Being a fan of Linkin Park since they burst onto the scene in 2000 with the impressive "Hybrid Theory", and then refining their art (and I believe, improving it) with "Meteora" in 2003, I purchased Minutes To Midnight with high hopes for more of the same.
More of the same is not what you get. What you get is an album that has to be likened to Green Day's "American Idiot", and My Chemical Romance's "Black Parade". It is possibly not quite the Rock Opera that those two albums are, but it is the defining work of Linkin Park's career so far, just as those two albums have proved to be for their respective artists.
"Hybrid Theory" was born out of the Nu-Metal movement of the late 1990's and early 2000's, and was one of the very finest examples of the genre - It was heavily mixed and produced (some would say overly so), had memorable tracks and was filled with the youthful anger that the movement was associated with. "Meteora" moved away from this sound slightly, encompassing more challenging areas of music whilst still keeping the Nu-Metal psyche at heart with plenty of tracks displaying anger and angst in large measures. "Meteora" displayed a higher level of sophistication in terms of production and variation of musical sound, making it a creditable work, and not falling into the trap of many other contemporaries who attempted to continue with exactly the same sound of the short lived Nu-Metal movement.
"Minutes To Midnight" does still hold true to the bands Nu-Metal roots, but displays a desire to experiment with new sounds and genres. The biggest of these is probably the lower emphasis on the rock/rap style, and the higher prominence of melodic vocals on some of the albums marquee tracks. Vocalist Chester Bennington exhibits, in places, superb vocal skills and has to now be considered as a genuine lead singer as opposed to an angry, shouting, grimmacing "front man" for a Rap/Rock group. The album ebbs and flows very well, and there a very few weak tracks
1 - Wake: a short prelude to the main album, and builds up to track two
2 - Given Up: Listening solely to this, you could be forgiven for thinking this album was made in 2000, and you were watching the track on Kerrang four times an hour. Classic Nu-Metal; a real throw-back to the beginnings of Linkin Park's commercial career. Heavy, angry and well paced
3 - Leave Out All The Rest: Melodic and whistful. Possibly slower paced and more toned down than you would expect from the band, but still a memorable track
4 - Bleed It Out: One of the finest songs on the album. A great beat, excellent guitar riff in the background and superb rapping mixed with a foot-stamping chorus make for a searing mix that works perfectly. Listening back to the track, there a less musical elements involved than most Linkin Park songs, but it comes together superbly. Very high on the list of the best Linkin Park songs
5 - Shadow Of The Day: Probably the best track to exhibit Chester's vocals. With a sound very reminiscent of U2 in places, this ballad-type song lends itself very well to Chester's singing style
6 - What I've Done: One of the best, if not THE best, songs Linkin Park have ever made. A soaring song that reminds me much of "In The End", it typifies everything that this band is now about. Truly stunning
7 - Hands Held High: Like "What I've Done", a song that shows Linkin Park's increasing leanings to politically critical music (much like U2 or Green Day). This track is a slow rap that has a sad, anti-war theme about it. Lyrically very strong
8 - No More Sorrow: More classic Linkin Park. A solid beat with a loud anthemic chorus, and a tune in which the drumming and heavy guitar come to the fore once again. Old School
9 - Valentine's Day: Whilst not the most musically challenging song on the album, or indeed the best lyrically, one of my favourites nonetheless. The song builds slowly to the explosion-like ending. Gets me singing every time, a very strong piece of work
10 - In Between: Mike Shinoda takes vocals for this track, that is probably the weakest on the album. Reminds of "Little James" by Oasis (the first song Liam Gallacher wrote, off "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants"); not a horrendous track by any means, but the movement away from the "norm" hampers this track. Never seems to go anywhere, and doesn't fit the flow of the alcum all that well
11 - In Pieces: A very well produced piece of music. Would not be out of place on Meteora; slower lyrics over a faster paced backing track. Another good vocal performance form Chester
12 - The Little Things Give You Away: Vocally and musically strong. A good way to end the album with an acoustic, melodic sound, sweeping into an elctric ending. Not too dis-similar to the works of Snow Patrol, Embrace or Athlete, whilst still being typically Linkin Park
This album works on every level. "Hybrid Theory" is a very raw piece of music that appeals to people who were teenagers in the late 1990's and early 2000's, and will empathise with the sentiments expressed. "Meteora" kept true to the band's heart but was more refined and musically better, pushing Likin Park into the bracket of what some would call a more creditable act. "Minutes To Midnight" though, excels in every area. It appeals to fans old and new, and can captivate casul listeners. A true work of brilliance from Linkin Park, that has to propel them towards the upper echelons of modern recording artists. One of the best albums of the 21st Century.