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Music Reviews

Sun sets on Linkin Park

The warning signs were there.

“We realised it doesn’t matter what the songs sound like — if it comes from us, it’s Linkin Park,” singer Chester Bennington told Rolling Stone back in August.

Then the winning entry in the remix-the-album’s-first-single competition sounded better than the original song.

But it was the self-important open letter from the band that caused most concern. After rambling on about taking a “challenging journey into the creative unknown”, the group let loose with two paragraphs so full of shit they could be confused for a political manifesto.

“This body of work, assembled through unconscious inspiration and unmitigated exertion,” they wrote, “has revealed to us notions both stirring and surprising. The album’s personified imagery is neither dogma nor political premeditation. The emergent themes and metaphors illuminate a uniquely human story.”

But that’s just the half of it.

“‘A Thousand Suns’ grapples with the personal cycle of pride, destruction, and regret. In life, like in dreams, this sequence is not always linear. And, sometimes, true remorse penetrates the devastating cycle. The hope, of course, springs from the notion that the possibility of change is born in our most harrowing moments.”

All the signs suggested Linkin Park had disappeared up their own asses. Their fourth studio album proves it.

What’s clearly intended as a concept record in the tradition of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, has turned out as an overambitious collection of famous interview clips, instrumental interludes, and distorted voices where — amidst all the atmospheric overkill — the actual songs seem like an afterthought.

Robert Oppenheimer remembering the detonation of the first atomic bomb, Mario Savio’s impassioned “operation of the machine” civil rights speech, Martin Luther King Jr. calling for wisdom, justice, and love, and layers upon layers of impeccably produced — but randomly eclectic — music seem carefully crafted to cover up the real lack of substance.

The easy listening emo lighter anthem ‘Burning In The Skies’ sounds like an outtake from singer Chester Bennington’s Dead By Sunrise side project. The mopey ‘Waiting For The End’ is barely woken up by the reggae vibes of Mattafix’s ‘Big City Life’. ‘Blackout’ has Benington roaring like nu-metal never died while the rest of the band seem more interested in making music for a kids’ video game or messing around with recording software  ProTools.

‘Wretches And Kings’ gives Mike Shinoda the chance to do a bit of rapping over a lazy beat the Beastie Boys would have rejected in the ’80s. ‘The Catalyst’ simply compresses Linkin Park’s entire career — the woah woah backing vocals; the keyboard stabs; the tastefully angry vocal roar; the electronic blips; the melodic piano breakdown; the big drums, handclaps, and soaring vocals — into six minutes before ‘The Messenger’ strips it all down to a raspy voice and acoustic guitar.

With such diversity clearly the result of musicians searching for a new identity, the band sound unsurprisingly uncomfortable throughout, only really hitting their stride with the energetic jungle rhythms of the still-overlong ‘When They Come For Me’.

At least Linkin Park recognise that, to stay relevant, they need to do something bold. ‘A Thousand Suns’ is not really it.

  • This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.

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