Linkin Park aren’t content to release the same album over and over – they’ve proven that for years.
Today, the onetime nu-metal band released Living Things, their first since 2010’s challenging A Thousand Suns. Their fifth studio album (and third co-produced by MC Mike Shinoda and Rick Rubin), it features a collection of songs that channel their past while charging forward, blending styles and structures every bit as efficiently as their previous work.
Opener “Lost in the Echo” presents LP’s new direction: synth, samples and Chester Bennington’s echoing vocals showcase their new electronic leanings with authority.
The melody of “In My Remains” sounds like something from Meteora, with vocalist Bennington leading the way. “Burn it Down”, the first single, introduced their new synth-heavy sound, and is perfectly sequenced between “In My Remains” and “Lies Greed Misery”, a Shinoda-led banger that blends electro and rock in the same vein as acts like Sleigh Bells.
“I’ll Be Gone”, with Brad Delson’s sweeping guitars and Bennington’s stadium-sized chorus, sounds like their next huge radio hit. “Castle of Glass”, which features both Bennington and Shinoda sharing vocals – something that happens frequently on Living Things – is one of the strongest songs. Its slow tempo, dream-like electronic touches and soothing vocals help it stand out from the rest.
The contrast of that song with “Victimized” is stark, and obviously intentional – hard, fast metal drum beats and Bennington’s repeated screams give way to a short rap by Shinoda, all wrapping up in less than three minutes. It’s explosive and angry, made all the more effective by the presence of the preceding track.
The slow and resonating “Roads Untraveled” gives the band time to breathe again, a steady piano melody and clinking bell-like samples darting around while Shinoda and Bennington harmonize. This could easily end up a single itself.
Another highlight is “Skin and Bone”, Shinoda’s digitized voice talking over an abrasive hip-hop beat and jarring guitars that soon gives way to another strong Bennington hook.
The experimentation returns with “Until it Breaks”. Starting out as a showcase of Shinoda’s MC skills and DJ Joe Hahn’s turntable chops, the song soon goes down an offbeat path. It slows down, drifting off into space-y atmospherics and a celestial-sounding group choral flourish that might catch even the most resilient LP fan off-guard.
After “Tinfoil” lets Hahn announce his presence, “Powerless” caps off the record in grandiose fashion. This is another song primed for radio play – think back to “Iridescent” from A Thousand Sun as a frame of reference.
With Living Things, Linkin Park have crafted an album that can be considered among their best yet. It builds upon the path laid out by A Thousand Suns while paying homage to their early period, blending aggressive (and electro-tinged) rock/rap numbers with more affecting and rewarding ventures into electronica and their own hybrid of sounds and structures.
If you’ve never liked them, Living Things probably won’t change your mind. It is, however, a solid release by a band that has adapted and changed for more than a decade, to astounding levels of success. This record will continue that trend.
ALBUM RATING: 4 Stars (out of five)