Review Summary: Old school punk and hip-hop might have looked cool on the blueprints, but as it turns out they were nothing more than half-cocked concepts.
When Taproot’s Blue-Sky Research came out in 2005, I remember how guitarist Mike Dewolf stated in a press release how hard they worked on this album, having written over a hundred songs in the writing process. When I got my hands on that album, I was disappointed. The band seemed to have written so much material that any form of inspiration was absent.
When Linkin Park issued a similar statement for their new album, Minutes To Midnight
, I was fearing the worst. After hearing the first single, ‘What I’ve Done’, I actually saw a sparkle of hope that the band would land on its feet after all. Vocalist Chester Bennington's singing seemed to have improved, losing its whiney edge that had left its scars on the band's first two discs, while improving and expanding the melodic sensibilities that the band showed on some tracks off of Meteora
Unfortunately, the band doesn’t even come close to keeping up that level of songwriting throughout the rest of the album. The band has indeed changed its sound as promised, in fact they changed a huge part of their songwriting formula. Where Meteora
was characterized by its dense walls of guitars, Mike Shinoda’s rapped verses traded off with Chester Bennington’s faux-angry screaming, none of these play an essential role on Minutes To Midnight
. The band’s new sound is characterized by a much softer, ballad-like approach, where the guitars aren’t choking the rest of the instruments, the bass can actually be heard, and DJ Joe Hahn plays a more central role in the songwriting. If there is one thing that connects this album with Meteora
though, it’s the fact that the band hasn’t developed as songwriters. Where Meteora
was like a sugar rush that was fun for a week or two, Minutes To Midnight
feels like something that has a sense of longevity that isn’t really there. The album doesn’t grow on you, and because of the new approach the band has taken to its songwriting the hooks on this album aren’t as solid as they were on Meteora
. Perhaps the huge amount of songs written for this album also has something to do with that.
What’s also very much missing from this album are the heavier moments. Surprisingly, the rolling, punk guitars on ‘Given Up’ work well with Chester’s voice, but the song is ruined by its thirteen in a dozen breakdown, with Chester screaming “PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY!”
. The album’s other heavy moment (yes, there are only two) is ‘No More Sorrow’, which is inevitably ruined by the most cliché palm-muted riffing and yet another boring breakdown that show no signs that the band had some sort of creative approach to writing these types of songs.
An unexpected and rare highlight on the album is the song ‘In Between’, which features Mike Shinoda handling lead vocals, who is rarely heard on the rest of the album. Besides being one of the few memorable and catchy songs found here, this is a nice step away from the rest of the songs that are being dominated by Bennington.
If the music is disappointing, at least the band took it to a different place. The lyrical writing shows very little, if any, signs of progress, which might be the band’s own noose. After all, the 14 and 15 year olds that could relate to all the teenage angst on Meteora
have now matured, and it’s sad to see Chester Bennington has not.
While Linkin Park took their music in another direction, Minutes To Midnight
is essentially a disappointment that shows that LP; A) have put too much effort into it resulting into uninspired songwriting. B) Are just poor songwriters in general. As with a lot of things, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.