A Thousand Suns reviews
Reviews of Linkin Park’s new album A Thousand Suns are pouring in from various sources.
From The Argonaut
Linkin Park samples the apocalypse
The music business is interesting. Sometimes bands have an amazing debut album followed by a marginal sophomore record. In order to make a long-lasting impact on the music industry, the band must mature with every album, change their sound and explore new territory. Sometimes the band is disparaged on the Internet and ignored by elitist music listeners because of this. In addition, the attempt to make cutting-edge music is mocked even if mockery is not justified.
Linkin Park is a prime example of this phenomenon. In truth, Linkin Park was a great hard rock band. During the 2000s the band spoke to most teenagers or young adults one way or another. Yet, Linkin Park is not the band it used to be. Instead of releasing another album about anger, alienation and angst, the band has moved on to more pressing matters in the world: poverty, war, life, death and inequality. This is where A Thousand Suns comes into play.
It seems that members of Linkin Park have an obsession with the apocalypse. The title of their third studio release Minutes to Midnight was a reference to the “Doomsday Clock.” The album lived up to its title in part, but A Thousand Suns fill the void where Minutes to Midnight was lacking. The album is a concept about nuclear war and seems apocalyptic, in music and lyrics.
It seems as if A Thousand Suns has tracks that should be listened to in succession rather than just a collection of songs. The idea of the “album” by conventional standards such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or Radiohead’s Kid A. Sure, there are identifiable songs, but to appreciate them the listener must hear them in the context of the entire album.
The first song is “Burning in the Skies.” This track is a melodic, beat-driven piece that describes the death of the innocent as a fuel for the war. The song may not be the best part of Suns, but it sets the tone of the album well. The musical mannerisms also recur on “Robot Boy,” a song that eviscerates those who think compassion is a fault, or seem to be focused on their own agendas. This is also evident on “Iridescent,” where the lyrical detail describes a blissful transcendence in the wake of nuclear destruction.
Most tones on the album are alternative rock-inspired. Some fans may ask where all the rock went. Linkin Park would not be themselves if they did not let loose once in a while. “When They Come For Me” features technical percussion that sets the background for Mike Shinoda’s reggae-style rapping. This track and “Wretches and Kings” are by far the best segments of the album. The latter commences with Mario Savio’s famous “Bodies Upon The Gears” speech which is the perfect segue into discordant guitars and crunching calamity that features one of the better choruses that Chester Bennington has even written or sung.
For those who miss Bennington’s screaming, the song “Blackout” is likely to satiate fans who want those piercing howls he is known for. The track opens with a synthesizer and looped drumbeats. The song sneaks up on the listener around the minute mark with exquisite drumming that enters to offset Bennington’s intense performance. This album might be the most hardcore Linkin Park has even been because it is real.
Some may decide to label this album Linkin Park’s Kid A. This album is not comparable nor is Linkin Park anywhere close to Radiohead. A Thousand Suns is different in almost every detail. The album explores different genres much like bands that came around long before Linkin Park. The album has many themes associated with it but it does not need to be classified by songs, singles or sales. In other words, the band has made an album that seems to be a true work of art. Grade: 4.5/5
From Artist Direct
Linkin Park create their own genre with A Thousand Suns.
The album is unlike anything you’ve heard from Linkin Park or anyone else for that matter. The best way to describe it—and it’s still light years away from the experience of actually listening to it—is The Fragile meets Achtung Baby. However, it’s more like a soundtrack to salvation than anything else.
A Thousand Suns deeply examines loss, life and love in the space age with a very Blade Runner approach. “The Requiem” and “The Radiance” give birth to the journey to follow with an eerily elegant keyboard sound. A humming croon kicks in and a robot voice declares, “God save us.” Another voiceover follows on “The Radiance” cryptically and beautifully announcing the aural apocalypse to come.
“Burning in the Skies” volleys from a propulsive keyboard build-up into a glitched-out affair between Chester Bennington’s unmistakable vocals and the production behind him. He drops in his most poetic lyrics—”I’m swimming in the smoke of bridges I have burned. I’m losing what I don’t deserve.” The imagery is both destructive and strangely divine. That line also becomes significant, popping up again later on the record.
