Strength has always been at the core of Evanescence. Since the group’s 1995 beginnings, vocalist/pianist Amy Lee has used her voice to reclaim something—usually herself—being loud, disruptive and bold in the process. With the release of the band’s first original album in nearly a decade, The Bitter Truth, that strength is clearer than ever, and she’s reclaiming even more this time.
Maybe it’s because she had to. Lee and bassist Tim McCord were both dealing with personal cases of grief before collective mourning absorbed the whole population—and that reckoning and pain comes through on the record, especially in the gloomy poetry and vivid imagery. It’s vulnerable, but more than anything, it’s empowering. “Oh, survival hurts / But I keep breathing in,” she sings on the aptly-titled “Broken Pieces Shine.” In the darkness, there is still light.
That song is one of many on the record that explode with a newfound sense of power—an agency of herself, as well as agency in general. “Use My Voice” is unrelenting and straightforward in its discussion of being mistreated as a woman in the music industry; the finale “Blind Belief” grapples with an unjust system that Lee wants to “unbreak.” Though Lee has generally been politically quiet, she promoted American voter registration by appearing in a PSA video for HeadCount.org. And that last song, “Blind Belief,” is persistent in its hope for the future and the need to take matters into our own hands. She has faith in herself, but for others as well, opening the track with the firm words: “I believe in us.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t low points or times of pessimism; Evanescence is well-versed in portraying affliction. The Bitter Truth captures, well, just that—the bitter truth, that things are hard, that life is tough and sometimes it seems like the easiest thing to do is give up. Still, the album manages to balance the extremes and convey the chaos of it all. The sound, which Lee wanted to be bigger and bolder, is both of those things. The anthemic choruses are plentiful and unforgettable, and the instruments explode in a way that hopefully can be played live in the near future, vaccines willing.
After they’d begun working with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Alice in Chains, Korn) in his Nashville studio, the pandemic began. It was a difficult task to make their goals come to fruition; the recording process became split up, and they worked on it sporadically throughout last year. Guitarist Jen Majura was stuck in Germany for the entirety of the process. Like for many other bands, even just the ability to make music shifted.
But when the emotions are there, everything unravels over time. Listening to The Bitter Truth, one can’t tell the technical problems that occurred in the making of the record. Lee is, with every word, sure of herself and her beliefs. It’s hard to be strong, but it’s possible. Evanescence have been doing it for over two decades.