We're getting closer and closer to Linkin Park's next album One More Light. They just shared 'Invisible,' what is likely the last taste of new music we'll hear before the record is released, and continue the trend of emotionally powerful tracks for the record. Their messages always had a lasting remark, whether or not they be personal or global.
Ten years ago, Linkin Park made a huge comeback, and with such a purpose. After taking a hiatus after 2004 to focus on other projects following their Meteora (which we reviewed last week) era, the band returned with a fresh sound and a damning message: the world is unstable. They took a risk on multiple levels, but it all paid off with huge colors. We are nearing the ten-year anniversary of the record, and many of its themes are still finding relevancy today. Linkin Park's urgent message in Minutes To Midnight is still relevant today.
The title Minutes To Midnight is derived from the idea of putting all of time on a clock. Human life falls right on the end of the clock, and it is theorized that once the hour hand hits the 12, time will end. In the brief moments we've been on that clock, we have done a lot: manipulated science, created infrastructure, discovered the secrets of life. At the same, we've destroyed so, so much. Vast forests are slowly depleting. We are on course for an energy crisis as our fossil fuels run out. We destroy each other in attempts to better our own outlooks. In the few seconds we've been on this clock, we have done more damage than time has on its own for the eons past.
Lead single 'What I've Done' is the track that damns humanity for the destruction it has caused. First and foremost, however, it was the song that redefined Linkin Park. It is evident from the very first piano notes that opens the track that this band aren't the same nu-metal superstars that ride off of Hybrid Theory. They embrace evolution wholeheartedly, approaching the mid-2000's emo/alternative revolution with confidence and completely defining it on their own terms. The song itself is about looking back at the bad things one has done in the past, and on grander terms, the destruction we have caused (which the music video more closely follows, with themes of nuclear warfare - a foreshadowing of A Thousand Suns - and biome destruction being prevalent throughout it). Chester Bennington shouts "What I’ve done / I’ll face myself / To cross out what I’ve become / Erase myself," promising that he will erase the past and look for answers in the future. The song has a great sense of self-destruction at the beginning before becoming optimistic at the end, as if to say that even when the answers aren't clear, we can find them.
Self-destruction plays a key role on this record, as well. As grand as its scope is, there are moments of intimacy. There are two sides to the intimate sections: the first one that appears is the angered side. 'Given Up,' the first full track on the record, opens it up on an aggressive note, the distorted guitar and bass leading the album to a roaring start. Bennington roars on this track, his vocals full of flaming rage and self-disgust, begging in his eighteen-second scream in the bridge for someone to "Put me out of my fucking misery." The same rage can be found, to a lesser extent, in 'Bleed It Out,' the album's "party" song. The song has a big upbeat vibe to it with an aggressive rock overtone, making it a staple song to rock out to, but it's full of anger. Mike Shinoda warns in the second verse, "Mama, help me, I've been cursed / Death is rolling in every verse... Fuck, this hurts, I won't lie / Doesn't matter how hard I try," searing for help when all seems to becoming to a blinding end. Bennington screams powerfully in the bridge, being the voice of self-destruction in Shinoda's head, shouting "I bleed it out, I've opened up these scars / I'll make you face this / I've pulled myself so far / I'll make you face this now" as both a threat and encouragement to get back up.
The softer side of the self-destruction comes in more apologetic terms. Perhaps it is most starkly heard in the slow track 'In Between,' the first track in Linkin Park's discography to feature Mike Shinoda on lead vocals. The string chords are backed by a light beat, as Shinoda begs for forgiveness for becoming something he was not. Bennington follows the theme of a failing relationship in 'In Pieces,' his being more hateful rather than seeking apology, though. He mocks his ex-wife, stating "There's truth in your lies / Doubt in your faith / All I've got's what you didn't take." The song has an electrifying guitar solo in it that leads it to an emotional finale, full of the disgust but pain the relationship caused Bennington. 'Valentine's Day' is similar, Bennington seeking self-reliance in the wake of a broken relationship. The song cries "I used to be my own protection, but not now / Cause my path has lost direction, somehow," Bennington singing about how his life has gone off-course after this relationship ended. In the grand finale, he croons "On a Valentine's Day / I used to be my own protection, but not now," looking back at how his life used to be at its most intimate moments before finally admitting that he is not enough for himself.
