Sound — 8
I've been a huge fan of Linkin Park for many years, and I find enjoyment in parts of Minutes to Midnight, so I'm going to be as open about this as I can. I'll pay attention to the fact that I DO prefer Hybrid Theory and Meteora, but change happens, and Linkin Park is not without the talent to do so. Upon playing the album, I hear an ambient intro track. Yeah, that sounds like new-age Linkin Park alright. I glance at iTunes and see that it is only 2 minutes long. Yeah, that sounds like new-age Linkin Park alright. And the beats come in, and the creepy vocals... Hmm. "The Catalyst" lyrics. Not bad, it's got a cool vibe. So I'm expecting a buildup into an awesome song, right? Wrong. Dialogue. A full minute. The second track is a minute of dialogue. Thanks guys. Next... Oh, hey, it's "The Little Things Give You Away!" Wait, no it's not, it's the first legitmate song, "Burning in the Skies". It sounds a LOT like the previously mentioned song, but... It's a neat, soft, cool 6/4 melody. Mike singing, like, GOOD singing. That's new, too. And Chester brings us into an atmospheric chorus, a good sing-along. The track's got a nice sound, not too different from parts of Minutes to Midnight, but... Oh well. So the song has an octave-based guitar solo, fitting of the mood. Repeat chorus. So it sounds like they'll keep us on familiar ground to lead us into this new album. Okay. Next song. Wait... 20 second track of war noises. HERE is where the album takes off. "When They Come for Me." This song is the spiritual successor to "Nobody's Listening." It has a... well... headbanging, industrial sounding guitar riff, [quite simple. DUN. DUN. DUN. *rest*] and... Mike rapping. Nice! I like this. Wait, he even just referenced "Points of Authority!" I like this! All of this is over some tribal sounding, crazy dance-drumming. And as Mike tells us to "Try to catch up, muthaf--ka!," it leads into an Aztec-sounding vocal chorus with no real words. Reminds me of the Asian-sounding "Nobody's Listening." So, another verse, chorus, and a bridge part where the song cools off and Chester joins in, singing softly "Oh, when they come for me, come for me, I'll be gone..." I'm eating this up. It's great, and it sounds great. It begins to pick up, and as political as it is, it REALLY works. It all leads back into the chorus and is showing promise. The next song, "Robot Boy," is very piano-based. I was hoping it would be "My December"-like, but... I was a tad disappointed. But this is a definite dim-the-lights-and-grab-your-lighters song. The song doesn't feel like it ever picks up, it has the same sort of epic feel throughout, with various electronic effects throughout. It's not a bad song, but not a staple. The next song, "Jornada Del Muerto," starts quietly with some muffled Chester singing, which is quite hard to discern. This leads into an electronic-type of solo-type melody thing, which isn't bad, but seems a tad random. The song builds up, but when it's only 1:30, there's not much it can build to, so it drops off, leading into the next song. "Waiting for the End." This song sounds, at first, heavier than it really is. The first verse features Mike sort-of rapping, but there are like 4 Mikes tracked on top of eachother, and there IS a melody, so it's sort of weird. Chester then comes in, singing... well, another soft thing. So then Chester sings for a little bit, through the chorus and another verse and chorus, then Mike rap-sings another verse. The whole song has an upbeat vibe, and it's not bad, but I think it'll take awhile to click. But the song sort-of takes off at the end, which was well-needed. Ends up about the same as "Robot Boy," but a bit better. And holy #@%^ing hell, this next song is the surprise of the album. "Blackout." Remember it and remember it well; it's the most pissed off Linkin Park song in awhile [at least the first 3/5 of the song.]. It starts with some quiet synths, then a distant, muffled drum beat. This is followed by some low, bass-y chords that I'm not really sure how to describe, but the mood created by them is awesome. Another synth comes in with a riff, and then the song suddenly speeds up with Chester... rap-singing. Weird... but he sounds a little pissed off in this verse... And now he's screaming his head off in the chorus, and I'm loving it. This sounds like it could've been taken from some Meteora sesions. Chester asks us if we're "f[b]u[/b]cking listening" and then blasts into the chorus screamer again. This song is definitely a catchy one. And then halfway through the song, we get some industrial, mixed, "New Divide breakdown"-like electric guitar chords. With Chester going crazy, sort of, and it's all mixed together and chopped up. Good to know DJ Hahn is still involved. And then, of course, new-age Linkin Park makes it quiet and soft as Mike sings about colors and looking to the sky or something. But then it picks up with those chords again... and it all seems okay when the beat and Chester join in. This song will be great live, and is easily a staple Linkin