Review: Evanescence’s ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a Delectable and Hard-Hitting Return
You don’t need to remind Evanescence fans how long it’s been since the band put out an album of all-new material. We’ve all patiently waited a full decade for this moment to come, and now that this glorious day is finally here, it may feel more like a dream than reality. We actually have a new Evanescence album?! And it’s really good?! Yes on both counts. Today, after a year of teasing, Evanescence released The Bitter Truth, and it’s truly an incredible record.
As with their 2011 release Evanescence, this new album is pure energy and all rock. That’s no surprise, given that Nick Raskulinecz produced both albums. His background is thoroughly in the rock and metal genres — having produced for Alice In Chains, Korn, Mastodon, Deftones, Ghost, and more — and that sensibility is vividly clear here. The Bitter Truth highlights the band’s heavy guitar and stomping drums throughout. Many songs are tuned lower than ever before, like “Broken Pieces Shine” and “Take Cover.” Tracks like “The Game Is Over” and “Better Without You” feel like the most purely metal Evanescence has ever gone.
Indeed, The Bitter Truth has a certain fullness of sound that makes it truly feel like a band album. Amy Lee isn’t center-stage the way she often was in the past. Instead, all parts sound equal. Amy’s vocals and piano are just as important as Jen Majura and Troy McLawhorn’s guitar or Tim McCord’s bass or Will Hunt’s drums. The instrumentation, high energy, and massive sound make The Bitter Truth feel like a live experience. These songs will be phenomenal live… once we can attend concerts again.
Back in 2010, when Evanescence was first working on their third album with producer Steve Lillywhite, they developed several songs that ultimately wouldn’t appear on that album. Of those session songs, only “Made Of Stone,” “Swimming Home,” and “Secret Door” did. Later, “Hi-Lo” appeared on Synthesis. Fortunately, some of those leftover songs are still emerging, and The Bitter Truth features three of them: “Take Cover,” which Evanescence debuted live in 2016, “Yeah Right,” and “Feeding The Dark.” The former two both have the sense of jubilance and sarcasm that defined those Steve Lillywhite session songs. The latter offers the more experimental sound of that time. Now if only we can get some more of those remaining 2010 songs… “Perfect Dream” and “You’ve Got A Lot To Learn,” please?
One of the drawbacks of Evanescence was that it was almost too cohesive. Even now, I need to hear at least 10-15 seconds of any given song to know which one it is. (Usually I can name a tune in 1-2 seconds!) In contrast, The Bitter Truth, while cohesive itself, offers some more dynamics and textures. Musically and lyrically, the songs range from angry to catty to empowering, from gentle and heartbreaking to hypnotic and dreamy. Each song sounds distinct and inspired, and each is strong on its own right. This album strikes a good balance between eclecticism and unity.
Personally, I do wish The Bitter Truth was a bit more experimental. With only 12 songs, one of which is an intro more than anything else, there’s not as much wriggle room for the truly out-there tracks I usually most love. After waiting a full decade, fans would hope we could get a slightly longer tracklist. In any case, the songs here are all excellent and worth keeping. If I had my way, I’d add three or four more tracks — maybe another ballad, perhaps something more grandiose and orchestral, even something weirder and more surprising. As it is, The Bitter Truth is fairly concise.
I’ve loved Evanescence since the Fallen days, when I first heard “My Immortal” on the radio and, later, saw its music video on MTV. As such, I’ve been eager for a new album from them for nearly a decade, greedily filling in the gap with Amy Lee’s two solo albums (Aftermath and Dream Too Much) and the band’s orchestral reimaginings with Synthesis and Synthesis Live. But at some point along the way, it feels that my brain forgot what it’s like to get a full album of new material from the band. Somehow, this album doesn’t feel real yet. It managed to exceed my expectations, and it may take me a few days — and numerous more listens — for it to fully integrate with the rest of Evanescence’s catalogue. That’s a challenge I’m all too happy to take on, though!
