When LINKIN PARK first hit the scene with HYBRID THEORY ten years ago, many automatically tossed the band aside as a part of the growing “nu-metal” movement, which at the time was already showing signs of age. Despite hit singles like “One Step Closer” and “Crawling,” the future prospects for the band were highly questionable.
[REANIMATION] was an intriguing collection of remixes that hit the market two years later, but the fact that it wasn’t a new album and contained KORN frontman Jonathan Davis and STAIND’s Aaron Lewis as guests did little more than cement the “nu” to the “metal,” and further bring into question just what the band had left to offer.
When METEORA hit in 2003, fans ate it up driving sales to go 4X Platinum, though the album itself was nothing more than bland, commercial, garbage. They followed it up with the live album, a collabo with JAY-Z, and a series of non-album releases before hitting a turning point with the Rick Rubin-produced 2007 release MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (which I actually purchased), a stripped-down rock album that landed with mixed reviews.
With the release of A THOUSAND SUNS, the band once again has found a place for reinvention, creating a multi-layered, genre-smashing album that doesn’t lend itself to easy classification.
Going into the album this past week, I’ll be honest and say I really didn’t want to like the album. Perhaps it’s one of those examples of the “hype” killing interest, or maybe it’s just the hit-and-miss nature of the band, but I just wasn’t excited for the album. Streamed early via MySpace as an epic 48-minute single track dubbed “The Complete Experience,” A THOUSAND SUNS really does play well as a complete album, though there are peaks and valleys that make certain tracks stand out when played individually.
With nods to PUBLIC ENEMY and the politically-charged nature of 90’s industrial, A THOUSAND SUNS is in many ways robotic, sinister, and tribal. Having long-since moved away from the sound that made them a household name, ‘SUNS will be the album that finally alienates fans that have been holding onto HYBRID THEORY and METEORA, while opening the door for new listeners that may have turned away from the band in the past.
There’s elements of the FORT MINOR project in here, with big beats and smooth flow from Mike Shinoda (something sorely lacking from ‘MIDNIGHT) – while Chester Bennington reveals that he can sing – something hinted at before, but never as fully realized as it is right here. To break the album down by track would be a disservice to both album and listener, though the first single “The Catalyst” is probably the weak point of the record, and my least favorite of the 15-song set.
As evident in their performance at the recent MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS, the current incarnation of LINKIN PARK has more in common with U2 than any of their former “nu” peers, and through either luck or calculation, they’ve outlasted many of them and are moving in a welcome direction.