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.
ANGER DENIAL ACCEPTANCE
I'm a guy that pretty much accepted, but never really liked, a whole lot of that late 90s/early 2000s brand of metal that was inspired by the success of Slipknot but really took dramatic steps toward being a more sterile version of that exciting band. That said though, one band that I truly did enjoy immensely was Spineshank. Their STRICTLY DIESEL release was an impressive collection of polished, angry modern metal that should have stood as the blueprint of how to move the genre along. It didn't though, as the masses gravitated more to the Killswitch Engage sound than what Spineshank had to offer. They continued on, but the albums got weaker and weaker as they came along...eventually leading to the band breaking up.
This pattern has been played out far too many times. Band comes along and kicks ass from the start. As time goes by though, original members start flaking away, and the core sound slowly begins to go in different directions. Finally, you get down to one original member and a sound that seemingly forces itself to touch on the original direction, but falls away to some completely new signatures that render said band to being little more than a shell of their former selves. After 14 years, Mnemic has eroded away to guitarist Mircea Gabriel Eftemie and four other jags (JAG = Just Another Guy) that have come in to sing the old songs while changing the entire chemistry and vibe of the band. For most, a listen to MNEMESIS followed by a listen to MECHANICAL SPIN PHENOMENA, and you'll think you listened to two entirely different bands. Some will call that musical growth. I'll call it failing direction as a band.
It's interesting to follow the progress, or lack thereof, that some bands make. Since 2004, Hydrogyn has been a band that has tried to market the hotness of their frontwoman Julie Westlake, hoping that it would overshadow their ultimately boring and clandestine music. Album after album, there's been nothing but photos and videos of Westlake to promote the band, and nothing behind it musically to fully capture any interest her looks might have enticed. By contrast, a band like Benedictum is also fronted by an appealing woman named Veronica Freeman, and yet the focus with them is always on the tunes and not Freeman's looks. Not surprisingly, they are a lot farther along, respected and known than Hydrogyn.
LIVE & INSPIRED
I'm sure I'll probably get killed here by my metal brethren, but I actually like Godsmack. Certainly, I realize they are a more metal version of Nickelback; a band whose sole goal is to create three or four radio hits on each album, sell a good amount of music and concert tickets, and basically be a key cog in the radio rock syndicate. I get it - it's less about the art of music than the business of music with them. That said, they have been consistently solid with their albums...so much so that most say they are the modern day AC/DC where there's NO difference from record to record. For Godsmack, all a new album means to most people is that they will be invading radio with the sames songs as always...but with different words attached to them.