The Bitter Truth is a spectacular album, better than Evanescence and maybe even Fallen. (The Open Door, on the other hand, may be impossible to beat. It’s an inimitable masterpiece.) This album is hard-hitting and energizing, at moments silly, at others furious, and at still others mesmerizing. It’s been a long time coming, but we are so glad to welcome Evanescence back into our musical spheres. Let’s just hope we won’t have to wait quite as long for album #5!
Track by Track
“Artifact/The Turn” – The Bitter Truth starts with something none of Evanescence’s first three albums had: an intro. “Artifact/The Turn” is a quiet, electronic start, building up slowly over its two and a half minutes. Amy sings it like its a lullaby at first, but then the track grows more cinematic, like it could soundtrack a video game. By the end, Amy sings as if it’s a final, desperate plea. “Artifact/The Turn” fades perfectly into the next track.
“Broken Pieces Shine” – The album really kicks off with “Broken Pieces Shine.” At once, low-tuned guitars and propulsive drum beats make a statement, ensnaring listeners for an intense experience. The verses set a theme of survival, but the choruses bring that feeling to life (no pun intended). It’s skittering and earnest, ending with an ominous echo. This song feels like a dystopian scene made musical, and is one of the most instantly arresting tracks on the album. “Broken Pieces Shine” is sure to be a favorite among fans.
“The Game Is Over” – Next up is “The Game Is Over,” which was first released as the second single last summer. It has a strong start, with pounding drums and an ominous bell ringing out. Low bass fills out the sound as Amy begins the first verse about having had enough. Guitars strengthen the song more as it moves into a second verse and the crescendoing pre-chorus. Finally we get to the big chorus, Amy singing powerfully about her desire to change and stop pretending. This song is all metal, from the instrumentation to Amy’s vocal delivery.
“Yeah Right” – The Bitter Truth switches gears for “Yeah Right,” the fourth single we heard last year. This is one of three songs that Evanescence had first worked on back in 2010 before discarding it. The track opens with a rollicking groove and some tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Amy likens herself to a widow and describes herself as “slap silly happy,” but the chorus introduces new levels of sarcasm and a sick melody. This is perhaps the most rowdy and pop song Evanescence has released, and we’re absolutely loving it. It’s a welcome change of pace on the album, injecting a sense of fun and cattiness that we love to hear.
“Feeding The Dark” – Another song that dates back a whole decade, “Feeding The Dark” moves us into more hypnotic depths. It starts with mechanic, marching percussion and synths, Amy nearly whispering an unsettling invitation. After her first verse, stabs of guitar build up the intensity, but Amy continues with her forbidding warble. The chorus takes off, a vibrant and welcome respite before returning to that murky verse territory. Later on, the bridge adds in bewitching new textures. “Feeding The Dark” is one of the most dynamic and intriguing songs on The Bitter Truth; it’ll warrant plenty of extra listens.
“Wasted On You” – Almost one full year ago, “Wasted On You” served as the lead single last April. It opens with Amy softly crooning, “I don’t need drugs” over clean piano. It’s a metaphor for the relationship she’s in, because she’s already wasted on him. This stripped down chorus takes us through the first 30 seconds, then it picks up with twinkling synths and skittering percussion building a dreamy soundscape. By the time the next chorus arrives, it’s crashing full of guitar and drums, bringing us that heavy sound that Evanescence fans love. The song alternates between the hazy verses and booming choruses, making for a dynamic experience. Even though it wasn’t so popular among fans, I maintain that “Wasted On You” was an excellent single and is a highlight on the album.
“Better Without You” – Just three weeks ago, Evanescence dropped “Better Without You” as the fifth single. The first ten seconds of it open with a delicate music box sound, but it’s not long before it pulses into mayhem. With punchy guitars and an aggressive soundscape behind her, Amy sings low on the verses. She paints a picture of a powerless girl signing away her future, but she knows the truth. The song explodes into a powerful chorus, both strong and dreamy. The chorus then fades out with a hypnotic vocal cascade. “Better Without You” is one of the most rocking songs here, and perhaps the most balanced between Evanescence’s different styles. Look out for its music video in the coming weeks.
