Linkin Park's new midtempo rocker "What I've Done" may sound familiar, as it boasts the empassioned singing and thick wall of guitars that marked the group's past hits. But an awful lot has changed si

Linkin Park's new midtempo rocker "What I've Done" may sound familiar, as it boasts the empassioned singing and thick wall of guitars that marked the group's past hits. But an awful lot has changed since the last time Linkin Park graced the airwaves.

Indeed, it has been four years since "Meteora" dominated Billboard's Modern Rock chart. The 5 million-selling monster's track list now reads like an Idiot's Guide to Programming a Rock Radio Station, with such No. 1s as "Somewhere I Belong," "Faint," "Numb," "Lying From You" and "Breaking the Habit." Now, Linkin Park is releasing "Minutes to Midnight" (May 15, Warner Bros.) into a world that has decidedly turned away from the dominant rap-metal sound of the early part of the decade.

And between the lengthy layoff, an epic recording schedule ("We've essentially been in a bomb shelter for 14 months," MC Mike Shinoda says), a very public contract dispute, the changing marketplace and the involvement of a guy named Rick Rubin, a great many eyes will be watching to see how Linkin Park steps up to the challenge.

It should be noted that no one has turned away from rap-metal more than Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. "There's still a hip-hop element to us, and there'll always be," he says. "But we've really moved away from anything that sounds like nu-metal. I know that we kind of helped create, I guess, the sound of that genre, but I hate that genre. I'm not going to speak for everyone, but I can personally tell you that I am not a big fan of almost everybody in that category. There are a few bands that I don't really believe belong in there, and we're one of those bands."

A number of tracks prove out the band's musical ambition. "Leave Out All the Rest" has an arena-ready chorus accented by drum machine beats, while "Shadow of the Day" shoots for a "With or Without You"-level ballad sure to inspire plenty of lighter-waving. Elsewhere, the six-minute-plus "The Little Things You Give Away" references a city "washed away as a nation simply stares" as multitracked a cappella voices fill the mix. Bennington gets prominent scream time on "Given Up," which flexes the band's more extreme sonic inklings.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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