There’s no doubt the golden age of rock music has been and gone, at least in the sense of its impact on pop culture and presence in the mainstream. And although Evanescence are not a new band, they are one of a very few modern acts who set the world on fire through rock music alone, with their 2003 debut album Fallen featuring their hits Bring Me To Life and My Immortal, which have been cemented in memories worldwide. The band are now back with more rock music, in the shape of their fifth studio album The Bitter Truth.
Opening song Artifact/The Turn has an unexpected, almost eerie and jagged start, but the reserved synthy sound is very pleasing, as are the dizzying vocals when they come in. I was expecting the minimalist track to explode into something heavier, as is hinted in the music itself, but it instead builds slowly, maintaining the suspense for the entirety of the track, which is almost electronic in nature and which left me wondering if the rest of the album could fulfil what is implied in this dramatic, intriguing, and exciting start.
The explosion comes at the beginning of the second song with the great oxymoronic title Broken Pieces Shine. The heaviness of the music is set up brilliantly by the opening track, meaning the eruption of the guitars and drums is cathartic rather than abrasive. The song is intensely energising and may even stand out as the most energising of the album, although the vocals seem too slowed and distant in comparison to the very agitated music in the verses, but this gap between vocals and music is somewhat closed in the chorus.
The album remains satisfyingly heavy throughout, with kick-heavy drums and soul-shaking chugging guitars being prominent through the whole album. Having said that, frontwoman Amy Lee’s keys also feature, most prominently on ballad track Wasted on You, and the arresting Far From Heaven, where there is a real maturity to Lee’s vocals in a song that sounds as if it is trapped in a cage but gives off an optimistic feeling of escape courtesy of a string section, yet on this occasion, there is no explosion of heavy rock and the song rather settles back down to the soothing piano arpeggios that opened the song, which is reassuring in its own way.
The band has changed line-ups over the years but founding member Amy Lee has been there since the beginning and I interpreted a theme in Yeah Right and Better Without You, in which she seems, to me at least, to be commenting on the infamous music industry that mistreats so many artists, particularly those who are women. Lines such as ‘someday we’ll get paid more than what it was worth to sell our souls’ alludes to such an exposition, but of course the lyrics can be interpreted in any way the listener sees fit.
Use My Voice runs alongside a campaign of the same name which encourages Americans to check and update their voter registration status, while the song itself encourages the reclaiming of one’s own power of expression and even has undertones fit for a protest anthem.
The final track Blind Belief starts with a piano motif that lulls you into a false sense of serenity, but this hard rock band want you to leave remembering they are just that, so the music explodes once more, ensuring you are left with your ears ringing upon completion of the album.
For those who don’t actively seek out super heavy rock music, it is nice to sometimes be reminded of just what a heavy sound a few people equipped with guitars, drums and amps can produce, and when you combine this with the outstandingly operatic voice of Amy Lee, few can harness the power of heavy rock music better than Evanescence.