Genre crossing bands tend to escape harsh criticism because they’re always changing musical styles to either prove they’re talented musicians; to try and not be pigeonholed into the same category for their entire careers or because each different musical endeavour exceeds expectations and proves you can do different things and actually nail it. Linkin Park have been the front runner for mixing things up and taking their fans on a journey (both hit and miss) along the years and every now and then they’ve slipped up, but not as much as they have with their latest release ‘Heavy‘. What was once a shining light in the nu-metal scene in the late-2000’s, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory album completely blew rock fans away, hearing something that hadn’t been done before and introducing a new mixed blend of heavy rock with rap and electronic sounds with a dj all rolled into one. It was incredible and so well received the band actually picked up the Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy in 2002 for their single ‘Crawling‘. The band appeared everywhere from Channel [V] to Movie Soundtracks to OzzFest and Korn‘s Family Values tour invites.
Following on from this success the band released Reanimation which featured remixed versions of their songs from Hybrid Theory, mixed by guest DJs and featuring musicians performing vocals on their previously acclaimed songs. It was our first taste of the band doing something new and although it wasn’t as popular as the first album, it set the tone for what would lead into one legendary follow up album…
Following up an album which gives you massive international success and acknowledgement is hard, but I remember the hype in the lead up to the release of 2003’s Meteora being huge, everyone was talking about it and wondering if it was going to be another instant success story for the band or a flop like so many acts before them. It was a raging success. Spawning singles like ‘Somewhere I Belong‘ and ‘Faint‘ which brought back elements of the band’s previous record with heavy guitar riffs, screaming and electronic sounds amongst Mike Shinoda‘s iconic rapping skills. The band were unstoppable at this point selling tens of millions of copies worldwide and cementing themselves as one of the biggest bands to watch for years to come… or so we thought.
Towards the end of 2004 once all singles from Meteora were released, LP tried something new with
a clash Collision Course EP alongside Jay-Z (prior to his Mr Beyonce days) featuring Live Footage of the band mashing up their songs seamlessly with Jay’s and once again, it worked like a charm. Slowing down their own songs to fit the tempo of his and blending them together was genius. Not since Aerosmith and Run DMC had we seen a great combination of both pure rap and rock together in one handy location and it was around this time there would have been a flood of rap fans attending rock shows and vice versa. Both acts helped each other’s fanbases grow larger and we saw Jay-Z receive a bit more mainstream radio airplay here in Australia because of it.
Four years after the success of Meteora Hollywood got it’s grubby hands on the band and they became the signature soundtrack act for the Transformers franchise, but before this happened, both front-men took time off to work on their own side projects, Mike with Fort Minor and Chester Bennington fronting Dead by Sunrise. But once they unleashed their music (and tension maybe!?) they were back with LP releasing songs to correspond with each Michael Bay hasbro movie that came out within the next 4 years. ‘What I’ve Done‘ from Minutes to Midnight was up first, ‘New Divide‘ as a stand alone single for the second movie’s soundtrack (which the band also did the score for) and ‘Iridescent‘ wrapped up the so called trilogy in a ballady type of way so diverse and foreign compared to their debut album released 11 years beforehand. I would dare say it was about 2009 that the band started to lose track of what could have been their original plan, but I hate spoilers in real life so first, I’m flashing back to 2007’s Minutes to Midnight to focus on what was the last decent album from LP in the late 2000’s.
Following a delayed release, the album was the band’s first noticeable shift in genre when they lost all but 2 heavy songs on it. ‘Bleed it Out‘ and ‘Given Up‘ were the last remaining evidence of Linkin Park‘s appeal to long time fans and even gave us a glimpse at what it would be like had the band continued down that darker path with one of the best breakdowns and screams heard at the 2 minute mark in ‘Given Up‘. However the two songs were surrounded by slower, more ballad type tracks which pleased the masses of commercial radio fans who lapped up the new direction and shelled out their hard earned money, in most cases probably not knowing where the band had come from musically prior to this.
*UPDATE – thanks to @LPLive for pointing out my lack of ‘No More Sorrow‘ from this album which takes the grand total of heavy songs up to 3. Great breakdown but still not enough to please hungry fans.
The electronic sound took over in 2010’s A Thousand Suns which served as yet another mainstream success story for the band and a departure from the Transformers franchise with LP under it’s wing. Lead single ‘The Catalyst‘ tried hard to reunite long lost fans with a somewhat lacklustre attempt at bringing the ‘heavy‘ back, also elements of Meteora were sprayed throughout, but they unfortunately missed the plot. Pianos were introduced more heavily, Mike Shinoda sang more than he rapped, Chester rapped more than he screamed and ‘Blackout‘ was the only hard rock song the album had to offer. It seemed like the band had shed any significant resemblance of their past from existence and we were now being forced to endure a completely revamped, rebooted mainstream anthem rock band, which in turn could have been great had they toured Australia more to show us this. But alas the heavy was gone, becoming a distant memory in our minds.
