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Evanescence hopes new album can help heal during a time of heartbreak

“Connection and togetherness” are key, says singer Amy Lee, who recently suffered a loss in her family.

Amy Lee of Evanescence CREDIT Kaley Nelson
Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee says she no longer has to fight to prove a woman can lead a rock band.
Kaley Nelson

In 2003, Evanescence had played one of its first shows in Chicago at the Metro, a more-or-less showcase for a band that had just begun riding on the success of a new single and music video for a track called “Bring Me to Life” that pitted the ethereal vocals of Amy Lee against hard-driving rap-rock for an operatic goth mashup. It was wholly distinctive from anything that had been spinning on the airwaves in that time and resulted in a collective chatter of “who is this?”

It’s something Lee remembers as the popular ensemble heads to town again, nearly 20 years later, behind this year’s new album “The Bitter Truth.” The quintet (now also including bassist Tim McCord, drummer Will Hunt, lead guitarist Troy McLawhorn, and guitarist and backing vocalist Jen Majura) will be playing Thursday one of the shows in the WKQX-FM (101.1) “The Nights We Stole Christmas” series at the Aragon, with Lee professing just how instrumental stations like that one were in the evolution of the band.

“We had this interesting conundrum that I didn’t realize would be a problem initially,” she said in a recent interview. The song, starting with piano and featuring a woman’s voice, was “too different,” she was told, and pitching it to rock stations would be difficult. But after some DJs started playing it on air, “there was this beautiful reaction from people calling in to play it again,” she said. “And I will always remember that. Our fans were a very literal part of getting us here.”

Though Lee joked, “we’ve improved since then,” even she has to pause over just how much success the band — formed in Little Rock, Arkansas – has amassed, with its debut album “Fallen” ranked as the No. 5 biggest-selling album of the 21st century by Nielsen SoundScan data, and with Evanescence netting 20 million Facebook fans, placing the group among the top 75 bands of all time, and one of the top 15 rock bands on the platform, according to Trackalytics.

The current Evanescence lineup includes Jen Majura (from left), Will Hunt, Amy Lee, Tim McCord and Troy McLawhorn.
Nick Fancher

Today, that momentum is carried forward on the dynamic new effort “The Bitter Truth” that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard rock charts when it was released in March. It’s the group’s first album of new material in 10 years, a span of time that has seen a shift in band members, countless tours and marriage and motherhood for Lee. And yet there was a feeling of loss that pervaded the writing of the album. While the band, like the world, grappled with the onset of a global health crisis, Lee was grief-stricken over losing her brother, who had battled epilepsy, while McCord was mourning the death of a child.

In the band bio accompanying the release, Lee asserts the message of the 12 tracks is “pushing through is always better than giving up” and hopes that sharing songs about her own loss (heard in the emotional new ballad “Far From Heaven” in homage to her brother; as well, “Hello” from “Fallen” was in tribute to a deceased sister) can help others heal at a time we are all bearing some heavy weight.

“I think there’s real healing in connecting with other people. That’s what we all really crave deep down, connection and togetherness and to feel understood,” she said.

Another new standout is the protest track “Use My Voice,” with Evanescence at perhaps its most political, as the title suggests. As Lee said, “It’s hard to imagine living through this time, being a lyric writer, and not getting a bit more political. Being silent is a big statement in itself, and I didn’t want to make that statement.”

Lee has also been using her voice to promote the act of voting on the band’s socials, pointing to issues with voter suppression, and said, “Everybody needs to be able to be represented, or we are not a free country anymore.”

The music video makes that point as well, in particular championing the representation women are owed — a battle she has often waged in a male-dominated industry. There’s a moment in the video where she holds up a torch, looking like Lady Liberty, as she’s joined by a chorus of sirens, including colleague and friend Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. The two bands are currently on tour right now, offering a strong female-fronted arena show that Pollstar calls a high point in the current touring market — though it’s something Lee didn’t initially think would have been possible back in the early days.

“I felt like I was fighting for my place, to constantly prove I was worthy of being there … that I was more than just a girl standing in front [on stage], but I was a writer and that I knew how to lead a band,” she said, pointing to inspirations including Shirley Manson of Garbage. “And now I can look back and I don’t feel like I’m fighting anymore. I’ve seen a change in the industry since we began and that makes me excited and inspired, … Women are definitely rocking the scene right now.”