What new major label album features a half dozen minute long interludes, quotes from both Martin Luther King Jr. and Mario Savio, not to mention a distinct lack of guitars? Why the new Linkin Park album, A Thousand Suns
If you approach this from the perspective that Linkin Park is a metal band with some rap and industrial influences then you will hate this album. There are virtually no heavy elements and those that exist come from techno and electronic music. But if you approach them as a group of people bringing their talents together to make something greater than they do individually there is something to this album. It moves them in a significant new direction. They have left behind the anger and guitars of their previous albums for a somewhat more subdued, electronic based, individualized music.
This album doesn't feel like nearly as much like a group effort as their previous albums have. In the past the mixing of different sensibilities and tastes seemed seamless. The move between Mike Shinoda's rapping and Chester Bennington's singing was fluid and the music they built around that interplay worked very well. But the songs on this new album seem like single people. The seams have become obvious, the new songs don't fit together nearly as well. Songs like Wretches And Kings and When They Come For Me are basically hip hop songs with very little input from Chester. On the flip side there's opener Burning In The Skies and mid album skipper Robot Boy are all Chester with nothing from Mike. It's a problem that won't go away and doesn't allow the album to gel.
It opens very strangely with two intro tracks and then the first song. It sounds like Chester's solo record but without the big chunky guitars. And most of the record sounds like that. They've traded in the majority of their anger and angst for lots of piano and really big synth sounds. The songs they write and the instrumentation has always lent itself to the grandiosity of stadiums and this music is no exception.
There are some links back to what they've done before but they are few and far between. The opening song Burning In The Skies a somewhat typical Linkin Park feel but stripped of all aggression and bite. The only really angry song on the album is Blackout but even it is mostly devoid of guitars. Chester's angry vocals are backed by several layers of highly distorted synths. Both the anger and distortion are under cut by a constant high piano plinking away. One of the best songs on the album Wretches And Kings is a straight up hip hop song and has the aforementioned Mario Savio quote. The only place a guitar shows up is for 3 beats on the chorus and Chester is relegated to the chorus and the bridge.
If you listened to Linkin Park for the cathartic moments or for a shared experience of rage you will be sadly disappointed. But if you listen to hear what happens when six talented musicians get together and express their current reality you will be intrigued. If you've ever wondered what Linkin Park would sound like doing a reggae song this is the album for you. This is a different side of Linkin Park, one that I'm not particularly fond of.