REVIEW: EVANESCENCE – “The Bitter Truth”
Like a crisp breath of fresh air, Evanescence burst onto the scene in 2003, surprising the goth metal community and the wider metal community alike. Initially mistaken by some for a pop project with real artistic ambition, their explosive debut album, ‘Fallen’, silenced would be skeptics. A big sound from Little Rock, Arkansas, Evanescence brought a voice that could stand shoulder to shoulder with any goth royalty in the guise of Amy Lee. Today, the inimitable Lee continues to lead as the heart of Evanescence as they gear up to release their new studio album, ‘The Bitter Truth’ on March 26th. The first body of original music Evanescence have released in almost a decade. One that strives to be free, but all too often becomes imprisoned inside a formula it can’t shake off.
Steeped, in part, in ghostly silence and a sense of haunting desolation, the atmospheric intro, “Artifact/The Turn” is beautifully tempered by Lee’s swooning vocals that sound as if they are warming up for something bigger. Which they are. One echoed scream and a swift countdown from three and we are met with the thrilling, ‘Broken Pieces Shine’. A raw, monstrous opening track as fresh as it is familiar. Its chug-heavy, mid-tempo pace allows for Lee’s vocals to soar while lifting the underlying piano that carries the song through to its final moments. If initially exhilarating, it soon becomes a one-trick pony, becoming a tired formula for the majority of what follows.
Creating ‘The Bitter Truth’, the band’s combined vision was to bring the heart and energy of their live shows into the music. There is no argument that there’s a heart here. Lyrically and vocally, it is deeply personal and delves into often raw experiences. Musically, however, the energy doesn’t come close to matching the heart at the weigh-in for taking the same path every time. “Wasted on You” and “Use My Voice” might offer to empower personal mantras, but the message is far stronger than the medium. Drummer Will Hunt leaves such chasms of space, it feels like he is taking a bus journey just to reach his next cymbal hit. Bassist Tim McCord might shine on bass-driven bops such as the rhythmically led “Yeah Right,” but for the most part, he seems to directly follow guitarists Troy McLawhornm and more recent recruit Jen Majura. Both sounding so deeply buried under the mix, one can only hope they were given straws to breathe through.
From the beginning, Lee established herself as a strong ballad writer with a flair for romanticism. On “Far from Heaven.” the only ballad on the album, a simple, piano-led arrangement ensures that, if not a career standout, it is certainly an album standout, bringing a great deal of heart to the forefront. If the album ends on a fresh, energetic high with “Blind Relief,” it’s a case of too little, too late.
If ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a record by a band that knows exactly who they are at this moment in time, it retains a little trace of the vibrant duality felt on previous Evanescence records. How much of this can be credited to the songwriting, or production by Nick Raskulinecz, is hard to say. What is clear is that ‘The Bitter Truth’ takes no interest in truly embracing its own spirit of adventure, sacrificing any real sense of vitality in the music. With ‘The Bitter Truth’, Evanescence might have grown and matured with the times. But they once sounded like a band who transcended the times while speaking to them. A band for all times. Here, the bitter truth is that with ‘The Bitter Truth,’ something integral may have been lost, or forgotten along the way.