The pandemic hasn’t provided a particularly thriving era for live music, but the lockdown has allowed some artists to hone in on their craft in ways they never found the time to before. Evanescence seems to be a prime example: the early-2000s rock band shacked down together during quarantine to record their finished, upcoming album The Bitter Truth, set to be released in March 2021. The band has dropped a few singles off the record already and gathered in Nashville on Saturday night to celebrate the upcoming record with a virtual live stream concert.
People were immersed into Rock Falcon Studios with the band, the very space where Evanescence has spent the last few months recording their unreleased album. Each band member seemed at home in the space, which might be why Amy Lee didn’t hesitate to kick off the show with “Wasted On You,” the first track released off of The Bitter Truth. The first verse is a sweet-sounding lullaby of sorts; a perk to the studio location is the sound quality. Though live, each fragment of the song sounded crisp and undisguised. Sonically, “Wasted On You” is different; it stands out enough to be considered a revival track for the band. And yet, it’s familiar enough to be labelled a true Evanescence record —with powerful rock punches, a heavy chorus and an interwoven, emotive beauty throughout.
During the pre-show Q&A, Lee answered a question about her songwriting process from a fan: is it easier to write melody or lyrics? “Definitely melody,” was the singer’s fast response, followed by a joke about the enduring and painful process of writing lyrics to a song. Nevertheless, the lyrics on “The Game Is Over” show Lee paying reverence to the straight-talking style of Evanescence’s lyrical archive. “When all the hate burns off, I’m left here with the pain/ Behind our vain devices are we all the same?” The track brings back the nostalgia of grunge, and with it, all of the early-2000’s emo music feels. Guitarist Jen Majura executed a groovy, mid-tempo guitar solo before the final chorus, while Will Hunt’s hard-hitting drum beats upped the intensity of the track.
An oldie, “The Only One” seemed to be an appropriate flashback for the current times. Mixing in whistle tones with a deeper vibrato (a range that she doesn’t often venture to), the 2006 track discusses the singer’s view on close-mindedness and searching for answers nobody can offer. “Sick” hits close to home for the singer, who wrote the track after a wrongful decision made by a former record label to dispose of Lee’s demos for a proposed 2010 record. Her mid range vocals were smoky and fiery. A delicate piano melody contradicted the heavy, bashing sonics and fast, cymbal-crashing drums. The closing riff by guitarist Troy McLawhorn was authentically grunge, Nirvana-esque in its distorted reverb.
Arguably the most defining track in regards to Evanescence’s characteristic sound is “Going Under,” the second single the band ever released. The verses carried a creepy sound produced by a repetitive, intense guitar progression that mixed well with Lee’s lowest vocal register, while the chorus was closer to an emo rock take on a heartbreak ballad.
“Nobody can speak for you but you,” Lee stared directly at the camera as she introduced “Use My Voice.” What started off slow and melodic became a cinematic progression aided by backing vocals from Majura and Hunt’s crashing cymbals. An electrifying guitar riff gets thrown in during the second verse, giving the track a bit of a playful quality. But when she sang, “Don’t you speak for me,” in an intimidating timbre—Amy Lee was not playing.
A few familiar minor keys wordlessly introduced “Bring Me to Life,” another iconic and defining early Evanescence song. Hitting the nail on the head with progression, what started as a haunting, whisky melody quickly transformed into a heavy emo ballad.
Lee went solo on an acoustic piano for “Lost in Paradise,” a heart-wrenching ballad, stripped down to showcase the singer’s emotive, expansive range and tone. “As much as I’d like the pass not to exist, it still does,” Lee sings, “I’m just as scared as you.” “Lost in Paradise” stands apart from Evanescence’s typical sound, but it’s a necessary crystal clear treasure in the band’s lyrical archive.
One of her biggest musical influences, Portishead, and their song “Glory Box” took on an intense, glorified form in Amy’s piano cover. Lee plays some heavy, draining chords while also integrating an upbeat, major-key melody, forcing the cover to sound both helpless and hopeful. Lee’s final notes were a crying plea, with an abruption to the melody’s end.
The in-studio live stream provided an intimate glimpse into what The Bitter Truth might reveal: a little bit of the old, and a lot of the new. The cover art is visually reminiscent of the band’s first EP and the tracks seem to bring back some much-needed grunge nostalgia, but people won’t know until 2021. There’s only one thing fans and listeners can be sure about: Evanescence has never been afraid of the truth.
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado