When thinking of the bands that shaped the early 2000’s ‘scene kid’ aesthetic, Evanescence will always spring to mind. With Bring Me to Life coming back to relevance and re-entering the cultural ethos as a widely referenced meme as early as 2014, 11 years since the songs original release, with the “Wake me up (wake me up inside)” line being reimagined into a meme template. The widely referenced Harry Potter ‘My Immortal’ fanfiction (and the mystery around its author) has also attributed to the aesthetic that surrounded the band with the emo culture, fashion and characterization of the fan base that were assumed to enjoy the band. And who could forget the video with “Raven the Acid Bath Princess of Darkness” with Tara and Azer covering the band’s Going Under posted on the YouTube account xXbl0dykissxX in 2008, a video widely shared to this day (with ‘Raven’ recently reappearing on Tik Tok to explain the video’s origins). It’s no doubt that Evanescence are a hugely defining part of the look and scene that permeated a lot of the early 2000’s. A centerpiece to the development of ‘emo’ culture.
At the forefront of the band is powerhouse vocalist Amy Lee. She was a leading voice in paving the way for more female representation in such a heavily male-dominated industry, and somebody hopeful women aspire to be like to this day. And for good reason. Her incredible and powerful vocals are one of the main features that draws audiences to the band.
Their 2003 album ‘Fallen’ was one of the most played records during my childhood. One of the albums that propelled my interest in music. With 2 GRAMMY awards under the band’s belt and 23 MILLION album sales worldwide, the impact of the group has been far-reaching. ‘Fallen’ itself spent 43 weeks on the Billboard Top 10 and is one of the top-5 best selling albums of the 21st century.
Yesterday (Friday 26/03/2021), the group released their first record since releasing ‘Synthesis’ in 2017, an orchestral re-working of their previous work. Th group have not released a record of purely new, original music in almost a full decade. At least after the tumultuous last year we can thank the COVID-19 tragedy for one thing- the return of Evanescence. In Lee’s own words, she states:
“When we first set out to make our new album, ‘The Bitter Truth’, we had no idea of the pain and hardship that the world would soon face. While the planet suffered through the tragedies of COVID, racial injustice and economic upheaval, my band and I were dealing with the aftermath of our own losses, the unexpected passing of my brother, the sudden loss of a child by Tim’s family, and the virtual loss of our guitarist, Jen, who has been literally stuck in Germany, unable to travel to record with us in person in the studio. Somehow through all these challenges, a theme began to emerge for us as a band. Pushing through is better than giving up.”
‘The Bitter Truth’ showcases some of their most incredible (and ambitious) work to date, holding a mirror up to what made ‘Fallen’ so successful and re-purposing the best of what they have always offered under a new 2021 lens. Slow, atmospheric track Artifact/ The Turn opens the record with soft, melodic and technological sounding synths. “Underneath golden skies, you will always be there. In the mirror, in the my eyes, you will always be there” opens Amy’s recognisable voice, before the pace of the track begins to quicken. I found myself drawn in completely to the track and the record immediately, holding itself up as one of the best constructed album introductions I have ever heard. “Where do we go now?” ponders Amy before holding the final note in the line “Find a way to go back… to who we are”, leading in the beginning of following track Broken Pieces Shine. The guitars in this track are immediately heavy before she sings the line “There is no way back this time”, continuing and contrasting the themes of the opening track. “Oh, survival hurts” she repeats. The drums are heavy and paced in correlation with the rhythmic elements of the guitars. It sounds so much like the sounds I was so used to from the band, but hold an underlying feeling of hope. “Oh survival hurts, but I’m not giving in. I’m alive.”
Game Over opens with isolated drums and bell-sounds before alarm-like synths and Lee’s voice re-enters. The song follows the themes of analysing the world and its tragic events through a realistic lens, not rose-coloured glasses that pretend everything is going fine. “I feel the world like a brick on my chest”. This chorus shows some of the best of Lee’s range as she sings chorus lines “Change me into something I believe in”. Yeah Right is one of the most interesting tracks on the album, more pop leaning than the rest of the album. Originally written a decade ago, the song fits perfectly into the ethos of this album as well as the band’s incredible comeback. “I’m a queen resurrected, just as messed up as before” she sings, acknowledging the way her fans and the media pedestal her as the ‘queen of rock’ while simultaneously acknowledging the darker leanings of their past and present leanings. “Tell me, how is the world treating you? Is that my fault too?” she sings, continuing the cynical leanings of the songs’ lyrics.