“Use My Voice” – Last summer, “Use My Voice” became the third single from the album. Evanescence’s first overtly political song, it was also used in an effort to inspire fans to vote in the 2020 election. Thankfully, it seems that it worked! “Use My Voice” opens gently, Amy crooning over piano. But 30 seconds in, the song explodes into its anthemic chorus, a choir of voices leading a stadium-ready singalong. Over the choir, Amy seethes, “Whether you like it or not, you’re gonna take what I got,” before belting out “Don’t you speak for me!” “Use My Voice” continues to play with dynamics throughout, moving from soft verses to anthemic choruses.
Evanescence recruited several women to sing on the chorus. Famous rockers include Lzzy Hale from Halestorm, Lindsey Stirling, Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless, Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation, and Deena Jakoub of VERIDIA — all of whom Evanescence has toured with in the past, and some with whom they’ve previously collaborated on songs. The band also get help from their family: Amy’s two sisters Lori and Carrie sing, as does guitarist Troy’s wife, Amy McLawhorn. And of course, Evanescence’s own Jen Majura sings on the chorus, too.
“Take Cover” – The third of Evanescence’s leftover 2010 songs, “Take Cover” is also the first we heard from this album… but not as a single. Back in 2016, the band debuted it live during their fall tour dates. “Take Cover” is a punchy, fast-paced song that exudes power. It’s one of the lowest and heaviest songs here, underlining the mood of anger and vengeance. Still, Amy maintains the vocal acrobatics that define Evanescence’s power, especially in that sick bridge — wow! The forceful guitars provide the perfect backing for the song’s warnings of punishment for a liar.
“Far From Heaven” – At one point, Evanescence was ready to release The Bitter Truth without any ballads. But late into the process, Amy sat down to write one more song. “Far From Heaven” is a haunting ballad inspired by the death of Amy’s younger brother, Robby, in January 2018. (Sadly, Amy had already lost a sibling — her younger sister, Bonnie — in 1987.) The song begins with lilting piano and a swell of strings. Between the piano and vocals on the first verse, “Far From Heaven” achieves a certain intimacy and atmosphere that harkens back to some of Amy’s earliest songs, before Fallen was ever recorded. It’s a breathtaking song, and one of the clearest standouts on the album.
“Part Of Me” – Following such a stirring ballad, “Part Of Me” lurches in with a punch. “Not on your life,” Amy shouts over big drums and heavy guitars. After a stomping verse, the chorus climbs into something more dreamy and atmospheric. Maybe it can best be described as melancholic hope. The chorus feels like the climax of a movie, like the last desperate push of empowerment to survive earthly destruction. Interestingly, both “Part Of Me” and “Broken Pieces Shine” share the theme of survival and a cinematic sound. Coincidence? Or blissful continuity in the songwriting process? Either way, this song gets better with each listen.
“Blind Belief” – The Bitter Truth closes with a song that feels perfectly Evanescence. Eerie pinging piano opens it, suddenly being joined by a heavy drop of guitar and drums, creating a chugging energy ready for the mosh pit. It pulls back for a sighing verse, but the chorus insists on that infectious energy from before. Again, the blend of chords and execution give this song a sense of hope and liberation. “Blind Belief” is a surprising and epic song, the perfect close to an impressive album.
The Bitter Truth Score: 5/5
Highlights on The Bitter Truth include: “Broken Pieces Shine,” “Yeah Right,” “Feeding The Dark,” “Wasted On You,” “Better Without You,” “Far From Heaven,” and “Blind Belief.”
You can stream or buy The Bitter Truth from all the major music providers here.
2 thoughts on “Review: Evanescence’s ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a Delectable and Hard-Hitting Return”
I love how you guys are up to date with what happened with the band’s first attemp at their self-titled album (aka Steve Lillywhite sessions). I’m also waiting patiently for the remaining songs from that time, especially Perfect Dream!
Thank you! It would be a (perfect) dream to finally get to hear the Steve Lillywhite sessions songs. I’d love to hear the unreleased songs, first and foremost, but it’d also be interesting to hear how different some of the songs that were eventually released sounded originally. Kind of like how some of their earlier songs (for example, “Imaginary”) went through significant changes. Or how different they sound on Synthesis.