Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns (Warner Bros.)
If you have been brought here by simply clicking on a link after running a Google search for “Linkin Park Rules” and are only going to read this one review, then you need to do something for me. You need to put aside your preconceived notion that I’m some douchebag with an agenda that planned on ripping this apart without even listening to it. In return for that courtesy, I will drop my preconceived notion that Linkin Park suck ass and review this like I would any other record. Fair? Now that we have that out of the way, read the whole review before commenting please.
Harsh? Maybe. But I say all this because I’ve seen the mixed reviews of this album on the web and some are downright brutal and every comment is from a fanboy talking about how the reviewer is a douche. I’ll take the comments, but be sure to understand what I’m saying first.
And what I’m saying is that I listened to A Thousand Suns with an open mind. That’s not to say that I haven’t thought that these guys have been shit over the years – but bands and opinions have the right to change and I like to think that I evolve over time as well.
These guys of course get lumped with Korn, whom I also hate and yet really dig their new album and Limp Bizkit which I will absolutely never like. Here’s the thing though – all three of these bands were part of a Nu-Metal genre that died five years ago. Korn at least was a unique sounding band and while they have kept their sound in tact, they have tweaked it slightly to be a bit more mature. Limp Bizkit on the other hand still feel that they don’t need to change a thing and I’m assuming if Gold Cobra is good in the least little bit then the world will be ending soon. Linkin Park has pretty much completely flipped the script on Nu-Metal and are a very different band than they started out being. If nothing else, I give them props for recognizing that they were in a dying genre and trying to adjust their sound to fit in other ways.
So now down to the album. Mike Shinoda has been waxing poetic this year about how otherworldly A Thousand Suns is, how it transcends genres and such. While I do think they are taking themselves a little too seriously, the band has come up with something quite different for them and remarkably satisfying. With interludes there are 15 tracks that would fit into the activist-political mode and are molded together nicely to form a virtual song cycle.
After essentially two intros, “Burning in the Sun” feels like a mid-90s techno pop track, while the next song “When They Come For Me” is a pure hip-hop track led by a cool electronically manipulated guitar riff. With “Waiting For the End” Shinoda takes on a little reggae vibe before Chester Bennington takes over and sings quietly over a minimal hip-hop beat. Then there’s “Iridescent”, a beautiful piano driven piece sung by Bennington (personally, I think he should translate this track into an entire solo album.) The only real misstep is with the first single, “The Catalyst” which is a relatively awkward non-radio friendly tune buried as the next to last song on the disc.
In the end, it’s not perfect but it’s damn enjoyable and different from what you’d expect to hear from Linkin Park. A writer for MTV recently compared it to Radiohead’s “Kid A” which anyway you want to look at that, is a fucking ludicrous statement. But it’s closer to being a really good record than it is to being the turd some people say it is. And remember, I don’t like Linkin Park so I think that in itself counts for something.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BPO3SaXHHBA" width="600" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Lordi, Babez for Breakfast (The End)
There really is no reason to not love Lordi. After winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 and getting international recognition for their music and their monster costumes these guys got picked up by The End records here in North America and every two years they crank out another wacked out slab of fist pumping metal.
If you are listening to Babez for Breakfast without a big old drunk grin on your face then you aren’t doing this right. I mean lyrics from the title track like “Babez for breakfast/bitches for brunch/babez for breakfast/more sluts for lunch” are definitely funnier after a six pack of cheap swill.
Songs like the first single – appropriately titled “This is Heavy Metal” as well as “Call Off the Wedding” and “Granny’s Gone Crazy” absolutely make it impossible to take the album or the group seriously. And really, why would you? I’m not saying these guys don’t have the chops as they certainly can play and create a brand of energetic pop metal that a wide mass could love but this isn’t meant to be held up to the highest standards.
You’d probably be better off with the Arockalypse (’06) instead as that’s a better overall album, but if you can deal with Mr. Lordi’s heavy Finnish accent, the terrible harmony vocals and an overall cheese factor that is matched by very few bands, then this could be fun for you. And in reality, if you’re listening to a new Lordi record you already know all this stuff and probably don’t need to hear it from me anyway.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/D1rCvXa8p3A" width="600" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Volbeat, Beyond Heaven/Above Hell (Vertigo/Universal)
Volbeat is a pretty awesome combo of hard rock, heavy metal, punk and rockabilly and they’ve always been able to maintain an overall heavy sound to their music while also showing their influences in the form of Social Distortion, Elvis and Johnny Cash.
The fun thing about a Volbeat album is that song to song you never know what you are going to get. While “Who They Are” has a little thrash influence in it, “Fallen” has riffs that remind me of vintage Collective Soul and “Heaven Nor Hell” has a recent Green Day feel and might be the catchiest pop punk song you’ve heard in a while.
“A Warrior’s Call” has a chant along chorus of “Fight, Fight, Fight” but “Evelyn” is probably the most intriguing track on the record as it’s the fastest and most brutal and features the vocal styling of Barney Greenway (Napalm Death). In the midst of all these catchy rock songs and even within this track itself the growling of Greenway should seem out of place, but is actually quite fitting somehow.
Beyond Heaven/Above Hell is probably the lightest of their four albums but still consistently solid.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/7Zp_TeRaf9w" width="600" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Terror, Keepers of the Faith (Century Media)
Fuck me. Just like I’m starting to listen to a lot more black metal after hating it for so many years, I’m realizing that I should be listening to some more hardcore punk as well. I said it back when I was listening to the excellent new Pro-Pain album, that I just thought all hardcore was simply mindless beat-the-shit-out-of-each-other music. And again, I’m way wrong as I’m starting to realize that it’s more about bringing people together and rallying around the music.
Keepers of the Faith is an excellent record, with track after track of fist pumping anthems and a ton of melody. Almost every track is brutal but has a chorus that 500 kids could totally scream along to and pump their fists in the air. I still want to beat the shit out of everything when listening to this but all in the name of a good time now. Yeah.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/OM4cHR8Mzzs" width="600" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Death Angel, Relentless Retribution (Nuclear Blast)
I don’t know what it is this year with me and the albums I greatly anticipate hearing. I was really looking forward to Exodus’ Exhibit B earlier in the year and couldn’t stand it and I was really looking forward to Relentless Retribution and just fucking hate it.
I really enjoyed Killing Season (2008) which updated their sound to be almost exactly like Exodus, Testament, Destruction and all the oldies but goodies that changed for the thrash resurgence. I don’t know if it’s the fact that this album is just so similar to the previous one that I think one is enough or the fact that it sounds uninspired that annoys me.
The opening cut (“Relentless Revolution”) is a real heavy thrasher and starts off the album nicely, but the album then takes a downturn almost immediate with the last three minutes of the second cut being acoustic noodling courtesy of Rodrigo y Gabriela. There’s a place for that, but it’s not here.
The rest of the album is exactly what you’d expect, loud and thrashy but offers little in the way of versatility and by track seven I wore down with the repetitiveness. I could go on, but there’s no point. The chorus of “Relentless Revolution” says “Join us or step aside” so a-steppin’ I will go.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/fH6D_AsHSpQ" width="600" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]