Linkin Park - The band that inspired me to get into metal and rock music. The first metal song I really liked was (and is) Numb from the legendary album Meteora released in 2003 following Reanimation.
Three years after its last effort, the back-to-basics Minutes to Midnight, nu-metal band Linkin Park returns with the politically-driven A Thousand Suns, an album that is, in many ways, a step forward for the band, and in others, a step back.
Linkin Park's first two albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, are primarily well-produced ventures into the realm of teen angst. The band's third album, Minutes to Midnight, attempted to diversify the band's lyricism, with the political "Hands Held High." Such diversification has not gone unnoticed, and the new album is political at heart. The quality of the lyrics have tightened up.
However, if there's one aspect of Linkin Park albums that have made the band stand above the other rap-rock albums, it's the production quality. Unfortunately, in Minutes to Midnight, the band ignored the fantastic production quality that Meteora had and attempted to go back to the basics. This may have been the band's single greatest mistake. Linkin Park is forgettable at best when attempting classic rock. Minutes to Midnight was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, who proved he makes mistakes.
Although he returns to produce A Thousand Suns, he's clearly recognized the error of his ways; the production on the new album shows a drastic change from the previous album, one that is more in line with the first two albums. Synthesizer dominates the soundscape and piano is used to a more brooding effect than in previous albums. This helps to create an album that is significantly moodier than LP's previous efforts, which were more about rage than melancholy.
The album is full of short vignettes(depictions) that help listeners move from one real track to the next. "Wisdom, Justice, and Love" is a minute and a half of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking as his voice gradually becomes distorted to the point of sounding like Megatron from Transformers. In fact, if you removed these tracks, you'd be down to a mere ten full-length songs.
There are several stand-out tracks on the album. "Wretches and Kings" is the album's most aggressive song, with a crunchy guitar, heavy hip-hop beat and bitcrushed chants of "Hey!" in the background as the band lays down some of the best verses on the album.
"The Catalyst" is the album's next-to-last track and serves as a fantastic synthesis of everything the listener has heard thus far. The song begins with ominous synths and gradually becomes more and more intense, adding on layers of stuttered beats, guitars and harmonization between members Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington.
There are other notable moments on the album. "When They Come for Me" has a tribal beat and Shinoda asserting, "I am not a criminal, not a role model, not a born leader; I'm a tough act to follow." "Waiting for the End" has a beat that sounds uncannily similar to Jay-Z's "99 Problems" (also produced by Rubin).
A Thousand Suns is unlike any album Linkin Park has released, due to the nature of its lyrics, structure of the album and its fresh production from Rick Rubin. It's a pleasure to see Linkin Park pushing the envelope sonically again, rather than regressing as it did in its last album.