Park song. Let's go to the next song with high hopes. Crap, another dialogue song. Wait... no, not a dialogue track, just a small intro into the song. "Wretches and Kings," which a few people have already heard. It starts similar to "When They Come for Me," but a little more... mixed, low, and beat-heavy. Good, Mike's rapping again. I missed that. And not the pussy-rapping in "Hands Held High." [DISCLAIMER: I like that song, I'm not dissing it] So then it breaks down a bit before the chorus so it can build up, and then Chester brings in the chorus, which... I don't care for really. Not very catchy, meh, whatever. But the verses are good. So there's another one of those, and a chorus, and a breakdown. Cool. Oh, record scratching! Finally! Missed that too! And so the song ends. Next track, "Wisdom, Justice, and Love." Man, this'll be a cheesy song. Wait. Not a song. It's dialogue. But the speech gets distorted... and creepy... and robot-like... And it's actually kinda cool, backed up by some piano chords. And we go into "Iridescent." Piano intro, slow, cheesy-sounding. Mike is singing quietly, and it's... actually sort of cool. It's nothing like Linkin Park, [or old LP], but it's very atmospheric and... nice. Chester joins in, with his very powerful voice. This song is really an upbeat song about not being afraid or something, or being happy... well, the music communicates it. It's fairly Minutes-to-Midnight like. And halfway through the song we get a true crowd-singing bridge, with... well, a crowd singing. And then it explodes into the chorus, a big sing-along fest... and I really want to see them just so I can join in, no matter how different it is. They've hit something that works. Next track. "Fallout." Starts with some ambience, with some vocals [extremely robotic at first] with lines from "Burning in the Sky" that get less distorted, and it fades off after a minute, into... "The Catalyst." I don't care what anyone says, this song is great in my opinion. It's got tons of energy, and is a very angry song. When it explodes, I just wanted to run around and scream. It could've done with a heavy guitar riff, yeah, but the synths still do a good job, and the build-up is great. The second half, [which is the "My December" chord progression. Try to get that out of your head now.] is great as well. Just a good song, a good choice for a first single. Acoustic guitar? Linkin Park? What? "The Messenger," eh? Better be a good message. Let's try it, it's only 3 minutes anyway. So it's Chester singing... very powerfully. Man, he can scream. Dang, man. He's SCREAMING at times on top of an acoustic and piano, and that's it. In the major scale, no less... Not much to the song. Just a great, powerful, emotional song. A nice closer, really, but... it doesn't fit the rest of the album, really. So the sound has gone from at times even more experimental than Minutes to Midnight, to exactly the same as Minutes to Midnight, to almost Meteora-esque, to... well... if you're familiar with Linkin Park's pre-Hybrid Theory stuff, Xero, well... Some of it actually sounds like that. Namely, "When They Come for Me" and "Wretches and Kings," the extremely heavy, industrial, electronic sound. Really, I'm impressed, I really am. I came away pleasantly surprised.
Lyrics — 8
Hoo boy. Okay. Well... As we know, Linkin Park has gotten fairly political lately, and that has not changed. Much of these lyrics are about quite political and controversial topics, namely nuclear warfare and the like. But at no point does it seem overdone, really. And Mike bringing his REAL rapping [i.e. more badass] back into the mix is going to be well-received by fans, I'm sure. These song topics range from complete awesomeness and badassery ["When They Come for Me," "Wretches and Kings"] to, like I said, nuclear warfare ["Burning in the Skies"], to what seems to be as an insane internal struggle ["Blackout"]. Really, the lyrics are fine. I like when they write about personal anger, but I don't mind a little politics as long as it stays somewhat modest. Overall, the lyrics weren't too bad.
Overall Impression — 9
Well. I dunno how to put this, so I'm just gonna say it. I think Linkin Park is going to fully "make up for" [in some people's words] of Minutes to Midnight within a few years. The direction they've taken with this album is a good one. It's very clearly recognizing their earlier days, and while it could have embraced it and taken from it a little more than they did, it pleased me quite well. They can experiment, and I think they do everything well no matter what they do. I just hope that they'll keep doing what they've tapped into again on this record, which is that electronic and industrial stuff. Needless to say, I would indeed recommend this album. It lacks some meat, with only 8 or 9 "real" songs, but the ones that hit definitely hit. Minutes-to-Midnight haters should find a few minutes of solice on this album, even if they don't like the majority of it. A good effort by the Linkin Park guys, and a step in a good direction.