ALBUM: Linkin Park – "A Thousand Suns"

Linkin Park’s latest release, A Thousand Suns, is an album that has truly divided opinion. On the one hand there are those who (perhaps foolishly, considering the material found on Minutes to Midnight) expected a nostalgic trip back to their youth with a Hybrid Theory/Meteora-esque nu-metal classic, and on the other, those who are happy to accept the band have moved on, or enjoy the album regardless.

The first thing that needs to be made clear with this album is that it’s not Hybrid Theory or Meteora. It’s not even Minutes to Midnight. However, more importantly, it isn’t trying to be. The band could have produced a substandard nu-metal album and it would have sold fantastically well and pleased a lot of people; but why create a substandard nu-metal album when you can move away from that sound and come out with something truly excellent? Not to say that an album of similar musical direction and quality to the first two is impossible, but let’s face it, it isn’t likely. Another important factor to consider here is that the band have stated that nu-metal isn’t really what they want to be creating; A Thousand Suns definitely is. It seems unlikely that a record label would ask the band to make such a drastic change to their sound considering how successful they had been previously, so it can be assumed that it’s entirely the band’s doing.

The album is crammed full of interludes, with just 9 of the 15 tracks qualifying as ‘proper’, full length songs. This does work well however; should you want to listen to a specific track you can do so without a potentially annoying introduction piece. Listening to the album in full, the interludes help it flow superbly and genuinely complement the songs which surround them. Not one of the interludes feels pointless or just ‘there for the sake of it’ as is so often the case when bands choose to use them. The songs themselves are also all fantastically written; we are treated with one of those rare albums where there is not one bad track.

The wonderfully haunting-yet-soothing opener, “The Requiem”, is a beautiful start to the record, and whilst only a couple of minutes long and clearly meant as a simple introduction piece, holds up well as a song in its own right and is definitely worthy of multiple listens. Following a spoken word track, we’re introduced to the new Linkin Park in the form of “Burning In The Skies”. Whereas we’re used to a slow opening followed by a specific moment when the guitar and drums kick in, here the distinctive guitar sound is replaced almost entirely by synths, and the drums are far less prominent. This is continued throughout the album, the famous guitar-driven sound is almost entirely missing. There is, however, a lot of variety to be found, from the delightfully catchy, bouncy “When They Come For Me” to the softer “Robot Boy” and “Iridescent”; the latter in particular demonstrating an incredibly impressive performance by vocalist Bennington. “Blackout” and “Wretches and Kings” provide the first, and essentially only, examples of tracks that the aforementioned nostalgia-chasing fans might appreciate, however even these are nowhere near as heavy and forceful as the majority of their earlier material. Closing the album are the lead single “The Catalyst”, and “The Messenger”. The former contains a stunning build up throughout the first part of the song, leading to a synth section more akin to that of a Cascada track. The latter is a beautiful acoustic song and again Bennington shines with a moving vocal performance; it provides an excellent wind-down for the end of the album.

So is the album their best work yet? Not really, Hybrid Theory and Meteora still stand strongest in that respect; however this is such a drastic change from the first two albums that it almost seems stupid to compare them. In this case, approach the album as if it weren’t Linkin Park. Go into it with no expectation of their famous sound and you may be pleasantly surprised.