AltSounds Official Seal Of Approval, Tastemaker Recommended

Review: Linkin Park – Living Things [Album]

Review: Linkin Park – Living Things [Album]

Warner Bros // "They have attempted to capture that spark from the early days, but a mediocre third act makes it overall unsuccessful"

Review   10751 Views
Last Edited by: Chris MUG5 Maguire July 3rd, 2012.

I can, without doubt, say that Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory changed my life. Having spent my childhood bouncing around to the sounds of pop stars and the majority of my early teens developing an unhealthy obsession with The Backstreet Boys (you know you loved them too), it wasn’t until I hit about 15 yrs old that I felt like something was missing. Then I heard Hybrid Theory. I couldn’t understand why, but I liked it. A lot. From there on, it’s been no going back and I’ve lived a happy life of rock and metal worship...and taken the occasional excursion into good pop and RnB (not the excuse for music that has arisen and dominated the charts in recent years...). Either way, twelve years after that seminal nu-metal masterpiece emerged, I now found myself faced with the Californian sextet’s fifth full-length album, Living Things.

Long-time band mates, Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda, Joe Hahn, Dave “Phoenix” Farrell, Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon tried to shake off their rap-rock label for many years since their debut. And they’ve been hence crossing musical boundaries, colliding genres and tearing the rule book ever since. So just how far have they stretched themselves this time around? Well, when 2007’s Minutes To Midnight emerged, I was more than happy to accept a little experimentation away from their rock roots. However when it came to the release of its successor, A Thousand Suns, I was bewildered (as were many others). You either embraced its overly-broad concept or floundered in it. And I was part of the group that just didn’t get it. What I heard was a long drawn-out string of muddled, uneventful songs which lacked the edge and urgency that Linkin Park usually dished out by the bucket load. Its one saving grace for me was the single, ‘The Catalyst’ which at least demonstrated a strength and intensity that was vaguely familiar.

And so after being disappointed with what the band had produced in the last few years, I was really hopeful for what 2012 would bring. They released the first single from Living Things in April, titled ‘Burn It Down’, as well as revealing the album’s intriguing organic cover art. Initially, I was dissatisfied with the song, but after a few spins it grew on me. And it still continues to. With a combo of electronic and industrial sounds, it’s a slow-burning track reminiscent of their single, ‘New Divide’ from the Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen movie soundtrack. Typical of Linkin Park, its highlight is the big, unashamedly straight-forward choruses and strong solid melodies that demand you join in – “We’re building it up, to break it back down! We’re building it up, to burn it down. We can’t wait to burn it to the ground!” Chester wails in that well-known raspy timbre.

WATCH // 'Burn It Down'

Exploring the rest of the album called for an extremely open mind which I was more than happy to adopt; for a band that changed my life, it was the least that I could do. Opening track, ‘Lost In The Echo’ brought a huge sigh of relief. Synth notes blink and pulse frantically as heavy distorted bass kicks in next to textured drum parts, sampled and live. This all gives into resident rapper, lyricist and co-producer (alongside Rick Rubin) Mr Shinoda, as his confident dynamic verses take charge. Already the urgency that I was looking for had returned. Chester seems freer here too; in one particularly strong moment he screams with gusto that I’ve not heard for a while. It’s a positive and energetic opening that signalled a change; or at least a diversion from the completely experimental into more comfortable territory for the majority of fans.

WATCH // 'Lost In The Echo'

And so it was with a seemingly bright forecast ahead that I pursued. ‘In My Remains’ has a familiar laid-back striding rock vibe with catchy hooks and emotive piano chords over suitably thick chunks of percussion. ‘Lies Greed Misery’ stood out for me, with its hip-hop heavy beats and Mike’s stylishly spoken verses. It has a buzzing authoritative energy that you can’t help getting caught up in. Chester even lets rip, crying out like a man possessed i.e. the good ol’ days, even if it is over chunky distorted dubstep-infused thwumps instead of mammoth guitar riffs. ‘I’ll Be Gone’ follows confidently in its wake; a guitar heavy number with solid drumming from Rob. Its structure is clear-cut, if a little naive. However with Joe Hahn’s excellent synth and sample manipulation as well as Canadian musician Owen Pallett’s strings taking up the background, it just about takes it up a notch, building upon their now quite signature futuristic sound.

