Sound — 8
Well, well, well. Linkin Park have written a rock album? I was beginning to think that this would never happen. After the bands previous 2 works "A Thousand Suns" and "Living Things" as well as last years remix album "Re-Charged" it seemed that the guitars of last decade were officially a thing of the past. The Electronic direction had divided many fans, some claiming that the band had sold out or even that they were dead and buried as a rock band.
I'm not sure how true either of those statements is but I think they have been utterly refuted because this is a release which is full of energy, urgency and a vigor that this band has arguably been missing for the best part of a decade.
It has been fairly well documented that after "Living Things" after some demo's of more tracks in a similar vein to the 2012 album there was a u-turn and quite a radical one at that. The result is 45 minutes of pretty much breathless rock music in it's purest form. Riffs galore and big choruses expressing anger about the world they see in they're mid-late 30's.
Linkin Park have never been especially known for their music being the most technical but it is safe to say we can finally see that they have improved on their instruments over the years. The fact that they have been putting in full-blown guitar solos is a welcome addition, while nothing ground-breaking.
Lyrics — 8
The vocals are a rather mixed bag. Chester Bennington has always been known to be a talented singer in terms of being able to mix huge cleans and very convincing harsh vocals. While the harsh vocals are still impressive (take a listen to punk-like "War" if you don't believe me) his cleans have lost a bit of the power he was getting in particular on 2006's "Minutes to Midnight." They are hardly terrible but it's just not quite the same.
Mike Shinoda on the other hand is this album's big revelation. He has started to fully realise the potential in his clean voice previously seen on songs like "Castle of Glass" or "The Catalyst" and has come across with arguably a stronger vocal delivery at this point in terms of his singing. His rapping has always been fairly consistent but his flow continues to improve with age.
A big thing the band have said in the build up to this album is that the things 18 year old's are angry about are different to what men in their mid 30's are angry about. This is very evident in the way they have tried to write in a way that is both youthful and reflective of where they are in life. For example "Guilty All the Same" is in equal measures a song being generally angry about people but then featured rap, performed by Rakim, unleashes a specific attack on the area of the music industry they have occupied for the best part of 15 years.
Overall Impression — 8
As far as comparing this album to other music in mainstream rock at the moment I would say that it is actually quite hard. It has been a while, in particular in mainstream American rock for an album to have this much passion, energy and edge to it. Choosing a best song on the album is quite hard, going from "All for Nothing" (featuring Page Hamilton of Helmet) to the heavy swagger of "Wastelands" to the simplistic beauty of "The Final Masqurade" to the plain epic album closer "A Line in the Sand" there is so much to choose from.
And that's not to say there is a drop in quality anywhere in the album, it's not just the most solid album they have released in nearly a decade but in my opinion it may just be the best work the band has produced. It is perhaps an indication that a band can take a step backwards in terms of song-writing style and not be worse of for it.