A particular experience that inspired Lee to make The Bitter Truth happened three years ago, when she lost her little brother, Robby. Dealing with that grief, and attempting to find hope through it, caused her to start writing again. “That made me zoom out on life and look at it again,” says Lee. “I had to rediscover who I am, because being his big sister was a huge part of my identity.” (Much of the album’s recording also happened during the pandemic, which only fueled its survival theme.) While The Bitter Truth deals with heavy emotions, its sound is surprisingly uplifting. In place of a full orchestra, which the band often uses, it is filled with upbeat synthesizers as heard on “Yeah Right,” an almost pop-like track. Lee wanted a lighter sound, to show that one can still celebrate even while going through hell. “Embracing the pain is necessary; in order to truly appreciate life, we have to take it with the dark,” she says.
Even with the synthesizers, the angsty spirit of Evanescence is still very present, as is Lee’s goth girl style. Her dark, romantic looks have always perfectly matched the heavier themes of her songs. “I want to show similarities between what I’m saying in the music, and what it looks like,” says Lee. “That doesn’t mean, ‘I’m goth, so I wear corsets.’ It’s deeper than that.” She’s never claimed to be a strict goth, but her style has become synonymous with the aesthetic, which revolves around black attire and DIY’d pieces that are deliberately distressed. Complete with laced-up corsets and big, full, Victorian-style skirts, her fashion choices have always nodded to her love of classical music and Mozart, and this is still very much the case. (In her new protest-inspired video “Use My Voice,” Lee takes to the streets wearing an oversized black tee—more minimal fare than her dramatic feathered gown in “Going Under,” but still in her favorite color.)
Like any good goth, Lee has created many of her own outfits for both past and present videos and performances; it’s a goth signature to take a piece and subvert or destroy it, after all. For her “My Immortal” video in 2003, she wore cheesecloth bandages to mimic the lyrics of feeling broken. She was inspired to create the look after having seen a runway look in Vogue. “There was a model walking on the runway with a black satin ribbon wrapped underneath her arm,” says Lee. “That wrapping on the arm looks like a cast, but it also makes a connection to the brokenness in my heart.” For her “Going Under” video, Lee hand-sewed the shredded dress she wears in the underwater sequence. “I wanted zombie ballerina,” she says. “I just bought a plain white under dress and mountains of cheesecloth, and tea-stained it in my hotel room.” On the red carpet, meanwhile, a personal highlight was at the 2004 Grammys, when Evanescence won Best New Artist: Lee designed and wore a bondage-style, grungy-glam dress in collaboration with Japanese designer H. Naoto.
The beauty of Lee’s goth style today, whether DIY’d or custom-made, is that it hasn’t changed much. It is, as the saying goes, not a phase, mom! Entering motherhood has not affected her view on fashion either—in fact, her son loves seeing Lee dress up. “He thinks it’s really cool,” says Lee. “He’ll find a bright, fruity tutu that I only wear under things, and he’ll be like, ‘Mom, I picked out what you should wear.’” These days, however, she is drawn to more high-fashion labels, such as Sacai, Alexander McQueen, and Vivienne Westwood—as well as smaller brands like Bulgaria’s Demobaza, or anything vintage.
Her enduring fashion taste has impressively caught on with the next generation too. When asked about what she thinks about Gen Z on TikTok discovering Evanescence’s music, and many creators, like Xowie Jones, clearly channeling Lee’s look in their own e-girl way, Lee says it makes her experimenting with her sounds and fashions all worthwhile. “That’s the dream, that you can survive beyond a time period,” says Lee. With this new record, then, Evanescence is clearly surviving in more ways than one.