Review Summary: A big improvement.
A brief bit of history for you: I was a huge fan of these guys from their debut Nu-metal album "Hybrid Theory" back in 2000. They were in the driving seat of the Nu wave that hit everyone: they were heavy, melodic, pop, and just sounded very fresh at the time. They then made - what I consider their best album to date - "Meteora" back in 2003, which was effectively more of the same. Then the band went on a break and didn't show up until 2007 with their new album "Minutes To Midnight" - produced by legend Rick Rubin - which was a fairly different take on their sound, sounding a lot more commercial, radio-friendly than the normal, and to be fair it was all a little generic. Still, the album pleased the majority of fans and dragged in a lot of new fans.
Now, think back a couple of years to 2010, when Linkin Park made their last album "A Thousand Suns", not only produced by Rick again, but now had Mike Shinoda producing, too. This change also had a huge impact on their sound. To an unprecedented extreme; to the point where it didn't sound like LP at all, and alienating alot of longtime fans. Mike Shinoda's response was that if they made another rock record that sounded the same, they would forever be branded 'Nu-metal', so this was a way of rebelling. Overall, it left alot of people annoyed, and was fairly average.
Now, even though the last album wasn't that great, it is clear at this point that the album was a stepping stone for what was to come in the form of their latest effort "Living Things", produced once again by Rick and Mike. I actually think it's pretty good album. Taking the electronic sound of "ATS" and the rock structure and elements from their heavy days, this album gives a little twist and a slightly newer sound for the band. Taking all the strengths from every album to date and amalgamating it into this new beast.
Singing, Chester does what he does best, and I'd have to say this is some of his finest vocal work; for the most part, the hair on the back of your neck sat on end.
But what is seeming to progress a lot more in the band, is Mike singing. And this is my problem with the newer material of LP. It would appear Mike wants to be in the limelight all the time, and with him co-producing it makes it even easier to have the say on doing it. I'm all for new additions to the band, or any band, but Mike's voice has never been a good one for me, it's ranged from bad to average. Sometimes the singing works in the album, but for the most part he should really know his place in tha band. Just my opinion. But I think the first half of the album is lot more engaging due to Chester have the vocal time. The album drags on a little and I've noticed it's because Mike has alot of singing time.
The same applies to lyrics: Chester's lyrics are good and his singing is amazing. Mike Shinoda's singing is average, his rapping dated and cheesey and his lyrics are very generic. He tries to make the band a lot more politically aware in - mainly the last two albums - the last three albums. Politics go hand-in-hand in punk music, so its something that is overused and done before. I love punk music, and many bands have proved you can talk about politics without hitting all the generic points. Unfortunately Mike doesn't stray out of it, and listening to what he has to say is a complete bore. And if he isn't rapping about oversaid topics, he's singing about things he has sung about countless times in the past. How many people can f--k him at this point in his career, really?
But overall, a massive improvement from their last album. Sure, the album isn't perfect, but the sound from ATS with the structure of the old makes for a compromise on which kind of fan you are.
Like I say, the main flaws with the album are Mike's overall contributions to the vocal and lyric writing side of the band. He's done a great job in pushing the bands sound forward in sound. If you're a fan of the old Linkin Park, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this album. It caters for fans of the old and new and if this is the sound of things to come, there is still a fan in me.