Linkin Park are a rock band from California who burst onto the scene with Hybrid Theory in 2000. I’m
ashamed willing to admit that their debut is probably on my ‘all time favourite album’ list due to how young me thought it was the coolest god-damn thing in the world. I would play my CD constantly on a walkman and force my Dad to listen to it on car-trips. I wanted to be vocalist Chester Bennington when I grew up. The unique blend of alternative rock, metal and electronic elements makes it a guilty pleasure listen for me even now, where more pretentious me can say I enjoy it for the good production and clever songwriting.
Flash-forward to 2017 and the band is copping flak from fans and press alike with their new album One More Light. Many have accused them of selling out with a drastically different pop sound totally unlike anything they have done before. I stopped listening to Linkin Park around the time Minutes to Midnight came out, so I thought this new, critically divisive album would be the perfect time to dip my toes back in.
Right off the bat ‘Nobody Can Save Me’ starts with a synth kick and distorted/high-pitched vocals, before Bennington sings in an unsuitably high vocal range. I’m used to him singing in a lower register, growling or flat out screaming, so to hear him singing restrained is a huge change. I honestly don’t think his voice is suited for this style of singing, better displayed in the single track ‘Heavy’ where he genuinely seems to struggle to maintain subtlety in his voice.
Back to the production, though – it seems as though the band is simply checking boxes of modern pop music, and the result is a bland and uninspired album. The band does certainly put their own spin on it, with moments of heaviness on ‘Nobody Can Save Me’ or ‘Battle Symphony’ or a return to the classic Mike Shinoda rapping on ‘Good Goodbye’. However even these moments seem lifeless. Almost all of the tracks have a Hill-song esque upbeat vibe to them – ‘Battle Symphony’ most egregiously – which again seems disingenuous to the band’s previous songwriting style.
The album is also monumentally short – clocking in at 35 minutes, it’s the shortest alongside Hybrid Theory, Meteora and Living Things which all clock under 37 minutes. Contrary to the first two (I can’t speak for the third) One More Light ends exactly as it started, and lacks any progression or climax or any notable song you can call ‘the song’ of the album. The closer sounds just like all the others songs, leaving the listener surprised when the album just ends straight afterwards.
By all means, I respect the band for doing an about-face on their sound and sticking to it, to the length of telling fans crying about selling out to “stab themselves in the fucking face.” They’re making the music they want to make, and any fan of Linkin Park has to at least respect that. While I couldn’t get into post-Minutes to Midnight LP, at the very least I could respect the group for having a unique sound that they would change and build upon. With One More Light, however, it seems as though the band simply didn’t try. There’s no them in it, so much so that the album just seems like a bedroom pop artist collaborating with Chester Bennington for a handful of songs. Even Die-hard Linkin Park fans may find the album merely ‘OK’, listening to it once or twice and forgetting it existed except for when Spotify brings it back.