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Music In Review: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns
Sunday, 17 October 2010 06:56

Linkin Park’s latest album, A Thousand Suns, has polarized fans and critics into love love-it versus hate-it groups. But regardless of which category you’ve boxed yourself into, it’s certain that their new sound is unlike anything Linkin Park has ever done or was expected to do.

At the very least, it appears to be a lurid experiment of auto-tuned, synth-poppy tribal madness that sounds more like Afro Celt Sound System or Enigma superimposed over hints of Linkin Park. But, like an appreciation for modern art, what seems more important though less obvious, is the statement behind this seemingly bewildering, unprecedented piece of work. Linkin Park’s more familiar, invective-filled melodies have been refined into vessels of social criticism and protest literature.

In an MTV interview producer and singer Mike Shinoda described A Thousand Suns as expressing “Human fears, [a] fear of what’s going to happen in the world” in reference to war (especially nuclear warfare) and a “rage against the machine” fear of being usurped by technology.

The album’s poetic title actually comes from a line of scripture from Hindu Holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one," but specifically makes reference to the more famous context physicist (and father of the atomic bomb) J.Robert Oppenheimer used it in to describe the first ever detonation of nuclear weapons. This speech clip and two others by Martin Luther King and Mario Savio come out later in the album, further enhancing the political and humanistic mainstays of the compilation.

The album opens with “The Requiem”, an electro-trance pulsating tenderly beneath the voice of an angel that laments, “God save us everyone, will we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns?” and quickly segues into “The Radiance”, which eerily infuses a segment of Oppenheimer’s bygone broadcast. “Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” he announces, the veritable Shiva of the modern age.

An essence of the more familiar Linkin Park begins to surface in third track “Burning In The Skies”, though don’t expect the pit-initiating, spewing virulence of Chester Bennington just yet.  His voice, still impassioned, soars in a poignant and elegiac manner over a cool, club-like beat, but with lyrics that conjure the images of a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, such as “I used the deadwood to make the fire rise/the blood of innocence burning in the skies/I filled my cup with the rising of the sea/I poured it out in an ocean in debris” and the chorus“ I’m swimming in the smoke/ of bridges I have burned”.

Track “Empty Spaces” is titled quite succinctly, being an 18-second trip into a war-infested wasteland and flows into one of the highlights of the album “When They Come For Me”, featuring emphatic percussions and Shinoda’s prized rapping style spliced with a Middle Eastern-inspired backdrop.

With stirring piano notes and transcendent undertones , “Robot Boy” slows the roll again and reads like a celestial message in the bleakness of catastrophe. “Just hold on/the weight of your world/will give you the strength to go on” Bennington’s now wraith-like voice sings before percolating into the 7th track, “Jornada Del Muerto”, a continuation of ethereal, distant voices interwoven with the album’s signature trance-inducing strain.

A sharp u-turn is made back into the hip-hop/rock persuasion with “Waiting For The End” and especially “Blackout”, where renowned shrill , earsplitting Linkin Park sound is unleashed with a vengeance. Activist Mario Savio’s blazing “Bodies Upon the Gears” speech kicks off the 10th track, “Wretches and Kings”,  and is interspersed throughout what could easily be the record favorite, especially with the theme of riot and uprising prevalent in the song, all embellished with the cacophony of pealing guitars, furiously scratching records and the most enraged chorus yet: “Steel unload/final blow/We the animals take control/Hear us now/clear and true/Wretches and kings we come for you”.

The forlorn piano motif returns and this time, enhances the solemn venerability of a Martin Luther King’s speech concerning the Vietnam war in filler track “Wisdom, Justice and Love”. The speech morphs into drone-like robot voice with an emphasis on the line that the horrors of war “cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love”, effectively burning this troubling, but often forgotten precaution this into our memories.  

Like the ending of a bittersweet journey where hope hangs by a thread, the last section of the album invokes a sense of redemption, though on “the wake of destruction” or “the edge of unknown” or with “cataclysm raining down” as quoted from song “Iridescent”.  Regardless, the message is “Let it go…remember all the sadness and frustration/Let it go.”

Track “The Catalyst” is an aggressive, fast-paced summary of the entire record, both thematically and melodically, combining elements of all the other tracks in an explosive finale before presenting what Chester Bennington says is “ a letter from me to my children” in last song “The Messenger”.  Literally the most raw and passionate track of A Thousand Suns, with the simple, yet profound chorus of  “When life leaves us blind/Love keeps us kind”, Bennington’s message conveying to his sons how much they are loved ends this sweeping, emotional saga in this masterpiece of a  musical compilation.



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