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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Linkin Park: A Thousand Suns

By Nick Carrabine

Perhaps in five years we can sit back and look at Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns and judge it as either a monumental achievement or an epic failure.

In the meantime, I’m trying to digest what I just listened to.

In 2007, Linkin Park took a vastly different approach with their release of Minutes to Midnight, which threw fans into a frenzy. It was a drastic departure from their first two releases and almost completely divided their fan base.

Just when people thought Linkin Park couldn’t get darker, more experimental and well, different, they release A Thousand Suns on Tuesday, which honestly sounds like one 48 minute track that has little musical instruments, a lot of electronic noise and has rapper/MC Mike Shinoda doing the majority of the rapping and yes, the singing.

Well, that’s when there is vocals at all.

Listed on the back of the CD is the numbers 1-15 and to the right of each number, there is a name for each song, but as I said, the album plays out as one long track and only nine of the 15 “songs” have vocals included in them.

Rumor has it, the band wanted to release A Thousand Suns as just one track, which I didn’t believe until the band streamed the entire album as one track on their MySpace last week.

If Minutes to Midnight was more of a straight rock, and therefore (lead singer) Chester Bennington, album, then A Thousand Suns is pretty much a Mike Shinoda project. As I said, he’s the star here. He’s pretty much the focal point of the album as Bennington really only has main vocals on two of the songs, although he is present on most of them.

But Fort Minor (Shinoda’s side project) this is not, and really, Linkin Park this is not.

They have stepped out of their comfort zone, putting together a project that is so unlike anything I’ve ever really heard before. It doesn’t compare to any of their previous studio albums, although slightly reminds me a little bit of their highly underexposed 2002 remix album, Reanimation.

Rarely do I ever open up a CD booklet and read a warning disclaimer from a band. Actually, make that never.

The band, in the first two pages of the booklet, make it clear to fans that they are going out on a limb, saying that A Thousand Suns is not an album and they pushed themselves to do something that really has never been done before.

If the first single, “The Catalyst,” is any indication, Linkin Park isn’t out to please the mainstream radio listeners.

First off, “The Catalyst” is easily the best track on the album, which is never a good sign. But it’s such a non-traditional, risky single - and at nearly six minutes, sounds more like a album introduction before soaring into an arena rock shouting anthem - that it’s a breath of fresh air.

Again this is only really a nine song album and there are some misses and the two songs that I would have cut off the album are where Bennington takes the lead on “Blackout” and the terrible acoustic, “The Messenger.”

The album works best on songs like “The Catalyst” and “Burning in the Skies” where Bennington and Shinoda are softly trading vocals.

There are a few songs, although more politically motivated, that may remind Linkin Park fans of the old days and that’s with “Wretches and Kings” and “When They Come For Me,” where the rap/rock formula remains but clearly, with A Thousand Suns, the band is trying to do something different.

Whether it works or not, we’ll know in a few years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Linkin Park has never been a 'play it safe' band. As their progression over the years has shown, they've grown by leaps and bounds. They've left behind their Hybrid Theory-only fans, and have made music for the rest of us that have diverse musical tastes.

I really liked The Catalyst when it came out as a single. And after listening to this album on repeat for 24 hours now, I have to say all the other lyrical songs on the album eclipse this one.

I can see why a Linkin Park fan might not like this album. After all, I find myself dancing to this music, it's fun despite being dark.

September 15, 2010 at 3:12 PM 

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