The latest album from the screamo nu metal legends is…frankly…a shock. Gone are the guttural hi energy vocals and heavy guitars mixed with hip hop beats and high impact digital production techniques. It is almost as if the band have spent a couple of months song writing with Ed Sheeran, because this is an album of beautifully crafted pop/light rock songs. There’s still a tight, highly polished sound…everything is superbly crafted, but it just isn’t Linkin Park. This is a band who have grown up, matured and expanded their repertoire but instead of creating an adult rock album with soaring musicality and a depth of lyricism borne of experience, they’ve gone New York/Tin Pan Alley and delivered a well meaning but ultimately facile collection of cookie-cutter teeny pop songs more suited to an X Factor runner up than one of the highest rated and musically experimental former nu metal bands.
There is some light and shade within…occasional diversions into EDM and rap/hip hop. But those rare moments say nothing, there’s no message and no subversive meaning behind it. This is a soft rock singer songwriter album you’d expect to hear in the background of a Starbucks or hipster vegan launderette. There is nothing vital here. This is not an album you’d recommend to a friend. Unlike their debut L.P. and follow up Meteora, this is not an album to set the world on fire. It is perfectly fine and will find a happy home with fans of Ed Sheeran or any of his multitude of knock off competitors. But if the band thought they were bravely evolving their sound I’m sorry to say they’ve failed. These are good songs but they should have sold them to other acts. In the rare moments the old Linkin Park shine through it is a joy…but it is too few and far between. Chester’s warm rich vocals are a delight and he has clearly refined his voice but whilst it is pretty, it has lost its edge of importance, of insistence and relevance.