I am a massive fan of Linkin Park, and have been from the very beginning. Even after reading all of controversy surrounding the album's leak and the "new sound", I decided to go into this album with little to no expectations as both Hybrid Theory and Meteora are monumentous records and hold a very special place in my heart.
After the first couple of spins, I'm actually quite impressed, however I can see where many of the fans and critics are coming from in regards to the band's sound change. This is definitely a very different Linkin Park compared to the one who made Hybrid Theory and Meteora.
After looking back at both Hybrid Theory and Meteora, one could probably package both of those albums together and release it as the one album. They sound like a direct continuation of one another. In comparison to this, I've decided to call Minutes To Midnight a 'transition album' in that this record feels more like a 'step' in a new direction, a filler album, rather than an actual product or outcome. This album is the bridge between Hybrid Theory/Meteora and what will hopefully be their fourth album.
The album itself is very raw, containing only the bare essentials required, yet the polished sounds that provided atmosphere on the first two records has somehow been translated into their new sound as background ambience, synths that are surreal and minimalistic in their nature. Even the album cover represents their new venture into minimalism with its lack of colour and simplistic layout.
Minutes To Midnight has an almost unfinished quality about it, and it is with this that I think the album finds its strongest point. Tracks like In Between, In Pieces and Shadow of the Day (which sounds hauntingly similar U2's With Or Without You) are simplistic and catchy, but remain emotive and consistent through their general rawness. There are several throwback tracks such as Given Up and the album's first single, What I've Done that could easily have come straight off either of the first two records. Even Leave Out All the Rest sounds oddly reminiscent like the band's previous rock ballads such as Numb and Easier To Run. These mark a familiar base to touch home with as the album untangles itself into forbidden and unknown Linkin Park territory. Bleed It Out is an upbeat song that sounds more like a Fort Minor effort but is probably the closest we'll ever get to a hoedown, Linkin Park style. Standout track No More Sorrow marks probably the heaviest and edgiest song on the album and definitely represents the climax of Minutes To Midnight.
Every album has one or two tracks that sound out of place or are inconsistent with the quality of the rest of the album and we reach that with Hands Held High, the only track on the album I'm personally not too fond of (but its not a terrible song by no means, it's just not right for the album). Valentine's Day is probably the only other track that seems slightly out of place with it's slightly cheesy lyrics but it's only when the words "On a Valentine's Day" is repeated over and over that you finally reach this conclusion.
The album closes with Linkin Park's longest track on a studio album to date with The Little Things Give You Away. Along with No More Sorrow, this track is probably the other standout song on the album, and is indicative of the new direction that the band is taking. Ending on this track, I almost feel like that the fourth studio album (if we get one) will use this song as a benchmark and a starting point to move from.
Overall, as I said, there is something unrefined about Minutes To Midnight, but it is through this imperfection that it finds a sense of purpose. Providing a bridge between the past and the potential future, this album gives me bright hopes for the things to come. Approach with an open mind.