Sound — 8
'Minutes To Midnight' is the third studio album by one of the biggest metal bands of the late 90s and early 21st century, Linkin Park. After the success of previous efforts 'Hybrid Theory' and 'Meteora' (despite mediocore reviews in the music press), the band decided to take a fresh approach to their music. With the nu metal scene that supported them now dead, they hired acclaimed producer Rick Rubin (Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Audioslave, Slipknot), to work on a record with a fresh approach. 'Minutes To Midnight' steps away from heavy, chord-based and rap and moves toward a more melodic and progressive direction. Many fans of the first two full-length albums have expressed disapointment at the changes, this reviewer included. However, when this album is given a good amount of listening time, the new Linkin Park shows itself as a taste worth acquiring. The record opens with 'Wake', a short instrumental which builds into a landscape of warm sounds. This leads on through to industrial punk rocker 'Given Up', which is one of two tracks on the album that resembles the old Linkin Park, along with 'No More Sorrow'. Fans of older material will enjoy these tracks for their heavy riffs and breakdowns (although no rap is included), but it is within the melodic tracks that the most interesting features can be seen. The first single 'What I've Done' contains a memorable, sing-along chorus and U2-style guitar work. This reviewer's favourite tracks are 'Shadow of the Day' a soft, sample-based ballad, and 'Hands Held High', which is composed of meldodic guitar underneath two of Mike Shinoda's most powerful verses ever. The members of the band have clearly grown as musicians. Brad Delson's guitar parts are now more progressive and complex, Joe Hahn creates layered soundscapes which add mood, and Shinoda even shows off his singing voice on 'In Between'. They are showing signs of maturity whilst still capturing the elements that made people stop and listen to them.
Lyrics — 7
Lyrically, the band has always made a connection with fans, with both Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington making use of highly personal subject matter. This album is not much different in many tracks, although obviously Bennington gets a lot more time than Shinoda, as opposed to previous albums. Lyrics tend to deal with anger, love, frustration, regret and isolation. However, there are some songs with variations on the normal Linkin Park lyrics. One of these is 'No More Sorrow', which leans towards the predictable anti-Bush style sentiment used by so many modern bands in the last half a decade. More interestingly, 'Bleed It Out' has lyrics that are very different from anything the band has done before, the emphasis seeming far more upbeat and positive than usual (from Shinoda, at least). In conclusion, some lyrics are just 'decent' but some are fantastic. Shinoda goes deeper than he has ever done before, while Bennington provides another solid performance.
Overall Impression — 8
Despite some criticism from long-term fans, the band has delivered a solid album of interesting material. It may not all be as instantly catchy as the band's earlier work, but as previously mentioned, repeated listenings will make the album more rewarding. The heavier tracks stand out more at first, but in time the entire collection blends into something that defines the band's creative and musical development into maturity.