Review Summary: While it may not be as stylistically masterful as its two predecessors, Minutes To Midnight is a solid album that brings new, fresh ideas into Linkin Park's palette - even if there are a few subpar tracks.
The statement seems to ring true time and time again: once you're famous, there's no way to make everyone happy. When a blown-up band releases a new album, one of two things always seems to happen: If the album retains the same stylistic features as the previous album, it gets criticized for being bland and unoriginal, or, if the album makes a departure from those stylistic features, it gets criticized for, well, being different. Linkin Park chose the latter path with Minutes To Midnight, a direct departure from the Rap-Rock sound they had become famous for, this time experimenting with different styles in the effort to find a fresh and equally appealing new sound.
But did it work? Did Linkin Park really make an album that lived up to the expectations set by Hybrid Theory and Meteora? Was the album the breath of fresh air that Linkin Park so desperately needed to stay alive – the groundbreaking reinvention that it potentially could have been? Or did the band crash and burn in their search for a new sound that just didn’t suit their strengths?
The answer is – and no pun intended – somewhere in between.
Minutes To Midnight is a collection of songs that vary greatly in style. The nu-metal guitar riffs, the angst-inspired lyrics of the previous two albums have been all but abolished; yes, the album has a far greater emphasis on softer, more subtly composed material. Linkin Park pull off these kinds of songs surprisingly well, as evidenced by the beautiful “Shadow Of The Day”, the introspective “Valentine’s Day”, and the thought provoking closer “The Little Things Give You Away”. Chester sings alone in these songs; in fact, all of the best tracks on the album feature only Chester. “Leave Out All The Rest” and “What I’ve Done” are two mid-tempo numbers that may not be all that memorable, but are still pleasant to the ear. “In Pieces”, perhaps the strongest track on the album, possesses a quiet intensity that grips you from the very beginning, and Chester’s superb vocal performance carries the track to success.
Despite the evident focus on the softer material, Minutes To Midnight does also have a few heavy moments, namely, “Given Up” and “No More Sorrow”. Both of these tracks sound slightly punk-influenced and are perfectly enjoyable, but just lack the groove that made tracks like “Points Of Authority” and “Figure.09” from their previous albums catchy and memorable. Plus, in the grand scheme of the album, these kinds of tracks just seem out of place and awkward. To put it simply, they are both good tracks, but would have worked better in another context (though that 17-second scream in “Given Up” still makes my jaw drop.)
And with all of these tracks that focus on Chester’s ever-so-evident singing abilities, one may start asking, where does Mike Shinoda fit in with all of this? It seems, unfortunately, as though all of the failed experiments of Minutes To Midnight’s recording sessions were laid on Mike’s shoulders, and it’s in these tracks that the album’s weaknesses begin to truly show. He raps in “Bleed It Out”, which is a mediocre track with poor lyrics. While the chorus may be catchy, it grows tiring very quickly and you’ll find yourself skipping the track more often than not. “Hands Held High”, on the other hand, actually has some of the best rap verses that Shinoda has ever done, but the track overall has boring and generic musical content that results in its overall mediocrity. “In Between” is a somewhat industrial-sounding track that, for the first time, features Mike singing. And yes, while his voice is quite nice, the song lacks presence, and while it may be one of the most unique tracks on the album, it also somehow manages to come off as dull and uninspired. Overall, the unequal treatment of Linkin Park’s two big personalities brings the album down; it feels lopsided and the tracks don’t work with each other to make a good impression on listeners.
All of these factors added together result in an album that is far from perfect, but nevertheless enjoyable. The good outweighs the bad, even if just barely. While Minutes To Midnight fails to live up to its two predecessors, it’s still worth a listen if you want to hear something different out of Linkin Park; no song on this album fails to bring something new to the table, and this is ultimately where the strength of the album lies. If you’re really interested in it, don’t hesitate to buy it, but if you’re still skeptical, don’t make it a priority.
-Wake (while I forgot to mention this track in the review, it is a pretty awesome intro, and definitely worth checking out.)
-Shadow Of The Day
-What I've Done
-The Little Things Give You Away