Review Summary: It isn't mind-blowing, nor is it underwhelming. They tried to please everyone, and this is the outcome.
Minutes To Midnight abandoned the electronic sound that helped push Linkin Park to the top. A Thousand Suns brought it back, but for many it was too much. Somewhere in between these two lies Living Things. When it was said that Linkin Parks fifth studio album would bring in elements of both old and new, it sounded too good to be true. But the band stood by their words, and Living Things takes the sound that brought that them to their peak and tinges it with the electronic influences found on A Thousand Suns. Does it work?
The album opens with “Lost In The Echo”, and the bands statements ring true. The sound is fresh, and the track is alive. Shinoda drops some memorable verses, and it works as an opener. Following this is “In My Remains”, definitely an album highlight with it's catchy chorus and chanted mantra of “Like an army, falling. One by one by one”. This is followed by “Burn It Down”, which was made to be played in stadiums and shouted by everyone in earshot. It also sounds like something made for the radio, and it that respect it ends up being rather vapid; it isn't very impressive, lyrically. Closing off the first third of the album is “Lies, Greed, Misery”, calling upon heavily distorted guitars and a rage-filled Chester, screaming into the mic. It's the loudest and most aggressive song on the album, and the two play off of each other, making it one of my favorite tracks.
The second third of Living Things is where things get interesting. I'll be Gone fits with what we've heard so far, and Castle of Glass plays out like a lighter sounding version of “The Catalyst”. It would've fit perfectly on A Thousand Suns. And just as you get settled in and you feel like you know what's coming, “Victimized” kicks everything into high gear. A loud stadium sound that almost seems like an ode to what Linkin Park once was. And as soon as it's over, Chesters voice is droning alongside pianos and some bells, in what will probably one of the few times this band actually puts out true, lyrical genius on the longing emotional track that is “Roads Untraveled.”
And to follow that lyrical genius comes the low point of the album. Skin to Bone has the worst lyrics on the album, possibly the worst lyrics LP has ever come up with. Until It Breaks is run by Shinoda, and he's in the spotlight here. Getting past the gritty sound and heavily distorted guitars, it's a pretty good track with Shinoda at his best. Like the first three albums, the penultimate track (Tinfoil) is an instrumental that flows so well into “Powerless”, our finisher, that they might as well just be one track. And as a closer, “Powerless” seems like a fitting name. It's just so lackluster, it ends up being a little disappointing as a closer.
So what did it do right, and where did it go wrong? Let's start with the pros. They did what they wanted to do; they mixed the sound they had on ATS with the sound they had at the start. It does work, and the first half of the album is pretty good. They please old fans with tracks like “Lies, Greed Misery” and “Victimized”, while updating the new sound with tracks like “Castle Of Glass” and “Lost in the Echo”. It's also worth noting the lyrical content. It matured with A Thousand Suns, but that was a concept album and Linkin Park is back to talking about revenge and burning things, watching them fall and what-not. It's the different sound it approaches this idea with that makes the album so interesting.
But while they mesh together the two sounds, they don't get far enough into what either side stuck around for. What they have done is created something for people that didn't really like either and wanted a middle-ground. Living Things ends up not being A Thousand Suns and Hybrid Theory/Meteora, but does end up being A Thousand Suns and Minutes to Midnight. Another thing worth mentioning is while they cover a lot of different sounds and styles over the last half of the album, a lot of them don't work. At all. Skin To Bones sounds like something that should have been on ATS, and while Until It Breaks is ripped apart by Shinoda, the distorted guitars in the background are a hindrance. It's Shinoda that overcomes this, and when he stops, thankfully the guitars do, too. Victimized... Alright, I get it's supposed to be a throwback, almost an ode to what they once were. But by God, that chorus is annoying.
So my final opinion? It seems like Linkin Park has found its sound for the time being, and I think it's just fine. It isn't mind-blowing, nor is it underwhelming. It's fun and experimental, it can be loud, but it can also be atmospheric. Linkin Park knows what they're doing. That is a fact. They know people wanted a return to their roots, but they wanted to stick with the sound that made A Thousand Suns. Living Things is the answer. It's dealing with the same issues in a different way, a different sound. That's what makes it good. That's why it's still Linkin Park.