Arkansas hard-rock yowler Amy Lee of Evanescence cut quite a unique figure when she first showed up in the mid-’00s. The nu-metal scene that the singer asserted herself into wasn’t just male-dominated, it was asshole-dominated. But Lee rose above that wan world of bellyaching and bad facial hair like a mythic beast, thanks to her enormous vocal power and messy, fresh-faced emo-goth charisma. Evanescence got kind of arty on their last album, 2017’s classically-tinged Synthesis. But they’re back to the sturm und drang basics on The Bitter Truth, slugging away, baring life’s battle scars and reaching for their own personal slice of Valhalla.
On “The Game is Over,” Lee sings about biting her lip and losing her grip before the band starts throwing elbows and she sinks her teeth into her go-to theme of finding your own authenticity in a plastic existence: “Change me into something I believe in.” There’s primal industrial-rock trounce on “Broken Pieces Shine,” moody crunch on “Feeding the Dark,” and titanic post-breakup purging on “Better Without You.” On “Use My Voice,” Evanescence go from pensive piano self-searching to swaying assault, as Lee sings about refusing to go unheard in a world created to shut her down. She’s able to sound intimate and revealing even when the music engulfs her in a maelstrom. Lee shows off her skill as a solo balladeer on “Far From Heaven,” a meditation of spiritual hunger and religious ambivalence. It’s a moment where Lee’s Southern background becomes grippingly present in her music, but it isn’t the only one — see the soulful nuance she brings to bear when the sweeping riffs and electronic effluvia resides on “Blind Belief.”
All that conflict and drama might be a little too overpowering if not for Lee’s abiding faith in the power of a nice hoo. The album’s best moment is also its most self-assuredly poppy: “Yeah Right” is a hot hunk of black-clad bubblegum that lands somewhere between Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” and Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” before launching into a vaulting chorus that’s at once sugar-sharp and scream-worthy. It’s proof that while the battle to redeem your eternal soul is serious work, it can have flashes of fun, too.