Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Album cover
Alt. Rock, Experimental Rock
Warner Bros. Records
Linkin Park
A Thousand Suns
Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns Review rating:
5
User rating:
Average: 4.5 (907 votes)

It's funny how the music business works. Release an amazing debut album, and it is generally recognized as such by critics and laymen, helps to set a new genre standard, is replayed for years, and assists the band in building a huge fanbase. After that is when things get weird. If the band in question decides not to vary their formula, makes mediocre music that retains many of the elements of their original material, and plays it safe, their fans stick by them and the critics aren't too harsh (see: the response to my review of the new Goo Goo Dolls album). However, if the band realizes that to make a real, long-lasting impact on the world they must be fluid, maturing with every album, changing their sound, exploring new territory, they are vilified by former "fans" and critics alike. They are disparaged all over the internet, ignored and/or disemboweled by elitist music listeners, and their efforts at making cutting-edge, mature, different music are mocked, whether or not the mockery is justified. And in many cases, it isn't.

Linkin Park is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Though they've certainly never been darlings of the critics, their 2000 debut Hybrid Theory kicked off the decade with an enormous statement: nu-metal can generate good music. Rap and rock don't have to battle - they can be melded together if you have a good, hot blowtorch. 2003's Meteora laughed in the face of the "sophomore slump," stating strongly that loud modern rock music could be good, and establishing Linkin Park as one of the most important and biggest bands of the decade.

At this point, Bennington, Shinoda, and Co. could have released rap/rock/metal albums until the end of time and slowly faded into oblivion as just another ultra-popular radio rock band. But no. They refused to do that. They grew up, lyrically and musically, taking 4 years to put together 2007's Minutes to Midnight. And then the funny part of the music business hit them like a battering ram. Rather than rejoicing, countless ignorant people ignored the band's gorgeous political lyrics ("Hands Held High," "No More Sorrow"), epic explorations of the sonic landscape ("The Little Things Give You Away"), slightly experimental wanderings (the chorus- less "Valentine's Day," the crescendo of "In Pieces"), and catchy-as-fuck recollections of their younger selves ("Given Up," "Bleed It Out"). Perhaps these people didn't mature like Linkin Park did, and remained stuck in their teenage angst or masculine anger. Perhaps they wanted fun music, rather than good music. Perhaps they made assumptions or established expectations rather than opening their minds to a new sound. Whatever the case, Minutes to Midnight was vastly underappreciated, seeing as it was one of the best rock albums of the 00's.

The truth is, Linkin Park were a great hard rock band. If you were a teenager, young adult, or simply in touch with your emotions in the early 00's, they spoke directly to you. But they are no longer that band. Instead, they have matured, experimented, and changed. They have decided that 2.5 albums about anger, alienation, and angst were enough. They have moved on to what really matters in this world - poverty, war, accountability, life, death, inequality...and that's where 2010's A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park's fourth full-length, comes in.

Firstly (yes, I know it'd odd to finally begin talking about the album itself this far into a review), Linkin Park have an obsession with the apocalyptic. Minutes to Midnight's title itself was a reference to the "Doomsday Clock," an invention of scientists that attempts to predict when nuclear catastrophe will eliminate us all. The album, however, only partially lived up to its title, and that void is filled by A Thousand Suns. It is a concept album about nuclear warfare; and god almighty, it is enormously apocalyptic, both musically and lyrically. There has never been, and probably never will be, an album that quite as accurately represents the (potential) destruction of earth by humanity and science.