So far, so good. I was happy to hear a surge in energy and a return to the more aggressive side of the band. ‘Victimized’ (which working title was originally ‘Battle Axe’) actually contains one of the most hard-hitting, metal inspired moments that I’ve heard from them in years. It starts off with a trippy energetic bolt of thrashing drums, samples and crunchy riffs before exploding with the shaved-headed singer belting out the song’s title repeatedly with a venom and force that put a smile on my face. It’s brutal and relentless and more importantly, memorable. Unfortunately, it was a smile short-lived. As from here on out, the rest of Living Things becomes a frustrating creature indeed. ‘Castle Of Glass’ is simply put, weak. A recurring drum machine rhythm sits next to synthetic hums as the two vocalists' droning harmonies develop slowly. Its melody is pleasant enough but the track overall sticks to a very safe and one-dimensional formula; not really shifting direction or pace for its duration.

WATCH // 'Lies Greed Misery'

Roads Untraveled’ is essentially a ballad; opening with chinking music box percussion and sad piano notes. It’s quite mysterious to begin with as the vocals teeter on the edge of some impending malice. However it pans out much like ‘Castle Of Glass’; a drawn-out filler track that keeps to a crawling pace, is strangely passive and doesn’t leave you feeling very inspired. I almost thought they’d pulled it back from oblivion with ‘Skin To Bone’; an unusual track with a reggae-like strut that’s surrounded by echoes of distorted, industrial thwaps. However, I was wrong. It gets added to the ‘vaguely interesting piece of music’ box with ‘forgettable’ on the lid. Much like the dying minutes of a football game in which your team is losing, you know that whatever they do, it’s just too late to pull it back. And Linkin Park fail to even put up the slightest fight at the end of their game.

I couldn’t get my head around ‘Until It Breaks’; opening with a prominent hip-hop influence before Chester breaches its dark urban atmosphere with delicate piano-led words. I hate to sound like a stuck record’s nice. But I’m not here for nice! I’ve already heard enough ‘nice’ music here and it doesn’t do anyone any favours, let alone a band that, with a well-grafted long standing relationship together, are capable of so much more. Don’t even get me started on ‘Tinfoil’ which as a penultimate album track is hugely disappointing in itself. It’s a one minute trip-hop instrumental of scuzzy blips against repeated piano arpeggios; great for a movie score but it just doesn’t prove itself worthy of an album slot.

LISTEN // 'Victimized'

Powerless’ is the track to end Living Things, so surely it’s a massive anthemic hit that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and demands your attention until the last dying note? Well, it sort of does. Ish. It’s certainly bigger and bolder than the majority of the album’s songs, but it still doesn’t shake you to your core like I wish it would. Like many before, it starts off very subdued and low-energy, adding layers of varied percussion while Chester leads the vocals throughout – “And you held it all, but you were careless to let it fall. You held it all and I was by your side, powerless” he repeats in the choruses, which to be fair have a big heart and presence which is more than can be said of earlier tracks.

Linkin Park have attempted to capture that spark from the early days; re-introducing more guitar work, bringing back bigger choruses and generally exuding an energy once lost. And they do so partially on Living Things, but what tracks that do make for an engaging return, are unfortunately overwhelmed by a mediocre third act that brings the mood and pace right down. And so overall, it’s an unsuccessful record which left me disheartened.

The one thing I will say is that I can’t deny them their ongoing tenacity or courage for doing what they believe in. It may sound a bit like I'm clutching at straws but at the end of the day, they will always be a band that I respect. Hybrid Theory, not only once represented a huge stepping stone in the bands career or still represents one of the most influential albums of my life, but also embodies them as a band; a hybrid unto themselves who mix the styles that they love and ultimately create something new. And through the years, whether arguably successful or not, they have been brave enough to evolve, where others have stuck to the formula that wins every time.

Living Things is out now

Worth Listening To...
  • Burn It Down
  • Lost In The Echo
  • Lies Greed Misery
  • Victimized

Social Love:

You Might Also Dig...

Have Your Say

Content Relevant URLs by vBSEO