It's incredibly rare that the band or artists could go a decade or more without releasing an entire album of new music and not lose their cultural relevance, but that is exactly what Evanescence has achieved. That's not to say the band has been completely missing from the music industry — quite the contrary. The band's most recent full-length studio album of new music may have been their self-titled 2011 effort, but in 2017 they put out Synthesis, an album featuring mostly new versions of past songs, and in 2018 they released Synthesis Live. There was also 2016's Lost Whispers, a compilation of B-sides and new tunes.
Now, in 2021, Evanescence has released The Bitter Truth, an album that finds the band evolving their sound by going back to basics. You could say The Bitter Truth is a spiritual sequel to the band's debut album, Fallen, in more than one way. The new album, for the most part, trades in the symphonic sound that Evanescence has come to be associated with over the years, and instead utilizes much more electronic and synth elements, which are layered amidst heavy riffs and pummeling drum and bass parts. It certainly is not devoid of string arrangements, however, which will please die-hard fans of the band.
Perhaps the most compelling and enthralling aspect of the album is the lyrics penned by vocalist Amy Lee and the rest of the band and the manner in which they are delivered. On the album's second track, "Broken Pieces Shine," Lee sings desperately, "Survival hurts." It's two words, just two simple words, and yet, it has an emotional impact akin to being hit with a cinder block. Because, in this time, in these days, just managing to survive can be painful.
She goes on to sing in the song's chorus, "I'm not fine. I don't know if I will be alright. But I have to try." On their own, they seem like plain statements, something that you might dismiss with a shrug if you heard it any other way, but that's the magic of Lee's talent and the band's skill. They know how to capture complicated emotions in a way that translates in a very relatable way to the listener.
It almost lands in the same way Lee sang, "I know the truth now. I know who you are. And I don't love you anymore," on "Everybody's Fool" from Fallen. Sure, the notions are different, but the structure is still there. You can't help but sing along because you feel it in a way that is almost otherwise inarticulate.
As The Bitter Truth rolls on, we're taken on a rollercoaster ride, with intense and powerful tracks like "The Game Is Over" and "Feeding the Dark," and haunting songs such as "Far From Heaven." The latter is a beautiful piano-heavy song that showcases Lee's more vulnerable qualities as a singer. The song feels like a crisis of faith, with Lee asking, "What if I can't see your light anymore, cause I've spent too long in the dark?" and eventually confessing, "I feel so far from Heaven."
The album is wildly unpredictable, finally ending on a very high note, a song called "Blind Belief," which challenges the listener to "see that our fathers were wrong." It builds across four minutes of guitar-driven energy and concludes with Lee belting out, "We hold the key to redemption." It is the culmination of a heavy, profound record steeped in desperation and hope, begging to feel more than solitude and demanding to be heard. It's a truth that is far from being bitter.