As a fan of Linkin Park, the last few years have been pretty rough sailing. The albums have gotten progressively worse, to the point where a good many fans have jumped off the bandwagon for good. For some reason, I continue to stay interested in what they are doing. That said though, I do so not expecting much good at all out of LIVING THINGS.
Still, the band has surprised me here. While they no longer sound, at all, like the band that recorded HYBRID THEORY or METEORA, they have progessed their experimental side from the last two releases and found some decent ground to work from. In a lot of ways, LIVING THINGS reminds me of Nine Inch Nails' YEAR ZERO album from a decade ago. What I mean by that is there are enough elements of the music to let you know that it's the same band, but the sound and experimentation has transformed the band almost completely away from their original, core sound.
While not great, LIVING THINGS is a punchy, kind of fun pop/metal album that should be enjoyable to a lot of people. Vocalist Chester Bennington has really moved further and further away from screaming and is much more of a singer than ever before. He's got a solid enough voice, so it works well with these newer, less intense songs. Tracks like "I'll Be Gone" find Bennington shining as brightly as he has at any other time in the band's history. Vocalist Mike Shinoda brings his traditional wrapping to the mix as well, and while strong it's pretty much as annoying as ever. His spoken word take on "Castle Of Glass" is interesting; a low toned vocal that is very different from anything he or the band has tried before.
Musically, Linkin Park has grown from the A THOUSAND SUNS release, where it just sounded like a mish mosh of electronica noise without focus or direction. On LIVING THINGS, there's still all kinds of studio magic making up the music, but there's also a lot more real instrumentation in the mix this time than on the last release. Still, they go over the top a few times. "Victimized" is probably the most annoying, overly studio enhanced song on the entire disc and in the band's career. There's some real drumming on it, and a bunch of unrelated sounds and noises that make up the song. It's a touch unsettling of a listen.
PITRIFF RATING - 72/100 - LIVING THINGS is far more listenable than A THOUSAND SUNS or MINUTES AFTER MIDNIGHT. That said, it's still not great. While they get credit for doing their own thing, it''s safe to say that the old days are long gone with these guys.