Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Worst To Best - All Linkin Park Albums Ranked

Those of you who knew me in lower secondary will know that I loved Linkin Park to death. Linkin Park was my first major favourite band; it was the most refreshing thing to listen to on the radio then, especially with the heavy airplay of "In The End" on the local radios. I followed down the nu-metal path, listening to Korn, Slipknot and eventually my first real metal band, Slayer. Linkin Park is in shambles today and I thought it would be fun to arrange the albums according to my own preferences. Here you go:

7. Minutes To Midnight (2007, DR6 on CD/mp3, DR9 on vinyl)

The worst LP album, Minutes completely abandons the band's signature sound from it's first three albums for a completely uninspired, derivative work with songs going all over the place in terms of style- which isn't the issue. The problem is that the songs were so poorly written and executed; "Given Up" has nothing other than a 17 second long scream which isn't even properly sustained, "Leave Out All The Rest" is one of the few hints of the band's later direction and features Chester Bennington at his most nasal (especially with the extra autotune). Mike Shinoda is barely present and when he does rap, it sounds ridiculously stale on "Bleed It Out" and "Hands Held High" (what were they even thinking when they recorded that song). "Shadow Of The Day" sounds like a U2 B-side, and that's not even a good thing. "No More Sorrow" is a joke of a song, revealing how out of touch the band was with the heavy metal community. In their older songs, the duality of Bennington's child-like vocals and his harsh screams were a huge factor in the band's success. Here, the band thinks he can handle manly, baritone choruses on top of a psuedo-metal anthem. "In Between" is another completely uncharacteristic song, with such little crescendo in the chorus that the song barely peaks and sounds like a lullaby all the way. On top of that, it's sung by Shinoda, who sounds like he hasn't slept in years. "In Pieces" is somehow even worse than its predecessor, with Bennington thinking emotions are more intensified over a simplistic, pop tune.

With so much wrong with the album, it might be easy to overlook a couple of gems. "What I've Done" stands out as one of the band's best works, I might be alone in this, but "Valentine's Day" is actually quite effective in its execution, with a quiet, intimate first half that ultimately comes out to a generic rock ballad sound at the end, but it's not a bad song. "The Little Things Gives You Away" has a decent first half, before some generic and weak guitar solo. "No Roads Left" is a good song that actually uses Shinoda's sleepy vocals well. I have no idea why it's a bonus song.

Rick Rubin is on production on this album and his characteristic overcompression is prevalent in the songs. If you can find an uncompressed version floating around somewhere it would be slightly better for your ears, though you honestly aren't missing out on a lot of details in the sound if you stick to a CD or mp3 rip.

A massive disappointment following the release of  the stand-alone single, "QWERTY", which was actually one of their best songs.

6. The Hunting Party (2014, DR5 on CD/mp3, DR14 on BrickwallHater Remaster)

The latest Linkin Park album is a complete slap in the face to older fans, who were promised a return to roots by Linkin Park, only to be presented with a poorly written, garage rock album with hideous production, tired riffs and even more whiny vocals. The band has toured with so many rock bands that they probably assume they are part of the hard rock scene, and they completely miss the point. This album is devoid of any keyboards or electronic sounds, sounds that made they first two albums edgy and refreshing from the rest of the crowd.

After overcompensating on the electronic front in the albums prior to this, it probably seems symmetrical for Linkin Park to do the same with their "rock" sound. On top of that, guests on the album sound completely out of place. Tom Morello's contribution on "Drawbar" is the biggest waste of 3 minutes in the band's entire discography. I am not even kidding.

I put this album before Minutes only because drummer Rob Bourdon seems to be putting a little effort this time, and songs like "Keys To The Kingdom" and "War" aren't bad, but otherwise I am quite indifferent to the bottom three albums on this list.

5. Living Things (2012, DR5 on CD/mp3, DR8 on vinyl)

The band's sixth album is marginally better than Minutes and The Hunting Party, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good album. This album has only gotten worse with age, as the band seems comfortable with their new semi-pop genre tag. "Burn It Down", "I'll Be Gone", "Skin To Bone" and "Until It Breaks" feature so much electronica and autotune that they actually sound the same at many points. That last song features such a strange progression that it could be mistaken for two seperate songs.

However, not all is lost. While still being poppy and full of synthetic sounds, "Lost In The Echo" and "In My Remains" are pretty decent songs because they really follow the Hybrid Theory formula, with angry rapped verses and catchy hooks in the chorus. Furthermore, the nice, piercing screams are back in "Lies Greed Misery" (a song that caught me off guard, in a good way) and "Victimized", possibly the heaviest song the band has ever done. There's even a slight country influence in "Castle Of Glass" and "Roads Untraveled". The latter isn't a good song but "Castle Of Glass" actually shows some growth in the band's musical direction, albeit a limited one.

The final song, "Powerless" features all the trademarks of a good Linkin Park song- wailing vocals, acapella in a well-built crescendo. It's not even their best effort, but it did make me think Linkin Park was off in the right direction, until they put out the piece of shit The Hunting Party.

