In a lot of ways, Linkin Park's new album, Living Things, represents the culmination of the group's evolution ever since emerging from the nü metal/post-grunge nexus of the late 1990s. Through the years, the band has displayed an uncanny knack for keeping up with the times while still remaining true to their collective identity. Their first couple of full-lengths, 2000's Hybrid Theory and 2003's Meteora, were the work of a band owing as much to hip-hop (from Cypress Hill to Public Enemy) as the foreboding intensity of Alice in Chains. That said, Linkin Park quickly set themselves apart from the bludgeoning Judgment Night rap-rock template with their 2002 remix album Reanimation, featuring as it does collaborations with more underground-minded deejays and emcees, such as The Alchemist, Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Cheapshot and the gifted lyricist Aceyalone.
In 2004, the band released another remix project, the Collision Course EP with Jay-Z. Though exceptionally popular (hell, they could've milked that formula for another year or so), it ultimately served as a bookend for the early Linkin Park style. By the time 2007's Minutes to Midnight rolled around, they had ditched their twin loves of hip-hop and hard rock in favor of introspective anthems influenced in part by U2 and Coldplay. It definitely presented a major challenge to their fanbase, yet this didn't stop the record from going platinum several times over.
Minutes to Midnight was a true departure album for Linkin Park, but it in no ways prepared fans for A Thousand Suns. Awash with moody electronica, world rhythms and proggy soundscapes (kind of like Sepultura's Roots concept filtered through Radiohead-tinged pop), the album is an examination of the myriad desperations and anxieties wracking modern civilization. After all, it opens with an infamous sample of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (the "father of the atomic bomb") quoting the Bhagavad Gita: "Now, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
All of this is, of course, rather pretentious. But hey, so are Rush, and they rule. You have to admire Linkin Park's ability to explore new sonic terrain and challenge expectations while also understanding the fact that their fans want some killer rock to crank while playing video games or cruising around town. This fact definitely places them in The Deftones Zone, as both groups remain committed to making hard rock that is, at least on some level, meaningful and weighty.
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