You can hear the growth in this album, co-produced by the legendary Rick Rubin and band member Mike Shinoda. The sound is bigger, the instruments are more ominous, the lyrics are more vulnerable at times, but overall it's still classic Linkin Park sounds with elements of Coldplay or U2-esque bravado. While the heavy hip hop drums and intermittent turntables/scratching used to be prominent in their songs, I could feel that this album was striving to create a new mood. An experimental sound. The synthesizers and electronic inserts are there strongly...but so is the essence of Linkin Park that I have grown to love.
Notable tracks from this album that I really like are "Waiting for the End" and "Iridescent." I also like the way they took the voice of Martin Luther King Jr., infused with keyboards and a light backing to create "Wisdom, Justice, and Love." Brilliant.
Linkin Park is a six-man group based in southern California, who have won 2 Grammy's to date, and are listed amongst the recording artists with the most active fan base. Consisting of lead vocalist Chester Bennington, vocalist/rapper/keyboardist Mike Shinoda, drummer Rob Bourdon, lead guitarist Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, and Joe Hahn on the turntables, they are an eccelectic mix of sounds.
What drew me to Linkin Park back in 2000 with the release of their album Hybrid Theory was the song "In The End." I remember it being distinctly rock...but I remember that the beats were 100% hip hop, and spoke to me rhythmically. As I investigated them more, I could hear the guitars, I could hear the classic metal screams of Chester, but I could feel the hip hop influence. Even songs from that album like "One Step Closer" and "Crawling" still contained an element of rap at their roots to me.
And as a true music lover, I couldn't help but be drawn to these guys. I loved what they were saying, the lyrics often spoke to me, and I loved how the music felt. Pure. Original. And unrestricted. If they wanted to be rock, they could be rock. If they wanted to be hip hop, they could be hip hop. Likewise, they could easily fall into the alternative category as well. But they stayed true to their own roots, and just let the music flow naturally.
Needless to say, when I heard they were doing a full album collaboration with Jay-Z back in 2004, I was even more intrigued. After taking a poll with their active online fanbase, they asked who else the fans were listening to. The majority said "Jay-Z" in resounding numbers. So this initiated the linking of the heavyweight rapper with this heavy metal band.
So the album A Thousand Suns is great. Admittedly, it's not for every mood...but I will definitely keep it close to my regular rotation of dancehall, soca, R&B, and hip hop, for when the mood hits me. When I'm ready to rock, they are definitely my first choice.
For someone who's never listened to Linkin Park, I wouldn't recommend starting with this album if you are to appreciate the true essence of who they are, and what they represent. Some of the elements of hip hop that were prominent earlier in the decade may be lost on A Thousand Suns.
Or, if you have a couple dollars to spare...join me at the ACC in February to see how they get down live. And please don't let Brad's guitars and Chester's screaming turn you off...these guys are dope.
Here's a clip from the classic mashup of Linkin Park's song "Numb" with Jay-Z's "Encore" back in 2004.