Linkin Park are known for their moments of high energy and power, and as prevalent as such moments are on Living Things, some of its most powerful and defining moments are the quietest. The power with which Linkin Park can present tracks both loud and soft sets them apart as one of the best alt-rockers of today; this album exemplifies that.
Living Things begins with a scream of electronic sounds on “Lost in the Echo,” which gets compounded with drums for the highest energy album start since Meteora. Shinoda’s rapping is heard before Chester Bennington’s singing. While the opening of the track feels like their nu metal beginnings, the track ends up feeling like a typical rap track, with Bennington’s singing sounding more like a sample than an equal part of the song. Screams also appear in the background, but they fit quite nicely there.
It is followed by “In My Remains,” which keeps up the energy, and Shinoda and Bennington both sing for the majority of the track, harmonizing in one of the moments of subtle beauty which Linkin Park manages to create rather frequently for such a loud band. As a band, they are remarkably aware of layering, and tracking the number of layers is a pleasurable experience. This is what distinguishes Linkin Park as perhaps the most careful and controlled loud modern alt-rock band around. This powerful layering is also evident on “I’ll Be Gone.”
The album’s first single, “Burn It Down” seethes with electronic hums and beats. Shinoda’s verse is powerful and delivered well, and although at the beginning of the track it feels a little too much like a sample, at the end of the track it is nicely layered with Bennington’s singing. While it isn’t a bad thing, per se, that they once again sound like one of them is sampling the other, this lacks the creativity that marks their more powerful moments. They also fall into the trap of sounding like one of them is sampling the other on “Lies Greed Misery.” For those who enjoy the typical rap rock sound structure, Linkin Park certainly delivers a lot of it on this album.
In addition to the few weaker tracks, the album contains a few moments that stand out as low points. “Victimized” is the first track with the street sampling that dominated A Thousand Suns, and also the first track where Bennington really screams. Unfortunately, he just repeats “victimized! victimized! liberation!” in a way that is aesthetically unappealing. Missteps like this are easy targets for criticism, but they should not be overemphasized when considering the entire album’s aesthetic.
However, it is short and followed by the extremely quiet intro to “Roads Untraveled.” Bennington and Shinoda harmonize in another moment of great beauty, and as the bass begins to build the energy that makes the track take off, the lyrics add poignancy and vulnerability. “beyond every bend is a long blinding end…” begins the line, and then the speakers suddenly give it a personal touch with “…it’s the worst kind of pain I’ve known.” Much of Linkin Park’s music is powered by anger, but on the quiet moments they invite the listener to empathy. The quiet power is also seen on “Castle of Glass,” which begins with unusual percussion, followed by keyboard which is replaced with Shinoda’s singing. The guitars here are very subtle at first, as is Bennington’s harmonization, and although this isn’t quite as soft as “In Between” on Minutes to Midnight, it again shows that Linkin Park can produce a wide range of sounds successfully.
The album ends with a pairing of instrumental “Tinfoil,” with closer “Powerless.” “Tinfoil” has a nice blend of synths and quiet screeching dissonance and leads brilliantly into Bennington’s voice backed by keyboard. Like their last few album-closing tracks, the initially quiet sound builds into an immense electronic alt-rock sound which drops back down for the final seconds of the album.
In all, the album is another strong release from Linkin Park, and while old fans will lament the difference from the nu-metal Hybrid Theory and Meteora, they’ve been lamenting that for almost ten years now. As one of the bands most open to experimentation on a major label, they will continue to release high energy singles backed by powerful quiet tracks on their albums.
Rating: W — P — G
Key Tracks: “Roads Untraveled”, “Castle of Glass,” “In My Remains”, and “Tinfoil”
RIYL: Gorillaz, Muse, Flobots
Check out: “Burn It Down”