Linkin Park “Minutes To Midnight” Special Album Report
07.05.2008We at Kudos Magazine sent along one of our top music scribes; Dominic Sacco to a rather sublime, exclusive media event yesterday evening. The occasion saw the majority of the UK’s music press converge on a gorgeous London venue to eat, drink and indeed be merry. Now this sounds most excellent does it not? So what pray tell could be a deserving enough reason for Warner Records to throw such a shindig? Well nothing short of the most anticipated Rock release of 2007. In other words this was the first UK media playback of “Minutes To Midnight” by the 40 million record selling giants: Linkin Park. Their new studio album will be released on May 14th on Warner Bros/Machine Shop Records and Kudos’ Dominic Sacco has been one of the first people to hear the new record and brings you this first hand report, review and a track by track run down of the new monster record which was co-produced by Mike Shinoda and Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Run DMC) ‘What I’ve Done’ will be the first single be taken from the album and received a worldwide digital release on April 2nd before being followed by a physical UK release on May 7th.
“We have put more into the new album than anything we have ever done before,” says bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell. The band spent over 14 months in the studio and wrote more than 100 song demos in the making of “Minutes To Midnight”, an album which vocalist Mike Shinoda sees as, “a breakthrough in the development of the band’s sound. We wrote in new ways, and used instruments and equipment we hadn’t experimented with, from vintage guitars and amps to mellotron to Rick’s original 808 drum machine he used on the Beastie Boys first record. We tried to question every step in our songwriting process.” Producer Rick Rubin agrees: “They really are reinventing themselves, it doesn’t sound like rap-rock. There’s very strong songwriting. It’s very melodic…a progressive record.”
So what does “Minutes To Midnight” sound and feel like and do the gentlemen deliver as they always have in the past? Here is the track by track report with a preliminary review rating for each cut.
To begin their long awaited album, Linkin Park choose to gently set the wheels in motion rather than forcefully kick-starting lively music which fans have come to expect. Instead, they present a slow, short intro track with a synth-heavy melody and a nice building ambiance, which gradually increases in volume. 4/5
2. Given Up
The smoothness is soon thrown out the window however when the scratchy turntable sound of this second track transforms into a gargantuan heavy rock riff. This is possibly the most in-your-face song on the entire record – the punk rock style drumbeats are brash, the guitars thrash and Chester Bennington sings his lungs out. When it reaches the bridge, he goes from singing to screaming the line, “You put me out of my misery” over and over again. It’s heated, emotional and enjoyable, but the track definitely feels like it’s missing a certain something. 3/5
3. Leave Out All The Rest
From one extreme to another, three tracks in and we’re presented with a ballad. It’s very listenable pop rock with tranquil vocals and dominant bass guitar. It seems odd to position such a slow-paced tune so early into the album but it’s radio friendly style is bound to be popular with many. The piece of music does end rather abruptly though and you may be left wanting more. 3/5
4. Bleed It Out
This is much more like the Linkin Park we’re used to hearing. Mike Shinoda starts off with a casual rap before trading off with Chester and some insightful lyrics, “I bring it out, bring it in deeper just to throw it away.” The song’s structure revolves around four simple chords with screaming vocals leading up to the catchy chorus. Piano adds an extra dimension to the track but overall it’s a little repetitive and flat, ending abruptly again. Saying that, we can see this being released as a successful single in the future. 4/5
5. Shadow Of The Day
Possibly the most listener friendly song on ‘Minutes To Midnight,’ the style is very soft yet clear with both vocals and bass taking a poppy turn. Percussion comes across clear and dominant, but overall the song remains average in terms of technicality. It seems to offer nothing more than a break-up in the record, but its dreamy nature is quite certain to be a hit with the fans. 2/5
6. What I’ve Done
Generally a hit from the moment it is played, ‘What I’ve Done’ soars with a catchy chorus and likeable verses, before developing into a brilliant bridge and climatic ending. A gentle guitar solo midway adds depth and versatility before another welcome chorus. The haunting piano and synthetic drums combine to create a fantastic addition to Linkin Park’s third album and a perfect choice for their first single. 5/5
7. Hands Held High
The marching drumbeat and simple melody is an ideal backdrop to Shinoda’s poetic rapping and it has certainly developed in the space of two previous albums and his hip-hip focused side project Fort Minor. Again, Chester’s melodic singing comes in later but the central theme of the song does seem to be soldier’s homecoming in the aftermath of war. Maybe it was written to get those arms flailing lighters around at rock festivals. Either way, it’s still an impressive track. 4/5
8. No More Sorrow
Opening up with a creeping lead guitar, ‘No More Sorrow’ rocks heads with a deep double-bass drumming intro switching over to a simple paradiddle on the snare. Definitely the best chorus of the album so far, with an enigmatic riff and emotional shouting from Bennington. The tune flows naturally with a heavy bridge followed by a modulation and even higher pitched screaming. There’s no DJ elements to this song and it has to be said that some of the vocals and drumming becomes repetitive fast – even more noticeable is the fact that the band don’t seem to be stretching themselves in terms of song writing techniques. 3/5
9. Valentine’s Day
After a somewhat depressive two minutes of ballad-laden lyrics and slow-moving guitars, it finally kicks in with another extremely infective hook and harmonious backing vocals. “On a Valentines day” is passionately sung with interesting vocals spoken over the top, before annoyingly ending abruptly and letting the song down. 2/5
10. In Between
If there’s a point in the album where it’s easy to see that the songs are starting to lose their flair, this is it. Those sweetly spoken vocals are back once again alongside grainy drumbeats, but without any differences in tempo there’s nothing exciting here. It’s peaceful, but there’s no denying this is a weak ballad track amongst Linkin Park’s repertoire of excellence. 1/5
11. In Pieces
Thankfully, faith is restored with quite simply the highlight of the album. This is soft yet rhythmic with synthetic drumming you can’t fail to be taken in by. The stirring piano and powerful bass proves to be a winning combination for the band – with vocals at their best only boosting the song further. Another build up after a few minutes adds more magic to the piece, with sweet sounds and eventually more heavily distorted guitars, minus screaming. The song slows down and ends dramatically with a simple beat and ska-style guitar plucking. 5/5
12. The Little Things You Give Away
Acoustic guitar and Linkin Park in the same sentence? You better believe it. One last ballad, with those great mechanical style drums and melodic vocals from Chester rounds ‘Minutes To Midnight’ off fruitfully. When the bass cuts in, the song hits another dimension before ending a reasonably decent record. There’s not many heavy tracks – instead, Linkin Park have shifted to crafting softer, easier listening songs like this one. Despite it not being a patch on ‘Hybrid Theory, ’it still delivers and the fans will almost surely be lapping this up after its release on 14 May. 4/5
“Minutes To Midnight” garners a preliminary 8/10 Kudos rating overall.
Tour News: Linkin Park will headline the second day of this summer’s Bamboozle music festival on May 6 in New Jersey before embarking on a headlining European tour in June. Next month, the band expects to announce plans for “a summer tour with an unmissable lineup,” says Shinoda.
Words by Dominic Sacco