If any band was set up to escape the post-Nu Metal fall-out, it was Linkin Park, so it’s no surprise to see them still making relevant music 12 years after their debut, and Living Things works well as a consolidation of everything they have done so far in their career.
Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington and Co were always the most versatile of the bands to emerge in the wake of KoRn, Limp Bizkit et al, blending metal with electronic music and hip-hop into a very radio-friendly mix. Their chart-bothering days may be behind them now, but this third album with legendary producer Rick Rubin shows that they aren’t fading away yet.
Over last two albums Minutes To Midnight and A Thousand Suns, they grew progressively experimental and further and further away from the days of In The End and Papercut. The challenge of this is to both convince new people to listen to your music without being prejudiced by what you’ve done before, and to keep your old fans on-board, and Living Things works well as a compromise that should allow Linkin Park to do both of those things.
It remains more experimental and ethereal than their early work, but has plenty of crunching guitars, howling vocals from Bennington and smart raps from Shinoda, and starts with the very engaging pairing of Lost In The Echo and In My Remains, two of the best songs they’ve ever released and both accessible for old or new fans, or anyone who wants their world to seem a bit like a Transformers film. The same goes for excellent first single Burn It Down, which couldn’t sound like anyone other than Linkin Park, but after that, they push the envelope a bit more.
Lies Greed Misery is a lot more heavy than those two, with Bennington going into full-on scream mode, while Victimized is a short sharp burst of electro-punk-metal, and Castle Of Glass sees them turn into Depeche Mode and do it very well too. They also show off their ballad-y side with both Roads Less Travelled and closer Powerless (which you can hear if you’re able to get to the end of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, apparently) both suitably epic and anthemic, while Until It Breaks is out-and-out hip-hop, something Rubin obviously has some pedigree with.
There’s a danger that an album with as many stylistic leaps as this could sound disjointed, but co-producers Rubin and Shinoda do manage to make it all hang together and all sound like Linkin Park, both the modern day version and the MTV favourites of a decade ago. It might not be an album that gets them back to those days of prominence, and it might not convince the sceptics, but it will certainly help cement them as a band who aren’t just relics of a mostly-regrettable era of rock music.