OAAR: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns (2010)

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Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns is easily the band's most unique album.  The first time I ever heard it, I was super hungover driving home from a friend's wedding.  I had my iPod on shuffle (accidentally) and when I was done listening I thought that the album was unique.  I know now that the reality is A Thousand Suns has two qualities that are exceedingly different from the band's other albums.  The first is the hypnotizing opening trifecta of "The Requiem", "The Radiance", and "Burning In the Skies".  As the melody from "The Requiem" foreshadows "Burning in the Skies", it is interrupted by a wonderfully placed vocal reconstruction of Robert Oppenheimer's explanation of how the Bhagavad Gita served as his moment of clarity regarding nuclear power and the Manhattan Project (this is of course "The Radiance").  I'm not much for Linkin Park's dabbling with politics (see: Minutes to Midnight) but there is a level of artistic perfection here that is not celebrated enough in the modern world of internet singles.  Moreover, this opening trifecta is somewhat hypnotizing, as for days I never got past "Burning in the Skies" on the disc, restarting from the beginning over and over.

Once you move forward, the album does disappoint a bit.  The downslide begins after "When They Come For Me", a cool track with a haunting tribal groove melody that pairs well with Mike Shinoda's caustic challenge to "start tryin' to catch up motherfucker."  Going forward, the tracks by themselves are rather unspectacular, although the sonic experiments of "Blackout" and "Wretches and Kings" are the most non-traditional tracks in the current Linkin Park catalog.  In succession, however, the 10 tracks after "When They Come For Me" hold to the album's flow well.  A Thousand Suns is definitely an album meant to be experienced song by song front to back.  If you don't have the patience for that, your loss.

Author: Pete

A Thousand Suns is an album considered by most (including Linkin Park) an experimental album. Why they consider it such, I don't know, but I imagine it has something to do with it being an album where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Considering how we here at Opportunity Assassins take a look at an album - bit by bit with the whole in mind - some of our scores might seem surprising. Filler track "Empty Spaces" is mostly junk on its own but when considered with the whole around it, it's found to be surprisingly fitting. I didn't quite have the hypnotizing reaction as Pete did with the opening three tracks, but I also didn't perceive them as being individual tracks. Don't get me wrong, opening with "The Requiem", featuring GLaDOS is a mood setting decision, and following it up with the entrancing Oppenheimer speech found in "The Radiance" is a fitting lead in for "Burning in the Skies", but only the third entity can stand on its own.

 The most spectacular part of this album is the fact that it's meant to be experienced as a whole and in order, a rare accomplishment in the age of singles. Add in the rarity of the Linkin Park 4+ minute track and you're left with an overall feeling of awe at the end of "The Catalyst" only to be roughly dragged down the road during the unnecessarily scream-y "The Messenger". As we hear in "Robot Boy", Chester Bennington has the ability to sing high notes with great clarity so it's understandable to question the finale to such a great journey. All that said, though, Mike Shinoda's very apparent influence, felt in his additional presence on both vocals and piano and some of the head nodding beats like those in mega fun prehistoric jungle beat-laden "When They Come For Me" and "Wretches and Kings", help steer this album to an overall success and a definite high point in the Linkin Park catalog. A Thousand Suns is absolutely a must-own for any fan of the album experience as the next time this claim can be made about any album might be a few decades away (hopefully not).
Author: Jake

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