On May 15, Linkin Park will unleash Minutes to Midnight, their much-anticipated follow-up to 2003's Meteora. And though the album has been in the works for nearly four years now, it's actually based on a concept that's much, much older — and much, much creepier than you might expect.
"The title is a reference to the Doomsday Clock, which was created by these scientists at the University of Chicago after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II," Linkin Park co-frontman Chester Bennington explained. "Given the idea that mankind now had this ultimate destructive power, they were contemplating what the repercussions of this would be and the idea that the end of the world could be imminent.
"After WWII, when the Soviet Union tested their first bomb, the Doomsday Clock was set. It basically has hands from the 45-minute mark until midnight ... and at 45 past the hour, it means the world is relatively stable, but since we have this [nuclear] power, we're always just 15 minutes away from the end of the world," he continued. "And when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were involved in their nuclear standoff in the 1960s, the clock was set at three minutes to midnight. And it's moved back and forth about 18 times since its inception. Right now we're at [five] minutes until midnight."
And while Bennington insists that the new Linkin Park album — co-produced by Mike Shinoda and Grammy winner Rick Rubin (see "Rubin Turns To Linkin Park, Weezer After Winning Buckets Of Grammys") — isn't going to be a complete rumination on the perilous state of the world, he does acknowledge the fact that for the first time, the band is writing about "things they wouldn't have touched" a few years back. Which sort of makes the Midnight metaphor all the more apt.
"When we wrote Hybrid Theory, I was the oldest one in the band and I think I was 23 or something. And things that weren't important to us then are definitely important to us now. And while we don't write too specifically about most things, there's definitely a political hint to some of the songs," Bennington said. "So I thought of the Midnight concept, not just in relation to the world, but in relation to the band. What people have known Linkin Park as, and how they will know them as when they first hear the album ... that's going to change. The way we've been classified, and how people think they know us, that's all going to die."
Take, for example, Minutes to Midnight's first single, "What I've Done." Written by Bennington and Shinoda after the band had decided on the whole Midnight concept, it's Linkin Park dropping the bomb on their rap-rock roots and embracing a new, more stripped-down sound (see "Linkin Park Say Nu-Metal Sound Is 'Completely Gone' On Next LP").
"Joe [Hahn] came up to Mike and I and asked us to take the whole idea of Minutes to Midnight and apply that to how the band has changed. So, in a way, it's us saying goodbye to how we used to be," Bennington said. "The lyrics in the first verse are 'In this farewell, there is no blood, there is no alibi,' and right away, you'll notice that the band sounds different: The drums are much more raw, the guitars are more raw and the vocals aren't tripled. It's just us out there ... and that's how Rick wanted it. Basically he told us, 'If it sounds like it could've been on the first two records, then we're not going to work on it.' "
The band will take that new attitude on the road this summer on its rejuvenated Projekt Revolution Tour, which LP originated in 2002. While details are scarce, Bennington did let MTV News in on a few select details.
"I can't say much about it, but Projekt Revolution is going to be happening this summer," he laughed. "It's looking like it'll start around July 24 and run through around Labor Day, and it is going to be a tour that no one will miss. And in my opinion — as a music fan — it's the most exciting tour that I've seen in a very long time."
Currently, Linkin Park are whittling down a list of 17 songs to make the final Midnight track list, and while there are no sure bets about just what will make the cut, Bennington is hoping that one song in particular — "The Little Things Give You Away" — will be there.
Bennington calls the track "the pinnacle of what we can achieve as a band," underscoring its expanse and sonic grandeur. It is — in short — the audio equivalent of the detonation of an atomic bomb, which you'd think would make it a mortal lock for an album about blowing things up and starting all over again.
"It's an epic song, but it's also kind of delicate in a lot of ways. There's a great guitar riff that comes in acoustically, and the words really say a lot. And I think that they'll touch people in a way Linkin Park haven't touched people before," he enthused. "And there's a breakdown that's my favorite moment on the record. It's beautiful and timeless-sounding, with this great synth sound ... and Brad [Delson] breaks into this beautiful solo and it just builds and builds and builds until it breaks down into this a cappella section. It's a huge explosion of sound, over six minutes long, and it's truly, completely amazing. And I can't wait for people to hear it."