By JOSHUA LAWSON
Linkin Park finds themselves in a strange place in 2010. For the past five years, they’ve tried to grow older with their audience, which, at the time of their acclaimed debut “Hybrid Theory,” consisted mostly of 13-year-olds.
In 2007, they released their third album, “Minutes to Midnight,” finally lifting their ban on explicit lyrics and brandishing the infamous parental advisory sticker for the first time. Now, with “A Thousand Suns,” they have wandered into the high-art world of the concept album.
While “A Thousand Suns” doesn’t quite reach the grandiose standard in conceptual music of of recent albums by Mastodon or Kid Cudi, it is still a disc worthy of recognition if only for its bold attempts to create something fresh and its complete disregard for commercial standards.
At fifteen tracks, “A Thousand Suns,” is easily Linkin Park’s longest album to date. However, six songs are interludes, intro, and filler, primarily consisting of sampled rants concerning “the machine” and at one point even the chirping of crickets. This leaves nine fully formed songs that, for better or worse, are departures from the rapped verse and screamed chorus structure of past albums.
The album opener, “Burning in the Skies,” lies in stark contrast to past openers in Linkin Park’s discography like “Paper Cut” and “Giving Up” in its relaxed nature. A clean, warm guitar eases the listener into Linkin Park’s broader sound.
Horizons are further expanded in the piano ballad “Robot Boy,” which contains some of the group’s best lyrics to date. Singer Chester Bennington’s call to action, “You say you’re not gonna fight, cause no one will fight for you,” proves to be quite powerful. The music, however, suffers for its lack of catchy or interesting rhythms to carry the tune.
The band only truly achieves the fresh new sound that they find themselves searching for throughout the album on “Waiting for the End,” “Blackout” and the single, “The Catalyst.” “Waiting for the End” wields a song structure that twists and turns away from any conventions the group formerly adhered to, channeling a sound not dissimilar to U2.
On “Blackout,” Bennington screams and shouts as energetically as ever, only instead of distorted guitars and pounding drums, his performance is accompanied by a “Kid A” inspired electronic beat.
The album’s finest moment is undoubtedly “The Catalyst.” A steady build up with catchy synth and a terrific hook, it is the achievement of the album-wide search for a new sound. The well-crafted single, however, only makes the album’s missteps all the more frustrating as it proves that Linkin Park can craft a song with an exciting new sound.
A bold and commendable step forward has been taken with “A Thousand Suns,” and while the album has many drawbacks, there are still solid tracks scattered throughout the conceptual clutter. While the album in its entirety may not be for everyone, songs like “Blackout” and “The Catalyst” are worth a listen.