Times change, don’t they? The musical landscape and – indeed – the music industry were completely different some 20 years ago. Then the friggin’ bandits from the old Napster arrived, and everything took a tumble.
The same goes for Evanescence. They airdropped onto the Nu Metal1) scene as a Goth’s wet dream with Fallen in 2003. And this catapulted Amy Lee and her stellar voice to instant stardom. Then, she and her buddy separated, and The Open Door released without her copilot. And that’s where the first cracks already appeared in that dark yet shiny armor.
And – lo and behold – the self-titled album of 2011 was beyond underwhelming. A jumble of embarrassing popsicles that didn’t return any emotion. Nada, nothing, zilch. A waste of the abundant talents Amy Lee usually brings to the stage. But as the saying goes, being an artist also includes the right to fail sometimes. Right?
So, 10 years down the road we are at a crossroads. What will The Bitter Truth bring us? More forgettable often garish songs, or some shiny new beginnings? Let’s have a look.
Well, it seems that a thorough sabbatical (of sorts) is beneficial. Electronica is still a firm part of Evanescence‘s diet, sure. But – boy – the band, with Amy Lee as the sole remaining founding member, has got some power back into their tune. If anything, it’s back to the future of sorts. Gothic Rock with this typical Evanescence groove is back on top and there’s a spring in their step. And this already asserts itself in the first ‘real’ song Broken Pieces Shine.
Now, for those on a power trip to the past, don’t get your hopes up. The Bitter Truth in no way tries to copy the early records of the beginning of the century. Instead, Amy Lee morphed the old gothic groove with a modern beat that is all her own. And that is a relief. Steadiness and subtle power fueled by Amy Lee‘s soprano. Sometimes hot and harsh, and sometimes in that comfortable crooning groove that we love. That’s exactly what we needed to see from this band.
In a way, this new (old) style could well serve as a wake-up call to those Symphonic Metal bands lost at sea in the midst of those mainstream monsters that they can’t shake anymore.2) After all, the symphonic folks do emerge from the gothic corner as well. Well, at least some of them do.
Unsurprisingly, the record sports a dark side. Now luckily, Amy Lee won’t bitch about Lithium anymore, but – boy – does she rage about issues, present and past. Most of that centers around the impressively fat mid-section of The Bitter Truth – Feeding the Dark, Wasted on You, Better without You, and Use My Voice – that just took my breath away.
Oh, and did you catch it? The aforementioned track Better without You references back to former tracks, however slightly. And the structure of that part of the record often comes with a cheeky craftiness that I would usually attribute to folks like Rammstein.3)
All of this is indeed stern stuff. And it shows a vocalist finally set in herself with some major juice behind the messaging. And that is yet another main driver of that pretty high quality we find on the album.
In a way, the aforementioned 2011 self-titled piece still reeked of the remnants of the breakup from Ben Moody years ago. The resulting lack of direction did not really help. And the strain showed in more ways than only one. But this time, The Bitter Truth is all about Amy Lee and her woes without this endless and overwhelming moody presence.
The Bitter Truth truly is an Evanescence album for grownups. And it’s well done, too. Just at the right level of heat to avoid that the delicate palate of us metal dudes and dudettes cries foul immediately. Because, you know, we just cannot stand that pop thing,4) and the vile mainstream even less. But fear naught, this record only tries to be itself. And that’s definitely a trait the RMR crew fancies.
On a personal note, I am relieved that Gothic Rock and this typical groove is back on the band’s diet. After the last album tortured our eardrums, I was forever pained that so much creative talent would waste itself on the sweetish glitter of the androgynous pop world.
So, Evanescence is finally back on better footing with Gothic Rock worth its salt. With a record that by far outpaces that terrible stuff that other bands spew these days in that particular genre. And that’s no bitter truth – at all.
Ed’s note: There’s an editorial on Evanescence. Check it out!
|1.||God, I hate that genre description. A holdall of all sorts of sins, and it never quite added value to the metal cause. -Ed.|
|2.||Within Temptation comes to mind, right? -Ed.|
|3.||Yeah, I know. Rammstein are friggin’ Dance Metal and prone to exploding dildos. But their song structures with their unexpected twists and turns, and those built-in easter eggs are often beyond Einstein. So, get off my back.|
|4.||Grouchy acknowledgment to sinners like Steven Wilson notwithstanding. But exceptions confirm the rule, right? -Ed.|