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Saturday, February 4, 2023

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The Sweeter Side of ‘The Bitter Truth’; reviewing the new Evanescence album

The Sweeter Side of The Bitter Truth: 

More than three years after pursuing various projects, the members of Evanescence finally bless listeners with a fifth full-length release. As if the suspense is not high enough already, The Bitter Truth is the band’s first album in a decade that solely features newly written material. Rather than assault one’s senses with its addictively haunting brand of hard rock, Evanescence subtly creates and sustains a deeply pensive atmosphere throughout the record. With the implementation of modern instrumental effects, the group relevantly pays homage to its roots. Twenty-six years after its inception, Evanescence successfully continues to polish its sound and adapt to changing musical tides. Like a brilliant flowing tattoo, The Bitter Truth is a testament to the band’s general fluidity and timelessness. 

“Artifact/The Turn”

An ambient introduction track sets the mood for this cathartic listening experience. Amy Lee’s bright vocals, as well as guitarist/backing vocalist Jen Majura’s accompanying harmonies, add dimension to the initial minimalism. Together, they immerse the listener in an unexplored universe. Soon, there appears an all-encompassing sense of hopelessness that adds to the mysteriousness of this song. Lyrically, it attempts to rediscover one’s forgotten identity. Then, at its smoldering conclusion, flames ignite, and tear into “Broken Pieces Shine”. 

“Broken Pieces Shine”

Given its seamless kickoff, I would like to think that “Broken Pieces Shine” was written in tandem with “Artifact/The Turn”. Unsettling is it to witness a seasoned rock group like Evanescence question its own identity right out of the shoot. One key element of this track that runs the risk of being easily overlooked is the sparse but powerful use of keys throughout the verses. For this reason, the track walks a fine line between fragility and power. Just two songs in, Evanescence makes a full return. 

“The Game is Over”

The instrumental spaciousness of The Bitter Truth is best displayed here. It gives Lee’s voice a powerful presence. Around the three-minute mark, guitarist Troy McLawhorn seemingly calls and responds to his own riff. Either that, or he recruited Majura to bring the song to a crescendo. From the listener’s standpoint, they audibly convey the song’s lyrical component of frustration.

“Yeah Right”

When compared to other Evanescence hits, “Yeah Right” is an obvious standout. As the most alternative song on The Bitter Truth, it widens the album’s musical breadth. Majura’s and McLawhorn’s fuzzy guitar tones, in tandem with Lee’s playful alliteration, give the track a poppy flair. While critics may foolishly dismiss the song as being too “different”, I value the band’s inclusivity of new musical styles. It amazes me how just twenty seconds can completely alter the trajectory of a musical piece. In the case of this track, they guide it toward the bullseye.   

“Feeding the Dark”

Due to its massively ominous framework, “Feeding the Dark” triumphs in maintaining the album’s mood. Majura and McLawhorn, with the help of bassist Tim McCord and drummer Will Hunt, transport the listener to a murky shadowland. Instrumentally, this song is delightfully sludgy. Its texture hearkens back to the output of early-2000s Queensrÿche. Lee’s piano track and lead melody flawlessly balance the piece with cleanliness and clarity. 


“Wasted on You”

Channeling the spirit of “Lithium”, “Call Me When You’re Sober” and “Swimming Home”, Lee delivers a recognizable sense of mournful resolve. The bridge calls attention to a pleasantly unexpected chord progression, and keeps the listener on his/her toes. Noteworthy are Hunt’s chops, as they reflect the repetition and aggravation within the lyrics.

“Better Without You”

The music box-style introduction whispers for my attention, just before McLawhorn and Majura grab it by the shirt collar. Their distorted guitar tracks are what I crave at this point in the album. While the song should be praised for celebrating freedom from an oppressive lover, it also has a killer groove. Majura’s ethereal, swirling background harmonies stabilize it and create a haunting air that is characteristically Evanescence’s. McCord’s masterfully down-tuned craftsmanship is front and center, and also worthy of praise. 

“Use My Voice”

Featuring Lzzy Hale, Deena Jakoub, Taylor Momsen, Lindsey Stirling and a pantheon of additional rock figureheads, “Use My Voice” pulls no punches. It seeks justice, and will not cease until it is administered. While I wish the contributions of these iconic musicians played a more prominent role in the song, I admire its inherent foundational strength. 

“Take Cover”

Arguably the most adrenaline-pumping song on The Bitter Truth, the guitar riffs in “Take Cover” are downright threatening. Should it ever be included in a movie soundtrack, might I suggest a cutthroat chase scene through an overgrown jungle? Lee’s voice weaves like a python through underbrush. If it was ever in question, this track proves that Evanescence mightily holds its own in the contemporary rock scene. Lee’s highest note in the last minute of the song gives me goosebumps I haven’t experienced since The Open Door. 

“Far from Heaven”

The band’s adept utilization of strings crowns “Far from Heaven” as my favorite track on the album. Its emotive delicacy is akin to that of “Hello”. Simultaneously, its beauty manages to unsettle and comfort the listener.

“Part of Me” 

It is only fair that the record’s best anthem follows its greatest ballad. “Part of Me” leads the listener back from the sorrowful detour taken on the previous track. It features two stunning vocal harmonies and serves as the ideal setting for Lee’s head voice to take flight.

“Blind Belief”

Lee’s melancholy piano introduction reminds me of the classic theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween, and the song’s subject matter is deeper and more chilling than that of any slasher film. It relays truly frightening expressions of misplaced trust, complacent love, and questionable beliefs. Additionally, it contains some of the most impressive axe-wielding moments on the album. “Blind Belief” brings The Bitter Truth to a swirling halt, with a simple but profound conclusion— “Love over all”.

Click here to purchase your copy of The Bitter Truth, or find it on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube Music. 

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Bradley Biggs
Bradley Biggs
Music historian and critic.

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