Linkin Park Evolves

No music fan wants to see his or her favorite band lose its signature style, or, even worse, stay stagnant and never evolve.

Unfortunately, Linkin Park finds themselves in such a situation on their new album “A Thousand Suns.” As Linkin Park experiments with a different direction, they lose the unique sound that made them popular.

Linkin Park tested out a tradi-tional alternative rock sound on the songs off of their third album “Minutes to Midnight,” and it bombed. While there are flashes of “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora” on this album, there is still a general move toward traditional rock melodies and away from guitar riffs, turntables, rapping and vocal distortion – everything that made “Hybrid Theory” a hit. The result isn’t great, but it isn’t necessarily bad either.

The first track on “A Thousand Suns” is the epitome of what is wrong with the album. “Burning in the Skies” is not a bad song, but it is not amazing either. The track is simply a slow alternative ballad with traditional piano and very few guitars.

Mike Shinoda, one of the band’s two front men, is also completely missing from the picture. In fact, everything that makes Linkin Park great – electronic guitar riffs, keyboards, blends of rap and rock – are missing from this track. Fortunately for Linkin Park, Chester Bennington gives his best vocal performance on “Burning in the Skies” and saves it from failing completely.

If “Burning in the Skies” is Bennington’s time in the spotlight, then “When They Come For Me” is Shinoda’s chance to shine. This track features Shinoda rapping, a distorted guitar riff and hip-hop beats. But where are Bennington’s vocals and the keyboard?

Linkin Park was never just a rap group or a rock band. In their past hits, there was a synergy present between Shinoda and Bennington. However, in “A Thousand Suns,” too often it seems they are moving in different directions, thus degrading the quality of the tracks – not because Shinoda’s lyrics are genius or Bennington’s vocals make the track, but without Shi-noda on the track, Linkin Park loses their hip-hop influences, and without Bennington, they lose their blend of rock.

The Linkin Park on “A Thou-sand Suns” is a different band, one that pales in comparison to the old Linkin Park, with the album’s tracks standing as proof. The best songs on this album features both Linkin Park’s hip-hop influences and rock influences.

A perfect example is “Wretches and Kings.” The track starts off with a distinct hip-hop beat and blaring bass, but it isn’t long before a distorted guitar riff is added. As a result, the band offers one of its first blends of rock and rap on “A Thousand Suns.”

Shinoda is back in full form, rapping the first verse and sampling Public Enemy: “Bass, How low will you go? / To save face, how low will you go?” At this point, the track is a good one. But it doesn’t turn into a great one until Bennington joins the fun in the chorus screaming, “Wretches and kings, we come for you!”

Linkin Park hits a high point with “Blackout,” which is, not surprisingly, the track that most resembles their work in “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora.” This ballad begins with heavy rock guitar and Bennington screaming lyrics about death and anarchy. This is a signature Linkin Park track with its typical electric guitar riffs, screaming choruses and rhythmic drums.

However, there are three ele-ments that make ”Wretches and Kings” the best on the album.  The first is the return of Bennington’s infamous scream. The second is the keyboard between transitions and in the chorus. The keyboard turns this track from heavy metal to one with an innovative sound. However, the instrument that makes this track absolutely amazing is the turntable.

Only Linkin Park can introduce a turntable into a screaming rock ballad and create a masterpiece; another perfect example of why Linkin Park should stick to their signature blend of rap vocals and rock music. They are one of the few bands that does it exceptionally well, and they are untouchable when they do.

It’s great that Linkin Park is experimenting with different sounds. Change is neces-sary for every band to change. But Linkin Park is going about it in the wrong way. It is almost as if they are moving in opposite directions.  They will never be half the band they used to be by only using half of the talent they show in their new album.