Review Summary: A ballsy change of sound that elevates the band to a new creative level.
Let's be honest here, Linkin Park aren't the deepest of bands; intellect isn't something that tends to sit at the forefront of the band's sound or image. No, Linkin Park are a band that have normally relied on hooks and emotion. After their smash debut NU-metal masterpiece, Hybrid Theory, the band went on to make Meteora, which was effectively Hybrid Theory 2.0, refining the sound they'd created from their debut. After 4 years away from the scene, they came back with their 2007 LP Minutes to Midnight
and, at this point, the band were a little tired of the NU-metal tag that lay hanging over their heads. So, determined to escape the clutches of the genre tag they were branded with, the result was a collection of bland rock and ballad tunes that are more akin to a knock-off U2 band than a true Linkin Park progression.
But if the surprise departure of Minutes to Midnight
's metal roots turned some heads, their fourth album was about to really get backs up. In 2010 the band made A Thousand Suns
, and for the fans expecting that Hybird Theory return, they were about to have their hopes crushed. In actual fact, ATS is so far removed from its roots it becomes hard to believe it's from the same band; guitars are next to nonexsistent, dominated and saturated by an elecronic template. It's a multi-conceptual album that talks about human fears and war, but the biggest surprise comes from this: to fully understand the album, you can't just listen to one song, you have to listen to the album in its entirety.
This was a bold move for the band, both extremely ambitious and wildly experimental when compared to anything done previously. But A Thousand Suns
get's so many things right, and its determined drive largely pays off. Firstly, Chester Bennington's voice on this record is unbelievably solid throughout, Rick Rubin really gets the best results from him, and melodies bring great effect and feeling to songs: album singles "Burning in the Skies" and "The Catalyst" really shine vocally when they hit the choruses. Mike's vocal contributions are just as effective this time around too, his rapping in "Wretches and Kings" has a bite and aggression you won't have heard before. But A Thousand Suns
works on all cylinders when the two voices work together and use each others strengths. The album relies heavily on melody, and, coupled with the Hollywood style interlude tracks, brings a certain epicness to songs. "When they Come for Me" hears Mike spitting out lyrics in the verse, while the song builds from the first chorus with Chester harmonising. The song ends up swelling, becoming larger and more grand with every passing second and it's these kind of ideas that come out really refreshing and exciting to hear. "Robot Boy" and "Waiting for the End" use the same blueprint and the results are very pleasing.
The amount of styles and craftmanship on songs here is far more intricate than anything the band have done before, most of the time it works, but occasionally it can sink. "Blackout" is frankly a mess, with Chester cringely rapping at the beginning of the track before its bass dropping breakdown, that then goes into a really random melodic build up in the last third of the song. It doesn't work well at all. "Iridescent" sounds like a Minutes to Midnight
B-side with Mike's bland vocal performance, and is reletively forgettable. But, to be honest, these are the only drawbacks to this album. The interludes have such a raw emotion to them and bring the next song together really well. The lyrics are really nice throughout, and generally Linkin Park rarely put a foot wrong.
Overall, if you like this style of music anyway, you'll enjoy this, but if you are like me and relish the nostalgia that comes from the first two efforts, this will take some time to click. It's unfair to dismiss this album. Its main focus is melody, and it is chock full of it, but there is an album here that has so much effort put into and it really pushes the band to a new level artistically.