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LINKIN PARK - MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT - WARNER MUSIC
Record Rating: ****

LINKIN PARK - MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT Linkin Park are the grizzled graybeards of the nu-metal scene. Debut album Hybrid Theory flung them into the spotlight, follow-up Meteora solidified their placement in the high order of the nu-metal icons, while the more recent Collision Course (the mash-up with rap icon Jay-Z) brought them a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

For nearly a decade, their funkified, left-field take on the rap-metal zeitgeist sound tracked college keg parties the world over; but with new album Minutes To Midnight, they ditch any pretence of being a garage nu-metal band and finally acknowledge they’re Top 40 rock. This is indeed the band’s long-promised rock album; it just doesn’t rock in the way one might expect. Instead of their trademark anthemic metal bashers, the 12 tracks offer a mix of accessible rock and hip-hop beats thanks to legendary producer Rick Rubin.

First single What I’ve Done propelled this to debut at #1 on the US charts last month, and the big changes here: Mike Shinoda’s vocals have been pushed to the back of the mix, along with resident DJ Joe Hahn’s samples, as vocalist Chester Bennington takes over the limelight. Soft chords permeate love songs like Valentine’s Day and Leave Out All The Rest, a clear signal that teenage angst filled pretensions have been traded in for more grown up themes.

Head banging fans might consider this a walk on the mild side, but with the bounce-along No More Sorrow and the brawny thump of Hands Held High, Linkin Park are out to prove they still are a hard edged, dogged metal-mongering and tough rapping band. But they fool no one; even the heaviest songs on Minutes To Midnight sound deceptively bright and happy. The result is arguably their best album. Well Recommended.

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