Two years after this in 2012 (by the way I’ve stopped addressing all remix and side albums by this point, sticking only to studio releases) Living Things was unleashed upon the world and once again the guys decided to allow Rick Rubin and Mike Shinoda to produce the record (as they had done with the previous two
masterpieces of work). Debut single ‘Burn It Down‘ once again tried to bring back elements from Meteora‘s success and to my surprise it actually worked well. The track sounded like a leftover (yet far more advanced) song from their 2003 iconic album. Mike was back to rapping, Chester, although without screams was singing on point like he used to and the rest of the band worked in sync to make sure these two front-runners were at their best. Arguably the better of the three previous releases, it seemed as if Linkin Park were slowly but surely on their way back again.
Then in 2014 almost out of nowhere The Hunting Party came out and at first I’ll admit, I was apprehensive to listen to anything on this album given what I had been through with their last few releases but after about a month or three following it’s release I gave it a crack; mainly because I hadn’t heard any of their new songs on commercial radio (which was a huge surprise considering the following they had accumulated over the previous 7 years). HOLY SHIT was my first thought from memory when ‘Keys to the Kingdom‘ started up and I was greeted by a grainy quiet scream from Chester Bennington followed by rocking riffs, explosive drums and a fast paced tempo which instantly brought a smile to my face. This was the Linkin Park we had been missing! They had once again found themselves or lost some baggage (this was the first album since Meteora which didn’t have Rick Rubin producing) in the process. ‘Guilty All The Same‘ followed a similar formula which I guess proved the band decided to listen to what their fans wanted as opposed to what the thought they should do. Although this album lacked some missing key elements like the loud, angrier screams heard on the band’s first two releases, it was the closest we’ve had in years to a record paying homage to the band’s earlier beginnings.
Three years have past and last week Linkin Park out of nowhere announced their next album One More Light will be scheduled for release May 19th 2017 and at the same time delivered fans their first taste of what’s to come in the form of a song called ‘Heavy‘. Still reeling in the feels of The Hunting Party and with enough time passed to forgive them for their previous efforts we collectively all pressed play in our own time on what we thought would be a significant piece of history for the band and their longtime serving fans… unfortunately we were greeted by the same old electronic pop shit that you can hear in every second song played on the radio at this current point in time. What sounded like Justin Bieber getting face fucked by The Chainsmokers or [insert popular generic EDM act here] with a large dose of over produced auto-tune whining from a female singer that sounds exactly like all her other peers/competition, who brings nothing new to the table to make her stand out from the rest, not even her subtle use of the word FUCK could get me stoked about this song. I have NO IDEA what the band are trying to achieve, who they’re trying to appeal to or who even thought it would be a great idea to team up with songwriters who’s previous efforts include, but are not limited to Justin Bieber‘s ‘Sorry‘, Selena Gomez‘s ‘Hands to Myself‘ and other generic pop acts like the has-been Britney Spears, manufactured teenage sex sellers Fifth Harmony and Gwen Stefani (the solo act, not the No Doubt rock chick).
I’m not gonna lie, this song, as many fans before me have stated too, is pure shit. Its been out for over a week now and no matter how many times I force myself to listen to it, it doesn’t get any better. Maybe it’s the old age? I’m turning 30 around the time the new Linkin Park album gets released and maybe I’m finally at that age where everything new sounds like shit. No, it’s not me, it’s the band! And all the evidence is right here in front of your eyes. It can all be traced back to when they teamed up with Rick Rubin following on from Meteora. They invested too much time into a guy who turned them away from their heavier, rockier roots and manufactured them into a mainstream, pop-rock performing band of sell-outs who seem like they only want to appeal to a new audience every few years. Tell you what, if this new album is as shit as the first single I’m officially hanging up my Linkin Park appreciation status and disowning them like many of you did all those years ago. The past is dead. Its time to grow up and move on from the nostalgia of what was.
**Update: Watch the band perform a Nu-Metal version of ‘Heavy‘ during rehearsals here
Linkin Park – One More Light track listing
01. Nobody Can Save Me
02. Good Goodbye
03. Talking to Myself
04. Battle Symphony
07. Sorry for Now
08. Halfway Right
09. One More Light
10. Sharp Edges
Pre-Order the new album Here… if you’re game!