Humanity has the unquenchable desire to better itself by any means necessary. In the search for our own progression, we destroy those who hinder us, whether that means burning bridges or taking lives. The conquest for supremacy has led to the destruction of our own people, birthing war and violence as a result of it all.
Such is the discussion in Linkin Park's fourth and most prolific record A Thousand Suns, which foretells the end of humanity by means or atomic warfare. The album is a concept album that tackles the destruction of man and the methods behind, targeting the human psyche above all else.
Much like the record that proceeds it, 2007's Minutes To Midnight, A Thousand Suns has an apocalyptic, end-all-be-all sense to it. The record is brought in by the eerie sounds of eradication, the robotic voice that cries in 'The Requiem' above the desolated instrumental spelling out the doom of humanity before the causation has even begun. It is followed by the interlude 'The Radiance,' which provides some foreshadowing from the past: the famous "I Am Become Death" speech delivered by Robert J. Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.
With the end result and the warning now established, A Thousand Suns begins its narrative. It begins at the bottom of the hierarchy of destruction: at the self. 'Burning In The Skies,' the album's first full track, introduces the narrative with its alternative sound. The track is one of the most approachable songs on the record, its sweet build from fingerpicked guitar chords to a huge guitar solo that ushers in an emotional climax making it a strong song structurally. In the choruses, Chester Bennington condemns the choices humanity has made in the wake of destruction. The song can come from two perspectives: the start of it all, where a man is given purpose to create destruction, or from following the destruction, where humanity is struggling to cope with the devastation. The song is introduced and concluded by Mike Shinoda calmly singing "I used the deadwood to make the fire rise / The blood of innocence burning in the skies," comparing the very roots of humanity's existence to the damage done by it in the end.
The ambiance of 'Empty Spaces' leads to the sound of warfare, the tribal and hip-hop influenced 'When They Come For Me' following. This track provides the mentality behind the destruction as well as the sound of chaos. The pounding drums accompany Shinoda's vicious bars, the dirty synths accenting the battle taking place. Bennington's eastern chorus chants add to the cries of war the song preaches, and the explosive nature of the end of the song gives it a big climax. 'Blackout' is almost like a response to this, it's chaotic composition being similar to that of 'When They come For Me.' Instead of Shinoda manning the verses, Bennington takes his crack at rapping with scat-style delivery. His lyrics attack the proprietors of war, telling them to check themselves and to watch their monstrous intentions.
The theme of corrupt leaders is alluded to time and time again. 'Wretches and Kings' tackles the social aspect of it all, Shinoda inciting rebellion of the lower class against the powerful, with lines like "So keep pace / how slow can you go / Talk a lot of shit and yet you don't know / Fire on the way / make you all say whoa / The people up top and the people down low." The effects of the oppression 'Wretches and Kings' attacks are outlined in 'Robot Boy,' the experimental track coming from the perspective of someone who has lost all emotion as a result of living in such cruel conditions.
Emotion is a key role of A Thousand Suns. It what makes the album so urgent; the fact that the real emotions are there (or aren't) paint an alarming image of what could become of us. The reggae influenced 'Waiting For The End' is a key track on the record, drawing the gap between human emotion and warfare. It is largely about falling out of a relationship, Bennington singing about wishing he still had what he once did. He becomes tired of living in such a way, powerfully chanting in the chorus, "All I want to do is trade this life for something new / Holding on to what I haven't got." Shinoda brings it together in the bridge, where his verse discusses bringing things back together when everything has fallen apart; both in the sense of a relationship and in the sense of society. 'Wisdom, Justice, and Love' precedes 'Iridescent,' addressing the ethical violations of some humans before going into the rock ballad. 'Iridescent' is about being under tyranny, blinded by lies and then rising up against those powers, uniting everyone in its glorious bridge and ending. Things go out in a blinding light with this track.
Everything comes together in one epic final look at humanity in 'The Catalyst.' The song 'Fallout' precedes it, the words of 'Burning In The Skies' turned robotic as if to say that all emotion and regret is gone. 'The Catalyst' is brought in by ominous organs that come in with Shinoda chanting "God bless us everyone / We're a broken people living under loaded gun / And it can't be outfought / It can't be outdone / It can't be outmatched / It can't be outrun," the people under tyranny saying all too knowingly that they are powerless. The song progresses with the urgent beat and powerful chanting between both Bennington and Shinoda, the track's alarming nature continuing to build with the addition of guitar and more. The epic synth breakdown accents the release of an oppressed people's robotic nature, emotion spontaneously returning to everyone. The track falls out into a softer, more anthemic part, the band singing "Lift me up, let me go" above dramatic piano chords and pounding drums. The guitars come in as Bennington begins to roar on the track, the gang vocals representing the voices of all the people whose lives were lost in the nuclear holocaust. Their souls are released from the world as they exist in a glorious fashion, in a similar emotional fashion as 'Jornada del Muerto,' the epic interlude named after the desert where the first atomic bomb was tested. Shinoda sings in Japanese on the track, the words translating to the same ones used in the final verse of 'The Catalyst,' referencing the lives lost in the nuclear attacks on Japan in World War II.
Linkin Park never goes without a statement, and they made a truly powerful one on A Thousand Suns. The end of humanity is foretold in the record as it discusses nuclear warfare and tyranny all at once. What the band always does best, however, is draw from emotions to craft each track. The same is true of their latest effort One More Light, but instead of focussing on warfare, it focusses on the battles we face in every day life. Regardless of topic, Linkin Park will always bring something memorable to the table, and with A Thousand Suns, the opened everyone's eyes.
Favorite Tracks: Waiting For The End, The Catalyst, When They Come For Me, The Requiem
Least Favorite Tracks: Empty Spaces, The Radiance
Rating: 99 / 100
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