“Follow me under. Low as we are. Swallow your hunger. Feeding this dark” she sings in the opening lines to Feeding the Dark. The song opens with all most horror-movie inspired atmospheric sounds, giving an uncomfortable sound to the track in all the best ways. The song seems to convey the ideas of not hiding the darkness we all have within us, and how we can bring those sides out of each other. “If we run from ourselves, we will run forever”. Wasted On You was the first single from the record to be released, brought out fittingly with music video depicting the band in social isolation. The song depicts the feelings of being stuck in tough circumstances, seemingly with a relationship with another person. “Numb my head ‘til I can’t think anymore. But I still feel the pain”.
Heavy guitars and dark, early 2000’s reminiscent synths open Better Without You, details Lee’s own struggles as a woman in the music industry. “’Cause this is my world, little girl, you’ll be lost on your own… don’t worry your pretty little head about the future, it’s all fine” she sings, mocking the condescending voices talking down to her because of her gender, seemingly not realising the power and influence she would have over the industry. In 2016 to Louder she said:
“It’s hard to be a woman in the rock industry. People want to see you as the girl next door. It’s not that people don’t like you or aren’t nice to you. But they also don’t want you to tell them what to do because they actually don’t expect that you really know what to do. I haven’t had to fight for people to accept and admit that I’m a good singer. The hard part is earning people’s respect as a writer, musician and businesswoman. That’s the part where people are like, ‘Yeah, yeah. We’ll get some dude to do that part and you just stand there and look pretty.’ They don’t talk like that to your face, but it’s this natural assumption that your abilities are exactly what they would expect a woman’s abilities to be. It takes constant proving that there’s more to you and constantly having to put your foot down and fight for your rights.”
Use My Voice follows these similar themes. “Label me a ‘bitch’ because I dare to draw my own line… burn every bridge and build a wall in my way, but I will use my voice” she sings. “Whether you like it or not, you’re gonna take what I got”. The song features background vocals from other female musical legends like Taylor Momson (The Pretty Reckless), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Deena Jakoub (VERIDIA), violinist Lindsey Stirling, Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Jen Majura (Equilibrium and guitarist for the Evanescence since 2015) as well as Lee’s own sisters. The song is a powerful anecdote in female solidarity, celebrating the women in this industry and genre and how they have defied the odds of what a woman in music looks like. “No, don’t you speak for me”.
Take Cover is an angry, vengeful song about a manipulator Lee had encountered in the past. “You better take cover…I’ll be the bitch you made me out to be” she sings, showing her thirst to get back at someone who had hurt her. “Oh you better take cover, I’m coming back to take your world down. Move over if you can because I never lost my crown” she states, again referencing her queen of rock title. Far From Heaven follows, completely changing from the previous track. Beautiful, classically inspired piano and deep cellos bellow beneath Lee’s soothing, gentle voice. Sometimes off-kilter and distorted in their note choices, aiding to the overall atmosphere of the track. “What I wouldn’t give to be with you for one more night. What if I can’t see your light anymore?” she sings. The song has the some unexpectant heart wrenching nature that My Immortal had on ‘Fallen’. Written about her brother who recently passed, the song deals with her processing and detailing her grief. “Wake up to a new day. Break my heart again” she sings in the second verse, recounting the common feeling of waking up to the realisation again of your loss. “I never needed you more”. The string, piano and harmony arrangement grows in the songs bridge; cinematic and beautifully tragic.
Part of Me continues the themes in the previous song, but instead focuses on how she doesn’t let this tragedy break her; she uses it to propel her forward, carrying his memory with her as she pushes forward, representing the core theme of the record. “I will be more than my survival. Own these scars on my heart” she sings; “I won’t let you go.”. “What good could come from embracing the dark?” she sings, contrasting themes in Feeding the Dark and embracing these parts of you, showing growth and healing. “You’re a part of me now and always”. Blind Belief closes the record, with keys similar tonally to those that opened Bring Me to Life. The tone of the song is hopeful right from the get-go with opening line “I believe in us”. “Push through the pain, unbreak the system” she sings, acknowledging her and her bandmates recent pain and their resilience in moving past them and moving forward with their trauma, rather than allowing it to consume them.
The records ending is hopeful and the exact message I believe many of us needed to hear with all the events unfolding worldwide. The world has been a bleak place lately, but it can be important to make the choice to always strive to move forward no matter what the world throws at us.
With thanks to Dallas Does PR + Sony Music