It’s been ten long years since Evanescence released any original material in the form of their self-titled album. 2017’s Synthesis was also a red herring, with orchestral re-imaginings of earlier material that hinted at an evolution in sound that didn’t come to pass - at least, not in the way it pointed to.The Bitter Truth is their first new material since 2011 and despite the long wait, there’s no sign of any ring rust and while members have come and gone, leaving Amy Lee the sole original member, the sound is immediately recognisable.
Opening softly with gentle keys, ‘Artifact/The Turn’ is a mood-setter as opposed to a full track, re-introducing Amy Lee’s unique voice and hinting at some gothier textures to come. The pulsing electronic elements are a recurrent theme, including on first full song ‘Broken Pieces Shine’. It’s a hard rocking number that fans will immediately find familiarity with. Lee’s vocals soar with gothic splendour in the chorus and are more subdued for the verses, rather than the one-note approach she might have taken in the past.
It’s definitely not Fallen or The Open Door 2.0, thankfully, though there’s certainly no shortage of epic, almost ballad moments such as the chorus to ‘The Game Is Over’ and closer ‘Blind Belief’ that flirts a little with power metal. That said there’s also some moments that come out of left-field, especially ‘Yeah Right’, a bouncing rock number that opens with undulating bassy synths before the galloping chorus takes off. ‘Feeding The Dark’ is classic Evanescence, Lee’s lower croons throughout the verse before taking off into the stratosphere for a mammoth, singalong chorus.
The Bitter Truth was fuelled by personal and global struggles; the album’s creation itself was beset by issues, with band members spread across cities, states and even continents during its creation. Dealing with personal themes as well as their first foray into the political with ‘Use My Voice’, with Lee singing “Drown every truth in an ocean of lies / Label me bitch because I dare to draw my own line / Burn every bridge and build a wall in my way / But I will use my voice”, she calls out those who put words in others’ mouths or attempt to silence others, as well as speaking out for those who don’t have a voice. It’s an intense, powerful moment and it’s clear why this was chosen as one of the five singles for the album.
Unfortunately not every song hits as powerfully or is as evocative, for instance ‘Far From Heaven’ is a tad overwrought in its pomp and balladry. Similarly, while ‘Take Cover’ isn’t a bad song by any means, its Inception-esque bass injections feel a little out of place and it’s simply not as strong as other material. Lee’s voice also occasionally gets buried in the maximalist compositions, a strange occurrence for a band that over the years has become synonymous with her and her unique vocal talents.
These are minor quibbles, though, and The Bitter Truth is by and large a triumphant return from one of rock’s biggest names. As easy as it would’ve been for them to phone it in and deliver Fallen 2.0, instead Evanescence took some risks, pushed their sound into new directions and delved deep into their own worlds to create a bold return to form that stands tall as a welcome return.