Secondly, A Thousand Suns is an ALBUM. It is not a collection of songs. It is not meant to be listened to as such. The band is going so far as to release an iTunes version that is one track, 47 minutes and 56 seconds long. This is no more an "album" by convential standards than Dark Side of the Moon or Kid A are. Sure, there are identifiable songs, but to understand or to appreciate any of them you must take them in the context of the entire album. To represent this point, out of the 15 tracks on A Thousand Suns, only 9 of them are full-length "songs." The other 6 are various segues with recurring themes. The opening track, "The Requiem," entrenches these: a lonely, minor piano theme repeats forlornly; a female sings lyrics that will later appear on the epic "The Catalyst" ("God save us, everyone/ We will burn inside the fires of a thousand suns") and morphs into a creepy robotic voice just like Martin Luther King Jr.'s voice will during a sampled speech on the amazing achievement "Wisdom, Justice, and Love." "The Radiance" establishes another motif: speeches. It samples Oppenheimer's famous "Destroyer of Worlds" speech over industrial sounds and a rapid heartbeat; later, Mario Savio and MLK Jr. will make appearances even more ominous.

The first actual "song" is "Burning in the Skies," a melodic and beat-driven piece that recalls "Shadow of the Day" from Minutes To Midnight. Describing the death of the innocent as fuel for the war, it may not be a the best part of A Thousand Suns, but it sets the tone as effectively as the two intro tracks. Its musical mannerisms also recur on "Robot Boy," which eviscerates those who think "compassion's a fault" or are too focused on themselves; and on "Iridescent," whose lyrics detail a sort of heavenly transcendence in the wake of nuclear destruction ("a burst of light that blinded every angel"). It is perhaps the most emotional moment on an album that is sublimely personal at the same time as it is all-encompassing.

Those are the alternative-rock-inspired moments. But what about the rock? Linkin Park just wouldn't be Linkin Park if they didn't let it all loose occasionally. And they do. "When They Come for Me" features the year's best percussion setting the background for Shinoda's ragga- style rapping and an epic wordless chorus. And just when the song couldn't possibly get any better, it does: after a short intermission, its last 35 seconds feature middle-eastern vocal stylings that echo the chorus from earlier in the song. It is easily one of the year's best tracks, as is "Wretches and Kings." The latter begins with Mario Savio's famous "Bodies upon the Gears" speech, the perfect segue into dissonant guitars and crunching calamity that features the best chorus that Chester has ever written or sung ("We, the animals, take control/ Hear us now, clear and tall/ Wretches and kings, we come for you"). Linkin Park even go all Rage Against the Machine on our asses in the midst of the nu-metal-inspired consummation of Nine Inch Nails and Hybrid Theory. And in the end, it's the little things that make an album, and those toms that announce the coming of the bridge of "Wretches and Kings" supply one of those little things.

And for those who miss Chester's screaming, there's even something for you: "Blackout." Opening with a synth and looped drumbeats, the song doesn't jump out like a villain in a horror movie, but rather sneaks up on you. Around the minute mark, exquisite percussion enters to offset what might be Chester's best performance ever. When he shrieks "fuck it, are you listening?!", you'd better be listening. The guitars may be missing, but this is the most hardcore Linkin Park has ever been. Because it's real.

Speaking of real, the last two tracks on A Thousand Suns are worth commenting upon before wrapping up this review and letting you decide for yourself whether or not Linkin Park has created one of the best rock albums ever. "The Catalyst" is an epic chorusless summation of the previous 13 tracks, combining it all into one huge finale. And then there's "The Messenger." Like the first and last tracks on Pink Floyd's Animals, this closing statement features a lone acoustic guitar, some sparse string arrangements, and Chester. It is desolate yet optimistic, miserable yet beautiful. It is the message of redemption, brought to us by these wonderful messengers, that can save humanity from destruction by "a thousand suns." "When life leaves us blind, love keeps us kind." There has never been a simpler, truer statement to close an album.

I'm well aware that many listeners will not share my opinion of this album. It has already received rather disquietingly poor reviews (can we really trust critics if they can't see the genius in this album?) and been attacked by random screen names all over the internet (I did a lot of research before I sat down to write this review)...and somehow, MTV (phaugh) decided to call it "Linkin Park's Kid A," even though they wouldn't listen to Kid A if they were forced to. This is not Kid A. It's not Pink Floyd. A Thousand Suns is a completely different genre, but it is exploring that genre just like those previous bands explored theirs. It is an epic quest, a genuinely apocalyptic force of nature, an album that doesn't need to be classified by "songs" or "singles" or "sales"...in otherwords, it is true art. And it is one HELL of an album.

