Review | "The Bitter Truth", Evanescence's Latest Album

Nobody could’ve ever foreseen where we would be in 2020”, says Amy Lee – the lead vocalist and co-founder of Evanescence – in a promotion video for the band’s new album, "The Bitter Truth". After ten years of what they consider to be their last release before the hiatus (the namesake album Evanescence, in 2011), the band is finally back with a new and interesting production. Amy Lee, Tim McCord, Will Hunt, Troy McLawhorn, and Jen Majura decided it was time to try new ideas and noticed a need to bring some political views to their art: and they’ve succeeded brilliantly.

Mixing emotional songs with political statements through their new piece of work and using the same alternative-goth-metal style their fans love so much, Evanescence remains the good old Evanescence, simultaneously demonstrating the band’s rebirth from the shadows and the maturity brought with the experience. Four singles, such as "Wasted On You" and "Better Without You", were being released together with their MV’s, one by one, since 2020, but it was on this year’s March 26th that the long-awaited work was delivered to the public – and the wait was as much worth it as it could be.

You may be wondering: What could have motivated the band’s reunion in the middle of a pandemic? That’s what Lee was asked during an interview for the National Public Radio of USA (NPR), for which she replied: “We were all feeling that ‘end of the world’ kind of feeling. And suddenly I felt like the music was more important than ever, not just for me, but for our fans”. She continued saying it was this feeling that led them during the creative process and “built a lot of fire” in them. Most probably, this impulse must be responsible for part of the power this album holds in terms of lyrics, melody, and, mainly, concept.

  1. 1. Influences and Concept

    Although Evanescence’s style is still the same, the influence, this time, was very different from their past creations. The vocalist revealed for Consequences of Sound that she’s eclectic and doesn’t limit herself in the rock scene when it comes to enjoying some music or even getting inspired to compose. Recently, pop is the genre she’s listening to the most and Billie Eilish was the one who caught her ears: “I really do love good pop — like good, dark pop. So, with Billie Eilish, even more than her style, which is very dark, what I really love about her is just her authenticity”. She also stated that the singer reminds her of her younger self. However, we cannot affirm the album recalls strongly Billie’s style, but we can certainly notice some details that could demonstrate this inspiration, especially in the first track, "Artifact / The turn".

    The album’s concept is based on swallowing reality and feeling completely out of place inside this dark, wicked and unforgiving society. Basically, it defends it’s time to be unforgiving ourselves and stand up for the injustices that try to bring us down. Almost a year ago, when "Wasted on You" first came out, Amy explained to Rock Sound the meaning behind the title chosen for the record, "The Bitter Truth":  "As the lyrics had started to form, and just my feeling in this moment in general, there's a big theme of disillusionment for me. Just growing up and seeing that fairy tales aren't really real. [..] Because somebody else isn't in charge, we really have to be able to make our own decisions, [..] but there's a choice to accept that truth and live in it and embrace it and choose to live[..], and the choice to just give up. And there's a struggle there, but my choice is most definitely to take that pill". This last sentence, by the way, explains the album’s cover image, in which Lee is taking a pill that has a drawn face with crossed eyes in it.

    "The Bitter Truth" counts with four music videos, as well as a fan video for three of them and a lyrics video. All of them are available on Evanescence’s Youtube channel. Still, one among these songs stands out for being the band's first political anthem. The track and its video clip are the most remarkable ones in this album and the production as a whole speaks out a significant message. We’re talking about "Use My Voice".

  2. 2. "Use My Voice" and other songs

    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”. Only based on this one quote from "Use My Voice", it’s possible to affirm that the message this song transmits to its public could not be more important. It’s a protest against censorship and oppression, which is very necessary, especially in the context it was released: the beginning of the USA's 2020 elections. The song is about the potency our voices have to defeat any repression and abuse of power. Evanescence proved with this track how mature they woke up back to the music industry. They acknowledge the world around them and its political context, and they react to it by creating a strong and memorable piece of art, noticing that “if we can’t talk about it, we’ll just keep drowning in it”. As the lyrics make clear to the listener: whether people like it or not, they’ll have to take what they’ve got.

    Amy Lee, back at the NPR’s interview already quoted above, also talked about what motivated her to write this single: “When I first started writing that song, it was after reading Chanel Miller's incredible impact statement, her testimony at the end of her trial”. She noticed that, no matter how hard it is to fight for justice, the voice is the most powerful weapon we can have. She continues, saying: “She's a sexual assault survivor [...] and, when she stood up and just read the words of her experience [..] and what it meant to her as a human being, it just occurred to me [..] that over anything else that could have possibly thrown at her, her words were stronger”. Possibly, Evanescence also noted that taking their place of visibility to make a statement, they could amplify unheard voices and inspire those who are scared of speaking for themselves and others around them.

    The music video is magnificent, and a brief analysis could be written like this: At first, it’s night time and there’s little presence of light. Also, the members of the band are alone and separate inside dark spaces. However, as the song continues and the energy of it increases, they start turning on the lights, taking some sources of it with them and getting out of where they are to meet people outside, people who also carry some sources of light, and they all walk together like a protest march. As the number of people increases, the sun starts to rise, and it becomes clear that the crowd is full of diverse individuals and some of them even hold signs and US flags. No matter how different they are, they’re united for a reason in common and they know they’ll be heard the best if they shout as one. This audiovisual production was directed by Eric Howell, who has already worked with Amy back in 2015.

    "Use My Voice" is one of the two “activist” songs contained in this album, together with the last track, "Blind Belief", which sends the message that our generation has the responsibility to change the problems our society has and diverge from our parent’s mistakes that put the wrong people in charge: “Blind belief, are you afraid to see / That our fathers were wrong? / We hold the key to redemption / Let the icons fall”.

    Apart from the great activism, it’s clear, just by listening to the other tracks, the band never abandoned their debut’s – "Fallen" (2003) – roots. Some songs, such as "Feeding the Dark" and "The Game is Over", are very existentialist and present a poetic persona that is lost inside a world in which they don't recognize their place. This disillusionment, as Amy would say, is also existent in "Broken Pieces Shine", which makes a direct reference to one of Evanescence’s greatest singles, "Going Under" (2003), by questioning “What is real and what is not?”. Other songs, such as Yeah Right, Better Without You and Take Cover, show a warrior singing to us, someone who is powerful – and they know it – and will take down whoever dares to underestimate and try to manipulate them. Finally, "The Bitter Truth" features another nuance, which brings a lyrical character who mourns about lost love, a failed relationship they can’t get over and strive to bring back. This last concept can be found in tracks such as "Far From Heaven" and "Part of Me". The arrangement of themes discussed is vast and anyone can identify with some part of the lyrics, recognizing the emotions brought in every tune.

In the face of these factors, this amazing band’s evolution becomes notorious. Fan or hater, you’ll have to admit: they’ve worked hard and done an incredible job, right? I hope I have convinced you to give this album a shot and listen to it on any platforms you prefer! And I also hope you feel as amused as I felt by listening to it for the first time. Take care or you might become a fan!

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The article above was edited by Bárbara Vetos.

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