The salvo to follow, “When they Come for Me,” slides from a slick synth into Mike Shinoda unleashing like never before. He declares, “I’m a tough act to follow.” Shinoda’s not kidding; he raucously rocks around a swagge-d out verse that culminates in a refrain actually worth screaming, “Try to catch up, motherfucker.” Tribal beats resound in the backdrop with a bloody and brilliant crescendo.
This is the battering that pop music so desperately needs. There’s a dreamy haze that colors “Robot Boy.” It’s tripped-out tryptych of textural bliss sees the band reaching Tomorrowland. A looped riff from Brad Delson blazes in unison with a formidable wall of rhythms from Rob Bourdon and Dave “Phoenix ” Farrell. “Blackout” gives Chester space to freakout over debonaire keyboards and a jagged riff. If M.I.A. Listened to too much Misfits she might sound something like this.
Shinoda’s animalistic rhymes square off against Joe Hahn’s chaotic carnivorous scratching for “Wretches and Kings.” Whether it’s a robotic creepshow speech from Martin Luther King Jr. to the slow piano on “Iridescent,” Linkin Park are changing the game.
The first single “The Catalyst” is a unique introduction and a fitting preview. The “God save us everyone line” is another crucial bit of information that’s cyclical within the sonic solar system that is A Thousand Suns. After A Thousand Suns, all rock ‘n’ roll will revolve around Linkin Park. 5 out of 5 Stars.
From The Province
That group transforms itself on its latest. While still a melodically disposed rock act with big arena choruses and hooks, the band lets its electronic and dance sensibilities shine out on songs such as the drum fest “When They Come For Me,” or the ragga-tinged rap on “Waiting for the End.” Even the slamming “Wretches and Kings,” boasts more of rap-tronic stylings than the nu rawk of those annoying earlier singles. Rather than make the same album yet again, this is a move into maturity with real surprises. The subject matter is still dystopian chaos, but rather than blathering angst, somebody put their thinking toques on. Grade: B+
From ESD Music
Having said that, Minutes to Midnight was still not a great record, though it did have its moments. They were clearly trying to add stronger melodies into the music, but most of the time, they either went too far or not far enough. The band goes a long way to rectifying this problem, along with a couple of others, on A Thousand Suns, their latest. Musically, it’s their most melodic album yet, and lyrically, it’s their most contrite, which is good, because if they spent this album still complaining about some girl or another, it would have been embarrassing. Sonically, this is their most mature album (the piano was a welcome addition), but it still maintains their glitchy roots. “Robot Boy” is not tailor-made hit single material, but it might be the band’s best song, as Bennington layers vocals – actual honest-to-goodness vocals – over a simple but effective minor-to-major chord progression, and “Burning in the Skies” appears to be Bennington taking responsibility for his failed marriage. “I’m swimming in the smoke, of bridges I have burned / So don’t apologize, I’m losing what I don’t deserve.”
The most curious song is “Blackout,” which sports a borderline bubblegum pop melody with Bennington screaming his head off for the first two verses, at which point Mike Shinoda takes over and sends the song into a furious scratch and sample-driven breakdown. From there, Bennington gives the music the pop vocal it deserves. It ultimately serves as a standalone bridge between the band’s past and their present, as does “When They Come for Me,” which begins as a jungle drum-heavy showcase for Shinoda, only for the band to slip in a killer pop hook within the chaos. “Iridescent” is as big a lighter-waving anthem as the band’s ever done, and “The Catalyst” is simply huge. Several interludes fill in the cracks (lyrical callbacks and foreshadows abound), though one stands above the others: “Wisdom, Justice and Love,” where the band takes a vocal sample from Martin Luther King Jr. and slowly morphs his voice into robotic menace.
Growing up is never easy, especially when you’ve made a career out of articulating every confused thought in your head. But every band gets happy at some point if they stick around long enough, and Linkin Park finally does it here. It may have taken a decade to do it, but strangely it doesn’t seem like it took too long. If anything, it’s impressive to see a band who defined themselves with all things adolescence (angst, profanity, hip hop, hardcore) find a way to maintain those elements in their sound, yet grow beyond them at the same time. Fans of the Hybrid Theory-era Linkin Park will probably hate A Thousand Suns, of course, but that happens to every band, too. They might lose more fans than they gain in the short run with this one, but there isn’t any question which of the two albums will have a longer shelf life. 3 out of 5 stars. Full review
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