Evanescence’s ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a bittersweet return from hiatus

Evanescence

The Bitter Truth

Evanescence · March 26, 2021


Evanescence is back with a vengeance with the release of their first album of entirely new music in almost nine years. The Bitter Truth marks Evanescence’s full return after ridding themselves of their former record label in 2014. The 12-track album feels very familiar for fans of Evanescence, as the band continues to blend pop and goth rock elements in its instrumentation, and weighty, sustained legato notes from vocalist Amy Lee. 

The album opens with “Artifact/The Turn,” a minimalistic introduction featuring ambient drones, which set up the sonic atmosphere for the whole album. The song finishes with a powerful high note from Lee that transitions into the second track, “Broken Pieces Shine.”

The first five tracks of The Bitter Truth are standard, run-of-the-mill Evanescence songs. While there is a nice, though not always effective, blending of electronic and analog instruments,  almost every song in the first half of this album anticlimactically goes into half-time at the chorus, and features sustained legato notes from Lee. Though there is merit to sticking to one’s strengths, each song sounds a bit too much like the last, and the lyrical content is a bit sparse. The first half of The Bitter Truth plays the same tropes repeatedly, and leaves something to be desired.

However, everything changes with the sixth track and lead single, “Wasted on You.” The song contains the title of the album in the climactic chorus: “I don’t need drugs / I’m already six feet low / Wasted on you / Waitin’ for a miracle / I can’t move on / Feels like we’re frozen in time / I’m wasted on you / Just pass me the bitter truth.” The drums on the line “I don’t need drugs” hit hard and add appropriate emphasis. The blending of electronic and rock elements is seamless in this track. It’s a shame, though, that the lead single is the strongest song on the album.

The musical volta seen in “Wasted on You” is continued in the following track, “Better Without You.” The fifth single off the album, “Better Without You” starts with a light music box-type melody, and blends into heavy instrumentals. The lyrics showcase Lee’s anger and frustration with not only the band’s former label, but also the sexism and misogyny Lee herself has experienced throughout her time in the music industry. Her emotional delivery further exemplifies this anger. This is especially apparent in the bridge, where Lee sings, “Never gonna shut me up again / Your time is over / It’s over now.” This track is a powerful setup for the following track, “Use My Voice,” which examines these themes further.
Breaking from the trend of anticlimactic choruses in the first half of the album, “Take Cover,” the ninth track, actually enters double-time in the chorus, as opposed to half-time. Lee slides around on the high notes of the chorus, as opposed to just sustaining the same note, which is a strong stylistic choice, and adds to the overall dynamics of the song. The climax of this song is in the breakdown, where the heavy instrumentals are accompanied by Lee’s capable vocals. Arguably, Lee’s most impressive vocals on the album are on the lyric “So come on inside” during this bridge.

An Evanescence album would be incomplete without a solemn ballad, and it is found on The Bitter Truth as the 10th track, “Far from Heaven.” The aforementioned critique of the sparse lyrics in the first half of the album absolutely does not apply here. Lee asks painful questions after losing a loved one, such as, “What if I can’t feel your light anymore?” and “Is anyone out there? Did you give up on us?” The sonic environment of this song supports the lyrical content well with the use of ambient drones, though the second chorus may have been more powerful had there been a drum kit as opposed to electronic drums. 

After the quiet and subdued ending to “Far from Heaven,” the audience is jolted awake with the 11th track, “Part of Me.” The song is sonically heavy, but is incredibly uplifting lyrically. There is an almost anthemic feel to it, and it’s easy to imagine an arena of people singing along to the lyrics, “I will be more than my survival / Own these scars on my heart / Even in dreams I hear you calling / Breaking the surface, I won’t let go / You’re part of me.” This song would have been an amazing finale to The Bitter Truth, with the perfect balance of lyrical integrity, consistent instrumentation, and a continuation of tropes from the entire album.

Unfortunately, the 12th track, “Blind Belief,” does not serve the role of the finale as well as “Part of Me” would have. The lyrics are an attempt at  being empowering and hopeful, but feel a bit empty. It seems as though there is a vague critique of general systems of oppression, but it lacks specificity. The “love over all” sentiment in the lyrics is nice, but doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the songs in the latter half of the album. This track seems like it belongs in the first half of the album with its sparse lyrics and less-than-effective blending of electronic and analog elements. However, this song does have a sharp ending, creating a solid finish for the album, which was satisfying in a way that “Part of Me” would not have been had it been the final song.

Fans of Evanescence will be pleased to hear that the band has not deviated from its strengths and signature sound. Amy Lee is still an incredibly strong vocalist, the breakdowns still hit hard, and there is still a blending of the technological and the analog. That being said, The Bitter Truth may have been a more engaging album had the entire piece sounded more like tracks six to eleven. Hopefully, now that Evanescence has returned from their hiatus, they will take advantage of their new freedom, and will continue to create full-sounding, innovative music, and leave behind some of the emptier elements.

Listen to The Bitter Truth:

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