Linkin Park perfect the very concept of a musical hybrid on their highly anticipated fifth album, LIVING THINGS. ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino got to experience it firsthand at a listening session…
In fact, all of the best, brightest, and most brilliant elements of the group's sound have been siphoned into this offering and then expanded upon. Not only does the album live up to the promise set forth by the incendiary first single "BURN IT DOWN", it exceeds every expectation—and then some.
Let's get this out of the way right now. This is Linkin Park's best record and a landmark for rock as a whole. On June 26 the band's faithful and music fans as a whole will get one incredible ride.
LIVING THINGS comes to life with a blip of cackling feedback on "LOST IN THE ECHO". Soon, everything is subsumed by earth-shaking beats from drummer Rob Bourdon and airy synth sorcery by Joe Hahn. Brad Delson's guitars gut the swell as Mike Shinoda launches into an airtight verse beginning with the words, "You were that foundation". Chester Bennington sounds potently pristine during the stadium-size refrain, locking into an impenetrable harmony with Shinoda. They remain the most intriguing duo in music at large, and their interplay here is utterly mind-blowing. A cybernetic frenzy sizzles during a scratched out bridge before Bennington echoes, "This time I finally let you go". Phoenix's bass rumbles throughout the landscape, and suddenly you're plunged into a world ruled by these six individuals.
A torrent of scratching fuels massive danceable percussion on "IN MY REMAINS" as Bennington's divine delivery entwines with shimmering electronics. Military drums punctuate the song's mid-section as Shinoda elegantly croons a haunting harmony over piano announcing, "Like an army falling one by one".
"BURN IT DOWN" is already a timeless anthem in its own right, boasting that inescapable and irresistible refrain. Shinoda sounds like he's rapping from another universe on the skittering and staggering "LIES GREED MISERY". A majestic 21st century bitch slap, it's glitched-out, pissed-off hard rock.
Subtle handclaps bounce with the keyboards during the beginning of "I'LL BE GONE" before another instantly incisive hook. It's a firestarter with more snappy riffing from Delson. There's a folk elegance to the spacey "CASTLE OF GLASS", evincing some of Shinoda and Bennington's most poetic lyrics to date—"I'm only a crack in this castle of glass." The band manages to harness that indie vulnerability moments before their heaviest track ever "VICTIMIZED".
They've never done anything this bruising and brutal. Thrash paranoia steamrolls with tribal drums before a throat-slashing scream on the hook. It's vicious, violent, and vibrant. This unexpected drop is just plain fucking sick. You can practically envision festival crowds tearing up the ground to this one.
"ROADS UNTRAVELED" nods to classic rock, but it's unlike anything you've ever heard, especially once that big distortion hits. There's a glimmer of electro spunk to "SKIN TO BONE" before everything gets all tripped out on the refrain—another welcome surprise. On the other end of the spectrum, "UNTIL IT BREAKS" stands out as the band's most poignant ballad ever.
Everything culminates on the cinematic closer "POWERLESS". It has the heft of a John Williams score and the power of any of Linkin Park's best output.
Not only is Living Things one of the best albums of the decade, it's a new classic. Once again, Linkin Park raise the bar. This is a hybrid like you've never heard and won't again—until their next album.