Like a storm that’s been brewing for the better part of a decade, Evanescence’s fourth album, “The Bitter Truth,” is an emotional deluge. Amy Lee’s powerful vocals tell a story of emotional anguish, resilience and redemption. The songs are full of gothic opulence, delivered through operatic vocals and heavy-metal riffs.
Gothic metal is a style that few have mastered to the levels of quality and detail that have come so naturally to Evanescence. “The Bitter Truth” is an incredible album overflowing with torrents of raw sincerity.
After nearly two decades on the scene, this is their best album yet. The musical arrangements are clean and focused, demonstrating a higher level of craftsmanship that was still developing in their earlier releases.
Few artists in popular music can be described as composers, but Amy Lee is exactly that. A classically trained pianist with two film scores to her name, she writes the majority of Evanescence’s music, along with input from the band’s current lineup: guitarists Jen Majura and Troy McLawhorn, bassist Tim McCord and drummer Will Hunt.
As a teenager, Lee was inspired by the similarities she found between the rich complexity of classical music and the intense drama of heavy metal. She started Evanescence when she was 19, and together she and her fellow band members carved out a unique corner in the landscape of music, blending industrial gothic alt-rock with luscious orchestral pop. Electronic accents and instruments such as the music box on “Better Without You” add whimsical detail, further bringing their otherworldly songs to life.
The album opens with a slow intro, “Artifact/The Turn,” which blends seamlessly into the second track, “Broken Pieces Shine.” The primal pounding of reverberating drums signals to the listener that this is a metal album at its core. The ferocity it establishes never lets up, even in the album’s slower moments.
For “The Bitter Truth,” Lee drew upon the social upheavals of the past five years, including the #MeToo movement and the COVID-19 pandemic. Art often comes from dark places, and Lee is not afraid to explore these darkened alleyways of the human psyche. Her new songs are a release of pent-up anger and frustration, and while some offer hope, not all of them do.
“Our music is a place for people who have seen some sh-t, and been through some stuff.” Lee told Alternative Press. “Sometimes we just need to live in that place together and know as humans that we’re not alone in it.”
The album’s third single, “Use My Voice,” was motivated by words from writer and sexual assault survivor Chanel Miller. Lee takes this song as an opportunity to let the voices of other female rock musicians be heard. Joining her on backing vocals are Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, Sharon den Adel ofWithin Temptation, Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless, Lindsey Stirling and Deena Jakoub of Veridia.
“Yeah Right” proves that Lee also knows how to have fun. The intro is exclusively electronic, evoking the synthy sounds of Madonna and Britney Spears. The intro lasts for 30 seconds before the band enters, reigning in Lee’s diva excursion as she returns to rock.
“Far From Heaven” is the album highlight, featuring a heartbreaking piano solo from Lee that transitions into an orchestral arrangement without losing any of its raw vulnerability. Lee’s classical background makes itself apparent as it brings listeners to a candlelit wine bar in the aftermath of a breakup.
The second-to-last song “Part Of Me” offers brilliant lyrics like “I will be more than my survival.” It’s a powerful reminder that our stories don’t end after one hardship. We continue learning from our experiences for the rest of our lives. Lee wrote the song about finding her way out of grief, having lost her sister during her childhood and her brother in 2018.
The final track of “The Bitter Truth,” “Blind Belief,” carries a message of hope in its last refrain: “We hold the key to redemption/Love over all.” Lee’s voice soars and floats above the fray, and at the same time describes an inner world and the dark emotions that so many of us feel, but don’t have the words to express. Lee does, and it’s reassuring to know she’ll continue to wield it.
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