, Muse-esque stomper in Yeah Right, much less the fiery political statement of Use My Voice. Written in response to the 2016 Brock Turner sexual assault case, but released as a single last year, the song’s taken on a new meaning in the context of the storming of the Capitol. ‘Gather your friends and wave your gun in my face,’ Amy rages, before a huge, open-hearted chorus crashes in with insistent cries of, ‘Don’t you speak for me!’. Closer Blind Belief drives that point home, beginning with skeletal piano and ending with a lasting declaration of hope, Amy hollering, ‘We hold the key to redemption’. In the new era of Biden/Harris, it feels like a triumph.
They might have made them wait for it, but The Bitter Truth delivers everything Evanescence fans would want and expect from the band’s comeback record: an album that’s emotive, stirring and just a touch overwrought, nestled between the bold and the familiar.