1. The Requiem
2. The Radiance
3. Burning in the Skies
4. Empty Spaces
5. When They Come for Me
6. Robot Boy
7. Jornada del Muerto
8. Waiting for the End
9. Blackout
10. Wretches and Kings
11. Wisdom, Justice, and Love
12. Iridescent
13. Fallout
14. The Catalyst
15. The Messenger

Linkin Park is an American band from Agoura Hills, California. Formed in 1996, the band rose to international fame with their debut album, Hybrid Theory, which was certified Diamond by the RIAA in 2005 and multi-platinum in several other countries. Its following studio album, Meteora, continued the band's success, topping the Billboard 200 album chart in 2003, and was followed by extensive touring and charity work around the world. In 2003, MTV2 named Linkin Park the sixth greatest band of the music video era and the third best of the new millennium behind Oasis and Coldplay.

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Comments

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

I'm sorry but I cannot believe this for a second.

even with this rlyrly convincing review.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Believe whatever you want, but this album tackles one of the most important subject in humanity's history and does it justice one hundred (suns) times over. It deserves 5 stars.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

I'm sure I'll hear it eventually.

watch me fawn over it like a little schoolgirl as though I were 12 again hearing Hybrid Theory for the first time.

again, really good write up regardless.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Trust me, you'd better listen to it. But if I can give you an advice, forget the oldest LP albums while you're listening to this. Because it's totally different,so PLEASE don't compare ATS to the other albums: it would be like comparing Muse's "The Resistance" to Iron Maiden's "Fear of the Dark". Got it?

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

It deserves 5 stars.  That's YOUR opinion. YOUR opinion isn't worth ANY MORE than OTHERS opinion. Who are you to say it deserves 5 stars?

Tastes are different but one thing is a fact: They changed a lot. You can take that positive or negative.

 

As for me, I personally would call it more kind of a devolution than an evolution, they abandoned their roots way too much.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

An who are you to say it isn't worth 5 stars? Clearly you didn't read the whole review. Linkin Park doesn't really have roots to stick to. They go by their rules. Who the heck are you to give them rules?

This was an awesome review that really voiced my thoughts, as well as many others. There were so many true facts that you have to look at in the review before judging.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

I'm sorry, but have you listened to "When They Come for Me"?  Mike adequately responds to your saying that they "abandoned their roots".

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Oh dude you think it is a de evolution and since you put it on the internet you think you are right, WRONG you obviously didn't listen to this album because Mike talks about people like you  in "when they come for me"


 


reviewer was right on the money to not see the brilliance of this album clearly shows you have no taste in music and can't be credited

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

very good point i totaly agree with u

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

just shut up, stop giving a comment on other people taste..

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

ur such an idiot linkin park has NEVER stuck to their "roots" who the hell r u 2 judge. they'll lose fans but they'll gain even more im tired of hearing the same shit from every fucking artist. they are legends! its good sum1 has the creativity of trying new things if u dnt agree u were NEVER a REAL linkin park fan.

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Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

very true

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

i suggest u live by what u say because ur opinion is the same as whomever youre talking to. your opinion. Practice what you preach buddy


 


10 Stars. Vary beautiful and amazing album.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

To all who bag Linkin Park,

 

I for myself listened to them before they became Linkin park! Yes they were named Hybrid Theory, I have adopted to all their changes and I must admit this is a beautiful Album. They have matured and brought a new style. Like growing up in life their music has.

 

At first i was so shocked, but after listening I understood what they were trying to achieve, simply amazing even though i never liked dance and slow music.... This is really Amazing.

