I’m writing this review a lot earlier than I expected to. As with all Linkin Park album releases, their new album has been leaked online more than a week in advance. It shouldn’t surprise anyone – even Mike Shinoda. Although my CD is already pre-ordered, I couldn’t help myself from finding what one of my favourite bands had in store with their follow up to 2010’s A Thousand Suns – an album that brought the band a lot of acclaim, and hate. I loved it, and hoped the band would pushing musical boundaries.
Linkin Park chose to work with legendary producer Rick Rubin again, the third time since ‘Minutes to Midnight‘ (2007). So how does the fifth studio album fare? More importantly, how does it sound?
Here’s a track-by-track review:
1. “Lost in the Echo“- For those who complained about the lack of Mike rapping/Chester singing the chorus combination of a song, a la ‘Hybrid Theory‘ – here you go! The very first song on the album is a dubstep-inspired, scream-filled heavy mix of pure awesomeness! – 5/5
2. “In My Remains” – When 30-second teasers of a few tracks leaked last week, the intro to “In My Remains” was the one I just couldn’t stop listening to. Now after listening to the full song, my opinion remains the same. Chester sings through out and by track 2, you know Linkin Park are back to their beautiful, heavier sound. – 4.5/5
3. “Burn It Down”
Truth be told, when I first heard “Burn It Down,” it didn’t blow me away. It was simple – a little too simple in it’s structure. I mean I liked it, and I’ve already learned the lyrics to Mike’s rap, but it just didn’t come off as a song I’d listen to over and over again. Kinda like when I heard “What I’ve Done” the first time. – 3.5/5
The music video , directed by Joe Hahn, I did like.
4. “Lies Greed Misery” – Just like when LP released “Wretches & Kings” as a second single release prior to A Thousand Suns‘ release, this rap-heavy track was officially outed by the band themselves after “Burn It Down”. When I heard “Lie Greed Misery,” I wondered which direction the band were headed with this new album. The beats are very different, but there’s enough Chester screams to keep fans happy. – 3/5
5. “I’ll Be Gone” – Yup, more of the “old Linkin Park” here. A rising build to exploding guitars, this is yet another classic LP track in the vein of “From the Inside” – only heavier. Exclusively a Chester Bennington song. And there’s nothing wrong with that! – 4/5
6. “Castle of Glass” – Easily one of the best tracks on the album. Starts off like you never heard Linkin Park before, and then treads into “Breaking the Habit” territory. Mike Shinoda sings the verses in his low tone before Chester joins in towards to the end. I hoped Linkin Park would still challenge themselves musically, and by golly they’ve done it! – 5/5
7. “Victimized” – Another surprise of a track. Seems like the boys were having fun jamming in the studio and decided to record something like this. It’s a mish-mash of rock sub-genres and the only sad part is, it’s only 1:51 in length. – 3/5
8. “Roads Untraveled” – I like how the band decided to order the tracklist. Instead of pushing up songs that stray away from the Linkin Park norm higher up the tracklist, they kept gems like this in the halfway point. The title couldn’t be more appropriate, as track 8 really is a road untraveled by Linkin Park – a type of song the band have never included in their albums before. No ‘nu-metal,’ just pure alternative rock. – 3.5/5
9. “Skin to Bone” – I didn’t know what to make of this song at first. Mike “sings” the first few verses and it felt a bit uninteresting. But the song kept me hooked as the build up led to Chester Bennington taking it into power ballad territory. Of course, this being Linkin Park, that’s totally unconventional ballad territory. Then I ended up liking it a lot. – 4/5
10. “Until It Breaks” – I loved “When They Come for Me” from ATS. It ranks as one of my favourite Mike Shinoda rap tracks. This song… woah. Mike Shinoda raps the first two verses and then at the bridge, the song takes a musical turn with a guy singing a hymn towards the end. I don’t if it’s Brad Delson on vocals but this song is… kinda weird. – 3/5
12. “Powerless” – The final track on the album is a power ballad with Chester Bennington taking a break from screaming and just showcasing his beautiful vocals right through to the end. I just can’t wait to hear this performed live. – 4/5
I had mentioned in my ‘A Thousand Suns‘ review (2 years ago) that Linkin Park would return to their ‘old’ sound in some shape or form. While ‘A Thousand Suns‘ was like a concept album with a cohesive structure and flow from start to finish, ‘Living Things‘ is a mixed bag of the old and new. In some ways, it’s Linkin Park trying to keep (or win back) some of the old fans with the first half of the album, while at the same time pushing new boundaries of music they never tried before with the latter half of the album. As for me, I don’t care about all the shit that was thrown at them for going “techno” on ATS, for I know what real techno music is when I hear it. ‘Living Things‘ is very listenable, has only one interlude and is yet another album joining my Linkin Park collection.
I’m glad Mike, Chester, Brad, Rob, Dave and Joe are sticking to their guns about refusing to go all the way back to the ‘Hybrid Theory’ days. That’s the past, and I couldn’t agree with them more. In fact, I am slightly disappointed they didn’t take more risks in pushing themselves harder by infusing elements and genre influences we would never expect from LP. I’m sure they have a bunch of tracks recorded that didn’t seem like a good fit for this collection, so I still have my hopes up for more ‘new’.
What’s next for this multi-platinum band? Who knows, with all the screaming Chester has to do with these new tracks, I hope he controls himself to last around a lot longer. Steve Perry of Journey was one of the greatest vocalists of his time, but even his vocal chords could only endure so much. I don’t how Arnel Pineda does it, but likewise, I pray Chester sounds the same in the many years this band decides to remain together.
Apart from Coldplay and Linkin Park, very few bands of the past decade have achieved the level of international success with the same band line-up since debut. As much as I want Linkin Park to pace themselves and not run out of energy, I’m still waiting for the day the band bring their concert to India – especially Bangalore. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them live in concert on two occasions and even lucky enough to meet Mike Shinoda himself. But I won’t say the tryst is complete until the band experiences what the crowd in Bangalore has in store for them. Yes, not the other way around.
So to all fans in India, buy the damn album when it’s out next week! It’s only Rs. 336 ($6) on Flipkart and I’ve already got my copy on pre-order. Physical CD sales are numbers bands look at when deciding to tour, so if you want your favourite band to play in your country, pay real money and buy ‘Living Things’ so they get the message!
My final rating for Linkin Park’s ‘Living Things‘: 4 out of 5 (Very Good)
Edit: June 27th – I got my CD today, and Flipkart threw in a poster as well!