Review Summary: While never truly making too interesting of an innovative musical statement, the lyricism in conjunction with gorgeous vocals make an emotional one.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
It is, in general, and in especial at first appearance, essentially just another nu metal album following the wake of works by Anthrax, Pantera, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and Korn, all of whom pioneered, engaged, or at least dappled into the genre to some degree (all to varying success).
Although a refreshing idea of fusing multiple genres like rap, metal, goth rock, post-punk, and electronica, and derived from such interesting and diverse styles like the rap metal of Rage Against the Machine and Faith No More [one could even make an argument that the 1989 masterpiece "Epic" was the first widely-distributed Nu Metal song], the industrialism of Nine Inch Nails, the high octane of Jane's Addiction, and the unique metal styling of Primus (among many other influences), nu metal is usually received to mixed reviews. Nu metal has continually proven to yield nothing much new to contemporary music stylistically (once its features have been explored and become fatigued, it all blurs together and is no longer unique).
At once, however, Amy Lee et al have successfully crafted a record that retains what effective traits nu metal hosts, while discarding most of the overused and annoyingly predictable characteristics. The symphonic and piano ballad nature of half the songs - most notably "Hello" [ballad], "My Immortal" [ballad, symph], periodically “Imaginary” [symph, ballad], the introduction/outro of “Bring Me To Life” [ballad], and the outro of "Tourniquette" [symph] and “Whisper” [symph] – paired with the heavier elements of grungy guitar riffs and loud choruses throughout the rest of the record demonstrate a mastery of fusion between symphonic, ballad, goth, and grunge genres. On the other hand, nu metal characteristics of scratching and sampling, which seem to have been exhausted in Hybrid Theory and Meteora, are absent. There is also no rapping element, with exception to the guest backup vocalist Paul McCoy of 12 Stone in “Bring Me to Life”, a track which stands alone as a great work unto itself (and in fact, it’s the most nu metal song of all on the entire record).
As characteristic of nu metal, there are no guitar solos, which either detracts from the musicality of the album or heightens the impact of Amy Lee's powerful and crystal-smooth vocals (this is, of course, open to interpretation). The variety in musical elements in each song and the diversity in song meanings set them apart enough that the record as a whole doesn’t become bland, while some commonalities between the songs – like the powerful, poignant, and silky vocals, and the rugged guitar riffs – meld it into a cohesive whole. Particulars follow:
"Haunted" is just a strange song overall, slowly, inevitably and heavily immersing you into the horror of Ben Moody’s story about a male spirit detaining a girl inside a mansion for over ten years. Gothic style harmonization in backing vocals such as those in "Everybody's Fool" and "Whisper" induce a creepy vibe unseen in most post-grunge and nu metal work. This is fresh. So is the acoustic introduction in the former. By contrast, distortion in the guitars and voice in "Tourniquet" are highly post-grunge, and songs like “My Last Breath” and “Taking Over Me” are straight-up nu metal / post-grunge, bearing very little musical impact or importance (although catchy as hell or lyrically meaningful). Even the beloved “Going Under”, while potent, lacks distinctive musical elements. I believe this track gains such notoriety on account of the narrator’s strong will to rise above an unreciprocated relationship, which is embodied in Amy Lee’s robust voice.
Yes, what I really feel holds this album together is the emotional breadth of Lee and Moody’s lyricism fit to catchy, haunting, or beautiful melody, and performed with Lee’s “Tori Amos – esque” robust voice. “Going Under” was inspired by her own experience with a physically and emotionally destructive relationship. “Everybody’s Fool” criticizes the pretentious, self-indulging iconic figures of American multimedia, condemning how the influence of pop culture icons is destroying the moral fabric of society. The inspiration of the song came when Lee’s 8-year-old sister became enamored with the trends, fashions, and music artists / movie actors of pop culture. “The whole Hollywood [scene]… is fake… it’s really hurting a lot of girls’ and women’s self-images” [Lee] proclaimed Lee during an interview, when asked about the song. “My Immortal”, based on another Moody ghost scenario, depicts a spirit haunting a grieving loved one. The spirit fails to reach closure that he must separate from her after death, until warded away by its lover’s prospect to move on with her life. It’s the fact that your lover is “haunting you until you actually wish that the spirit were gone because it won't leave you alone” [Moody] that invokes such a distressing mood in this track. The song deals with lost loved ones in a somber manner, with free rubato and expressivity harkening back to the impressionistic era. “Hello” deals with a darker side of Lee’s life, this time concerning a different sister. It highlights her reaction and the emotional trial she passed as a child when her younger sister, Bonnie, perished from a childhood disease. The progression is a fairly common psychological reaction: first ignorance of the event, then disbelief as a coping mechanism (fashioning in her mind the lie that the event never occurred), refusal to entertain the help from specialists (“don’t try to fix me, I’m not broken”), and then ultimately acceptance that the sister is indeed deceased. The melancholy/lamenting tone matches the theme perfectly, but it’s important to note that the song is a tribute to Bonnie Lee. “Hello”’s sister track on the album is “Taking Over Me” – Lee notices resemblances of her sister in her own mirror reflection and lays awake reminiscing about Bonnie. So much that it seems to consume her. Honestly, I feel that its perfect lyrics should have demanded better complimentary music.
“Bring Me to Life” is open to a variety of interpretations, but as Amy Lee and the band have stated it’s “not about God”, as they are religious, but not a Christian rock band. Amy Lee admits that when she met a friend of a friend – entirely a stranger – he somehow could “see inside her” [Lee] as lost in the world or dead inside behind her beautiful appearance on the surface. The principle is evocative of depersonalization or derealization disorder, which may have stemmed from earlier traumatic experiences like Bonnie’s death and Amy’s abusive relationships. The event can be summed as a person “discovering something or someone that wakens a feeling inside them that they’ve never had before” [Moody]. She even clearly states in “Imaginary” that a daydream life of “paper flowers and candy clouds” is comforting and escapist from the torment of reality, which is a stark contrast with, figuratively speaking, “cease[less] screaming for the fear of silent nights”. “My Last Breath” is a tribute to the fallen victims of 9-11, and depicts a girl confessing her love for the man in whose arms she is dying. “Tourniquet” is the only strictly religious song on the album, and was written by drummer Rocky Gray, originally of Christian death metal group Soul Embraced. A tourniquet is a medicinal device used to choke arteries and avoid continued blood loss after injury. Here, God is metaphorically a tourniquet to the narrator; subsequent to attempted suicide, the narrator pleads for exoneration of her attempted sin. The piece, in effect, questions the requirements for admittance into heaven, which is by no means a new topic. From a literal stance, the song is unrelated to drug abuse. The Latin verses of the outro to “Whisper” are: “Servatis a periculum, servatis a maleficum”, which, according to Lee, means “Save (yourselves) from danger; save (yourselves) from evil”, although this is not grammatically correct, as “a” is a preposition that takes on the ablative “pericula” and “malefica”, and servatis is in the indicative not imperative mood. This song also takes on religious undertones, perhaps of resisting the temptation of evil, of contemplating suicide, of a descent to Hell, or the likes.
Track Picks: “Bring Me to Life” [9.5]; “My Immortal” ; “Hello” [9.5]; “Everybody’s Fool” ; “Going Under” [8.5]
Tier II: "Haunted" ; "Imaginary" [7.5];
Tier III: "Tourniquette" ; "My Last Breath" [6.5]; "Whisper" 
Weak: "Taking Over Me" [5.5]