 

For all you Hybrid Theory and Meteora Fans grow up, they are guys who change their style. You never were a true Linkin Park Fan!

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

I have listened to the album, I would in no way shape or form give it 5 stars. I am not trashing the album, but I just don't care for this side of the band. I just love their heavier stauff a lot more. It all boils down to taste in music. No one is right, no one is wrong. If I had to give a it a star rating it would be a solid 3. just because there is a lot of detail put into this album. Even minutes to midnight had some good heavy songs on it, this one really didn't have any, but I can appreciate hard work, and you can tell LP put alot of hard work into this.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

idiot

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

To whoever said that they abandoned their roots, I have another example that, it's true. They're just looking for what is really they message and musical style. And I respect that. Everyone that has been following Linkin Park for a long time should be respecting that. No matter, the example:

On the album Hybrid Theory, one of the songs is Points of Authority. The first line of the lyrics is, "Forfeit the game, before somebody else takes you out of the frame...". Forfeit the game right?

And on A Thousand Suns in When They Come For Me, he clearly states that, "I am not, the fortune and the fame, or the same person telling you to forfeit the game."

To me, that pretty much indicates that they're not bound by their previous releases. That they're free to experiment and evovle their music towards the direction that THEY feel like. ot what the fans want to hear. I was sceptical at first when I heard the album too. But I've given it a chance, and now I enjoy listening to it. It has a flow in the songs, that the previous albums didn't have. I can't even hear when it's going on to the next song when I'm hearing the first four of them.

Regards, and kudos to the author of the review, I totally agree.
/Ryu

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Did he say anything to make you think he didn't say that as an opinion? No, he didn't. How can you say that somebody can't have an opinion, or share their opinion with others?

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

I don't understand... Why would you WANT your favorite artists to record the same crap over and over and over again??? Hybrid Theory was good, but I enjoy true art, not some idiots making the same album over and over again... They simply want to challenge themselves, take their creativity different places, but maybe you just don't like their new genre... But I sure do...

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

This one of the deepest reviews I've ever read...amazing Jordy..that's kinda similar to what I think about the record and so, I agree to what you've just typed !!!

 

LP FOR LIFE !!!

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Truer words have never been spoken it's an art of it's own kind ,a message to whoevers listening

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Amen! You got that right

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

I thought Peter wrote this and then I saw it was you and had a sigh of relief. But fuck you regardless I actually have written a five-star review and am just waiting for Denis to accept it because it's not exactly what we'd cover and it's a FIVE. RRR's first genuine five.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

We've given a few fives before... not this year though

 

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Really feeling the love here. But I found this hard to believe, I just had to read the whole review. This makes me somewhat intrigued regarding my listening to it, so thanks to Jordy.

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Compared to me, you don't have any cause to complain about feelin' the love ;-)

You're welcome, Peter, and I hope you listen to it with an open mind and enjoy it =)

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

great review. spot on. that's all i gotta say. ATS is true art... one of the best albums ever

Re: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

Awesome review, thanks!

Reply to comment | Review Rinse Repeat

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ATS

Nice job on the review.  I can't really comment on most of what you said because I haven't listened to the album yet.  I'm waiting until it's official release on Tuesday to listen to it.  I've heard a couple of the songs but not the whole thing.  I like what I have heard so far though.  It leaked on Tuesday and it's very hard to not listen to it but there's just a couple more days. 

I agree with what you said about Minutes to Midnight.  It's an extremely under-rated album.  I don't think it was their best album but it deserved a much better reception.  I personally thought it was maybe as good as Meteora.  Anyway, wish I could comment more on A Thousand Suns but I will later when I've heard the whole thing from start to finish.

By the way, I know you'll disagree with this, but there's another album that also deserves 5 stars.  It's called Out of Ashes ;).  Ha, just joking.  Maybe not 5 stars, but definitely more than 2.  I'd give it a 4 or 4.5.

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