Review Summary: This is the band's first concept album. Musically, it is still not superior to the band's debut record, but it contains some of the most impressive vocal parts of the genre.
For fans who have long anticipated (and feared) the coming of “A Thousand Suns,” you are about to be pleasantly surprised – it is absolutely fantastic. Linkin Park is back with their fourth studio record and first concept album. This time around, guitars take a back seat to keyboards and various other tools of Electronica. This is not to say that guitars are completely absent, but rather saved for crucial moments on the record. The result is a risky yet perfectly executed 45 minute addition to Linkin Park’s discography. Although it would appear they have abandoned their original sound completely, “Suns” still sounds just like a Linkin Park album.
Once again, Linkin Park provide the thrills and chills with great musicianship and new ideas that pay off in spades. The production is very full and atmospheric. Shinoda and Bennington once again share songs and give their best vocal performances of all four albums.
The album opens with Burning in the Skies, a very mellow song with a cool rhythm and lyrics that conjure thoughts of Meteora. At any point on the record where there is percussion - you hear Mr. Hahn's session. Not the most original sound, but still an effective throw back to the debut. Bennington really shines on Blackout – a tour de force featuring some of his best vocals to date. Shinoda pops in at the end with a catchy final verse that changes the pace of the song altogether. Iridescent kicks off with and simple but haunting piano part coupled with a very atmospheric electronic choir that feels like something straight out of a modern war movie. The Catalyst, too, is a very exciting song that carries a heavy energy. The rhythm is fast and the keyboards are much louder and more complex than in other songs - It's probably also the best song on the album.
What is most appreciable about “A Thousand Suns” is Shinoda and Bennington’s focus on vocal parts vs. music. This may upset fans looking for the right combination of heavy guitars, bass and Mr. Hahn’s mixing station. However, what these two singers are able to do with mood is incredible. Waiting for the End, for example, has a beautiful final minute in which lines sung by both singers eventually overlap – not unlike that of a Taking Back Sunday song. All of this focus on vocals may deter from the musicianship, but it’s all so well crafted and deeply satisfying that I don’t think most casual listeners and critics will care. More focus on guitar, drum and bass parts would have raised the value of the experience musically.
Although 15 tracks in length, “A Thousand Suns” only actually contains 8 full length songs longer than the length of 3 minutes. The remaining tracks include various speeches by Robert Oppenheimer and Mario Savio that give the record it’s political feeling. Some tracks simply take a moment to repeat and remix the choruses of previous tracks which add mood but do little to impress. I have to be honest with you…without these 1 minute tracks on the record, “A Thousand Suns” is no different than Meteora, lyrically. Perhaps one or two songs throw back to "Minutes to Midnight" with a line here and there– but this album is quite straightforward and even a bit optimistic - which makes for a fun listen.
Thus far, the album has received mixed reviews by fans and critics alike. As a fan of “Minutes to Midnight,” I can confidently state that this album is far superior. It doesn’t match the band’s first two albums, but it surpasses their production value and performances. “A Thousand Suns” marks a step forward for the band as it is both their first concept album and revelation of the talent of its two lead singers. This isn’t “Kid A” or “OK Computer” because the band is clearly just trying to experiment. We don’t know how their next album will sound. It may be no different than “Hybrid Theory.” If they keep up the good work that they did with this album and also focus more on the musicianship of their other band members – their fifth album could be a classic.