Photo Credit: Nick Fancher
When Evanescence released their debut album Fallen in 2003, they were seen by many as an exercise in the sure-fire marketing strategy that was gender-bending. Specifically, they were seen as a female-fronted version of Linkin Park, one of the biggest bands of the time (even right now, if one Google-searches “bands like Linkin Park,” Evanescence are the first one that comes up). Still, Evanescence was able to quickly forge their own identity, thanks largely to the distinctive look and voice of lead singer and pianist Amy Lee, who combined all the most appealing characteristics of Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt and Bjork.
One way or another, everything worked: Fallen sold seventeen million copies worldwide, making Evanescence one of the most successful rock bands to debut (on record) during the 2000s. They now return with The Bitter Truth, their first album of all-new material in four years. By this point, it should be noted, Evanescence has essentially become a name for a varying series of line-ups fronted by Lee, which in this case also includes guitarist Troy McLawhorn, bassist Tim McCord and drummer Will Hunt, who’re joined by new guitarist Jen Majura.
What this current roster has to offer listeners on The Bitter Truth certainly sounds like Evanescence, and is overall solid. The split title of opening track “Artifact/The Turn” suggests that they’re starting off with some sort of a multi-part musical saga, when in fact the song is less than two-and-a-half minutes. Still, the cut invites the listener in with a disturbing yet somehow reassuring whisper, which then gives way to an appealing synth section, as well as reacquainting us with Lee’s understated yet powerful trademark vocals.
“The Game is Over” proves that this is anything but the case, hitting us with an appealing drum beat and some strong metal guitars. By far the least-formal-sounding title on the album, “Yeah Right”, hints at its looseness, as it bounces between funk and hard rock. The song’s lyrics also cleverly address the band’s somewhat fractured history, as well as the extended absence they’ve just put behind them: “Yeah, I’m a rock star // I’m a queen resurrected, just as messed up as before.”
“Broken Pieces Shine” gets a pass for the title alone, but also shows the band at the height of their ability to create a multi-part song – replete with varying tempos and feels – which in the end also scores. “Feeding the Dark”, as that title suggest, is generally more goth than metal, while “Better Without You” is an ‘80s style rocker more in the vein of artists like Heart, Pat Benatar and Fiona (Flanagan). Never one to let her formidable skills on the keys go unnoticed, Lee and the band also serve up the piano ballad “Far From Heaven.”
With not a single song length exceeding five minutes, Evanescence still manage to make nearly every song seem somehow epic. This certainly goes for final cut “Blind Belief”, which is a classic type of album-closer, even if this is not quite a classic album. The truth about The Bitter Truth is that it should continue to satisfy Evanescence’s fans. The bitter part of the truth, however, is that it probably won’t win them any new ones.