Perhaps the most familiar sound of forgiveness on the album is in the ballad 'Leave Out All The Rest.' The emotional single is the second full track on the record, the spacious synth and beautiful orchestra being backed by a hip-hop beat as Bennington croons over the track. 'Leave Out All The Rest' begs for both help and forgiveness, Bennington asking in the chorus, "Don't resent me and, when you're feeling empty / Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest." He wants the bad memories that previously defined him to be vanquished, and for the person he's talking to to look at what he truly is, so that when he's gone, he can live on in their heart rather than be a fading memory. 'Shadow Of The Day' shares a similar sense of impending death, the song's message discussing how it can be hard to let go of someone once their gone, somberly chanting "And the shadow of the day / Will embrace the world in grey / And the sun will set for you" in its chorus.
On top of environmental ignorance and self-destruction, There is a political charge to Minutes To Midnight, and it is perhaps more relevant than ever. The most damning track is the enormous jam 'No More Sorrow,' a violent destruction of former President Bush. The massive guitar interjections follow the commanding drums as the e-bow guitar signal the alarm, the song kicking in full force when the powerchords rage with the drums. Bennington enters the track with the enraged question, "Are you lost In your lies?" The chorus breaks in, roaring "No, no more sorrow / I've paid for your mistakes / Your time is borrowed / Your time has come to be replaced," placing Bush under fire for displacing America and hurting its people. The bridge rages on with perhaps the most anger, Chester Bennington exploding, calling politicians "Thieves and hypocrites" before the song rages to an end. 'Hands Held High' takes a less enraged look at politics, instead focussing on the effects of war. The hip-hop influenced track moves forward with a marching drum beat and a reverent instrumental, Mike Shinoda rolling over the track, slamming politicians and rich men for using their power for warfare when there are real struggles happening elsewhere in the world.
The album's conclusion is where all of these themes are tied together. It almost comes full circle - the instrumental opening 'Wake' is like an introduction to the apocalypse, while closing track 'The Little Things Give You Away' is the aftermath. Written about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the slow song moves forward with one overarching question: "why did things come to this?" The eerie opening bleakly expands across the track before the acoustic guitar somberly enters. Bennington enters the first verse, recalling the destruction the hurricane caused, and the horror of its strength: "Water grey / Through the windows, up the stairs / Chilling rain / Like an ocean everywhere." Chester then targets the politicians and the rich who watch idly as they continue laughing, crying "Don't wanna reach for me, do you? / I mean nothing to you / The little things give you away." The song also tackles self-destruction, Bennington evidently losing hope as the hurricane barrels down on him, the victim, as the whole world looks on and does nothing.
'The Little Things Gives You Away' is the summation of Minutes To Midnight. It is a cry for help, for the powerful to reach out to the weak and give them hope. Such is not the case of the world, the song slowly building from a dejected, pessimist beginning to an incredibly emotional outcry. The song progressively builds as it goes, the bridge transitioning the song from a soft, broken victim to an angelic martyr: the culmination of all the souls being used. All of human history comes together as 'The Little Things Give You Away' winds to an end, the clock finally hitting midnight while humanity is wiped away in one final emotional burst.
Linkin Park's urgent message in Minutes To Midnight is still relevant today from every aspect. The songs all beg for change and seek to shed light on the state of humanity on both a grand scale and an intimate one. The subject matters of the record have since changed, but the messages still hold powerful truths in them now. The album turns ten on May 14, and it goes to show that society still has a long way to go. One More Light has a similar promise, though instead of tackling the world, it will make us question ourselves. With Linkin Park, there is no word that doesn't have meaning.
Favorite Tracks: The Little Things Give You Away, No More Sorrow, Leave Out All The Rest, What I've Done
Least Favorite Track: In Between
Rating: 97 / 100
Buy or listen to Minutes To Midnight on Apple Music or Amazon:
...and pre-order One More Light, due out May 19, here: