Be warned - if you are expecting old Linkin Park; if the change in style of Minutes to Midnight angered you; if you need guitars in your music and are not open to more electronic and melodic music - then DO NOT buy this album. You'd be smart to preview this album in some other way before buying to make sure you like this direction. On this album Linkin Park strive for what Radiohead did a decade ago when creating Kid A - to break away from everything they've ever done and push themselves in an entirely new direction of re-invention. Guitars are usually pushed to the background in favour of electronic beats and piano. Many of the tracks are short interludes, which mostly enhance the listening experience of the album as a whole. Here is a track by track breakdown of what to expect:
1. The Requiem & 2. The Radiance
The intro to this album is epic. Eerie piano notes, drum rolls and voices set the tone early, with a robotic feminine voice chanting the verse from 'The Catalyst'. Amazingly, this is actually Mike Shinoda's voice, heavily altered. A speech by Robert Oppenheimer about 'The Destroyer of Worlds' is heard for the interlude track 'The Radiance'. Overall the first two tracks set the ground for what is to come, although it would seem like they suggest a more dark and disturbed album then what actually follows.
3. Burning in the Skies
A lighter, bouncy first song set to a pulsating bass beat. Mike sings "I used the deadwood to make the fire rise/ The blood of innocence burning in the skies" with Chester responding "I'm swimming in the smoke/ Of bridges I have burned" in one of the best lyrical moments on the album. One of the few tracks with a clearly evident guitar line, a very crisp sound which builds up to an epic climax in the song, the first of many to come on the album. A solid opening song that wouldn't have been out of place on M2M.
4. Empty Spaces
18 seconds of crickets, bombs sounding off in the distance, and the banter of combating soldiers. A nice little interlude that doesn't overstay its welcome like a few of the later ones, but it could have used some work to make it blend better with the next track, as opposed to the abrupt start to the track we ended up getting. Interludes tend to work better when they are more blended then this.
5. When They Come For Me
This song features a massive electronic beat which plays off a pounding drum line. This song is a big middle finger to all the haters of the change of direction - with Shinoda rapping "I'm not a robot/ I'm not a monkey/ I will not dance even if the beat is funky" as the song progresses towards arabic chanting, and then finally Chester singing against a pulsating Muse-like synth "When they come for me I'll be gone", as once again we get another epic build up. Definitely a stand out, especially at high volumes.
6. Robot Boy & 7. Jornada Del Muerto
The track is built around a continuous piano riff, gigantic drum smashes and repeated verse, once again building to an epic climax. This tracks starts out alright, but definitely gets better as it goes, although somewhat repetitive. The strange thing is that the way the vocals are layered it sound eerily similar to 'The Backstreet Boys', which scares me a little, although there is a lot more going on musically then in one of their songs. Good, but one of the weaker ones. The seventh track feels more like a conclusion to 'Robot Boy' then a separate track in its own, but is effective. These could probably have been made into one track.
8. Waiting For The End
This is where the album really starts to take off. This songs is one of the most melodic ones on the album, mostly built around Chester's singing as he wails out "All I want to do is trade this life for something new/ Holding on to what I haven't got". Some of the vocal sounds are like heaven in my ears, as the track epically builds up to something amazing. A surefire single.
This track is amazing. A drum roll, eerie synth, and crisp piano set the tone early, leading to Chester growling out a wicked vocal performance, screaming out the chorus. As the song progresses, we get a 'New Divide' like destruction electronic riff, followed by Chester's vocals being D.J.ed to the extreme. The song then changes to a more melodic part sung by Shinoda, and later joined by Chester. It is strange that Chester's part feels somewhat like a rap at times, and Shinoda is the one hitting the soothing notes. Oh how Linkin Park have changed!
10. Wretches and Kings
Another highlight track. Containing the speech 'Operation of the Machine' by Mario Savio at parts throughout, and built around heavy distorted electronics with syncopation to the extreme, this song should be blasted out of your speakers. As Shinoda raps "To save face/ How low can you go/ Talk a lot of game but yet you don't know" for the verses with Chester taking over for the chorus with an awesome growl to his voice. The song turns into a wicked electronic line with Shinoda rapping "Front to the back and the side to side/ If you feel what I feel put em up real high". Very well done
11. Wisdom, Justice and Love
Another interlude, containing a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, which eventually gets robotically enhanced for a cool effect. I wasn't a big fan of this interlude at first, as it goes on for a bit to long, but it is actually a necessary one in order to properly go from the pounding 'Wretches' to the somber 'Iridescence'.
A softer LP song, but definitely a worthwhile one. Starts of with Shinoda singing along with a piano, leading to Chester's chorus asking us to "Let it go", which starts the build up, with other instruments slowly filtering in. This song features a clear guitar part with a similar sound to 'Shadow of the Day' that helps with the build. The climax includes a really fitting drum performance that makes the song. Probably destined for the radio airwaves, being one of the more conventional songs on the album.
The final interlude, reprising a verse from 'Burning in the Skies', but heavily robotic. I think this one would have been better if Shinoda had done the singing without it being altered, as I feel it would have sounded amazing, but nonetheless is builds up to the album's centerpiece.
14. The Catalyst
I love this song. The verse "God bless us everyone/ We're a broken people living under loaded gun" is repeated and built upon, surrounded by an organ, drum beat, and classic 'Mr. Hahn' turntabling. Builds towards an amazing synth line and beat, with Chester and Mike really playing off each other on vocals. Halfway through, the pace is changed with a piano and soothing vocals stating "Lift me up/ Let me go", which once again build towards one of the better climax's I've ever heard, complete with pounding drums and guitar riffs, and a reprise of the main verse. Awesome stuff.
15. The Messenger
I'm not a huge fan of this one. It feels a little awkward. I love the idea of an acoustic finish, I just think the vocals should have been softer. Chester's growl, which works so well on heavy tracks, doesn't suit an acoustic song. With lyrics like "When life leaves us blind/ Love keeps us kind", I wonder why he's yelling it at me. It seems like such a soft message.
Overall, it is an extremely good effort, although not perfect and there were parts it could have been a little better. I appreciate that LP decided to go in a new direction and mature, and respect them for that. I find it funny how people are sometimes. Linkin Park fans complain when guitars are taken off of their albums, Keane fans complain when guitars are put on their albums. Sometimes we're too stuck in what we liked in the past to try and take something new in. If I want to listen to Hybrid Theory or Meteora, I'll stick em in my CD player, and now I have something new to listen to as well - something in a new direction.