4. Meteora (2003, DR6 on CD/mp3, DR8 on vinyl)

Meteora is a carbon copy of Hybrid Theory- well, almost. Repeating everything that make them successful isn't necessarily a bad thing, as fans would learn the hard way when they completely change their style, but the songs on Meteora sound fresh even today. On top of the basic rap-scream formula, Meteora showcases a degree of confidence by a band that shot to fame overnight, a confidence that allowed them to put out a song as retarded as "Nobody's Listening" without anyone losing their minds.

Still, every other song here is worth checking out, and have incredible staying power. Beyond the usual nu-metal fare, the band even dabbles in dance music with "Breaking The Habit", which is one of the best songs that group has ever done. "From The Inside", "Somewhere I Belong" and "Numb" have moments of tenderness and vulnerability, a very important part of the band that they seem to have forgotten as they earn their millions today. The band also seems to understand that they aren't metal, but flirt with the genre quite nicely on "Don't Stay", "Hit The Floor" and "Faint", which are upbeat but not overbearingly loud. "Figure .09" and "Lying From You" otherwise continue the traditions from the band's debut album, while "Session" is probably the only thing worthwhile written by the band's DJ, Mr Hahn.

It's a great album, with outstanding vocals, great guitar tone that really mask the incompetence of the musicians and anthemic choruses that sound just as good today as they did 12 years ago. It's the fourth best album because it doesn;t really change anything from the band's signature sound.

3. Reanimation (2002, DR7 on CD/mp3, DR11 on vinyl)

Haha, why the hell is a remix album counted as a normal album? It's one of their longest albums so I'm sure that counts. But more importantly, Reanimation is one of the few remix albums that actually really build on the original.

Sure, there are countless duds like "P5hng Me A*wy", "Plc.4 Mie Hæd" and "Wth>You" which sound almost exactly the same as the originals plus more reverb, but every other song reinterprets Hybrid Theory in really interesting ways.

"Pts. OF. Athrty" and "Enth E ND" are very rap-heavy or electronic versions of the originals, and they don't sound bad. Songs like "Frgt/10", "Ppr:Kut", "Rnw@y" and especially "My<Dsmbr" have a great degree of intimacy and, I daresay, sound a lot darker than their originals. "1Stp Klosr" and "Krwlng" sound very different from their originals, and use a lot of atmosphere to give the album a really, grand, epic ending.

2. Hybrid Theory (2000, DR5 on CD/mp3, DR10 on vinyl)

You don't need to read anything about this album. If you haven't heard this album, please educate yourself. You are probably just wondering why this album is number 2. So just scroll down.

Seriously though, if you haven't heard a single song off this album, where have you been? Every song is a classic. It's the  highest selling album of the 21st century. Seriously, why haven't you heard it?

1. A Thousand Suns (2010, DR7 on CD/mp3, DR10 on vinyl)

Now, this album isn't here simply for the sake of generating controversy, though I might already be too late to prevent that. This album is honestly the best Linkin Park album, and often overlooked because it came right after Minutes To Midnight. The band made the mistake of releasing a shortened version of "The Catalyst" as the first single, so people immediately dismissed the album. It's a pity because not only is the song good, it's also a lot better when heard in context of the album.

This album has a really good flow, and listening to the songs in chronology actually makes a lot of the songs sound better than when heard alone. It's a concept album with a post-apocalyptic setting, the only time the band has ever strayed away from their typical angsty teenager themes. There's maturity not just in the sound, but also in the lyrics. The band reinvents its own rap-rock style, not once, but thrice in "When They Come For Me", "Waiting For The End" and "Wretches & Kings", with tribal drums, reggae and gangsta rap respectively. This is the only time you will ever hear variety from Shinoda. "Burning In The Skies" actually manages to sound upbeat despite its solemn lyrics. There's fantastic screaming on "Blackout", which ends off in an unusually melodic part with great synthetic effects and harmonizing vocals from both Shinoda and Bennington. "Iridescent" could have been a Coldplay song, but I will forgive the band for playing melodramatic pop this once. "Robot Boy" is a criminally underrated song that displays Bennington at his smoothest, and album closer "The Messenger" comes as a complete shock with its simplicity, and is another highlight of Bennington's vocals. Yet, it is the single, "The Catalyst", that remains the best track of the album. With a brief intro in "Fallout", the extended version on the album shows Linkin Park in a rare angle- commanding, confident and visceral. There's a sense of urgency in the verses, and the song collapses in the second half, a great progression from the first half that feels natural and logical. It's the climax of a great, varied album.

The entire album drips with a bittersweet atmosphere (really great production by Shinoda), something that seems to have flown over the heads of both fans and critics. Most people saw a band that betrayed their older fans, but I saw a group of young men finally making mature, creative music. It's honestly a real shame that the band took the backlash to this album to heart and never came back to this style, going for a safer, radio-friendly approach these days.

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