|That's an awesome cover, btw|
I was a huge LP fan in my younger days so I will try my best to be impartial. Being too defensive of this band is one thing, but on the flip side, we have too many people (possibly guilty of liking a band like this) giving the band far too much hate, and that isn't impartial either.
Opinions on a song-by-song basis:
- Keys To The Kingdom - The first song had me convinced I was listening to a fake copy of the album at first, kicks off with a heavily distorted scream. Thought at first that this was an attempt to mask the obvious decline in Chester's voice, but he goes off without effects when the chorus kicks in again. Rob Bourdon's drums and Dave Farrell's bass are surprisingly well produced for a commercial record. Overall, one of Linkin Park's best songs in their discography. Chester sounds absolutely vicious here.
- All For Nothing - Second song features Page Hamilton from Helmet on vocals. Not the greatest collaboration, seeing that his voice has a ton of autotune, but I guess the song would sound a lot worse with Mike Shinoda or Chester on the chorus. Mid-paced hard rock song, not too bad, not too interesting anyway.
- Guilty All The Same - this one features Rakim on rap verses. A strange song, with an unnecessarily long introduction without much variation that leads to a very uninspired main riff. Again, Rob Bourdon seems to be the only band member taking this direction seriously. Piano led verse seems weirdly juxtaposed against a guitar-driven chorus, and Rakim's part seems forced onto the song.
- The Summoning - A curious interlude that strangely channels the atmospheric vibes of their album A Thousand Suns.
- War - A surprisingly great punk song; fast, catchy and aggressive. Lots of screaming, and Chester actually sounds good here again. Nice drums all around. So far the second good song. I will admit that this song caught me off guard, and give me hope for a punk direction with Linkin Park.
- Wastelands - Great groove-oriented introduction, Mike's rapped verse sounds decent, before going off to one of the worst choruses on the album. What were they thinking when they did this song?
- Until It's Gone - That one pop song on the album that serves no purpose other than to be the lead single and get airplay on the radio. Really cheap, but it actually sounds not too bad this deep in the album. It's also quite clever that they released their softest song to mislead public expectations.
- Rebellion - I talked about this on my Facebook page, where the audio given by the band's youtube page sounded terribly mixed. This happens to be a Youtube issue, the production's not too bad here. Song starts off with Daron Malakian on guitars (hell, why is System Of A Down not back yet?!). He easily pulls up the collective musical talent of the group here. The verses are not too bad, but Chester's voice sounds terribly nasal on the chorus, which destroys what could have been one of the better songs on the album. His scream also sounds terribly recorded, it lacks the power that the earlier songs here had. My guess is that this was one of the first songs to bi mixed and then they forgot to come back and remix this. Again, this song sounds better when heard in context of the album.
- Mark The Graves - Another curious song, that has an interesting introduction, that builds momentum before completely disintegrating to an atmospheric ballad, and I actually thought it was a pretty fluid transition. There is however, one riff that is completely out of place here, you will know when you hear it. Song ends with another set of really well executed screams, and it becomes a good song for that alone. Count: three.
- Drawbar - An interlude that features Tom Morello. At least that's one the liner notes say but neither the interlude nor Morello exist. They could have done some Rage Against The Machine shit (again, another great guitarist from another disbanded alternative rock band). I believe this is my third time saying this, but Rob Bourdon sounds like the only one dedicated here. A chessy introduction for the next ballad.
- Final Masquerade - Actually not too bad a ballad, sounds better than Until It's Gone anyway. Chester sounds great here. So that's four good songs.
- A Line In The Sand: An absolute killer of an album closer, because it actually kills the album. Guitars and drums shamelessly rip off their older song 'Victimized' (WHY?!). Song has completely no flow fickle mindedly jumping the fence between rock and pop, and a terrible choice of an album closer. Chorus is basically the same as 'Guilty All The Same' (WHY?!). Mike Shinoda is completely out of place, lyrically and musically.
From an album perspective, there are some serious flaws with the album. The first being Brad Delson having completely zero skill or interest in being a guitarist. It's "guitar-driven" but the pilot is meandering without confidence. The second is an uneven mix, which may be a lot more forgiveable since this is the band's first indie production. The third problem is Chester's vocals, which sometimes sounds like it was recorded after a live gig (they might have recorded on the road). As mentioned earlier, he sounded great in some songs, so am not completely sure if it's production or tiredness. My final point may be very biased, but the band does not seem to understand that it's rise to success was due to their great balance of rock and electronics. The latter is sorely lacking here, and this the dullest album ever released by the band. The only breaks in monotony here are the segues between each song, a technique that might have been inspired by Eminem's earlier recordings, and they sorta give a weird sense of urgency between the songs (hence why certain songs sounded better here than they did as stand alone singles). It's a bold but shabby album, but one that shows that the band is far from dead. Just that they haven't quite hit the nail on the last four albums. A by-product of experimentation? We will see.