As if the drastic left turn they took with 2010's A Thousand Suns wasn't proof enough, it should be fairly obvious at this point that Linkin Park have grown tired of doing things the traditional way. Rather, they're determined to blaze their own trail, which, given their standing as one of the hugest rock acts on the planet, is a certainly admirable — if not slightly questionable — way of operating.
And though the follow-up to the willfully dissonant Suns — LIVING THINGS (due June 26) — isn't quite as obtuse, it still finds the band experimenting with vastly different soundscapes, lyrical themes and recording techniques, simultaneously honing their focus and expanding their horizons. It is the rare record that both pays homage to the past while bolding looking forward, and needless to say, it's a head-spinning listen from start to finish. Though, as Linkin Park told MTV News during the premiere of their new "BURN IT DOWN" video, they prefer to think of it as just the next step.
"It's just really different [from anything we've done before]," Mike Shinoda said. "I feel like we made a serious effort to try and touch all of the bases of all of the different things that we've done, and bring them together in each song. Not just one album, but each song. And then maybe sprinkle in some stuff that we've never done before, too."
That's evident in first single "BURN," which recalls both LP's nu-metal past and their current experimental present ... or in standout tracks like "CASTLE OF GLASS" or "UNTIL IT BREAKS," sonic rattlers born out of the band's less-than-traditional methods of recording, and all the better because of it.
"Our writing process is a weird, amorphous thing. For some bands, just to put it in perspective, they jam, and then they write a song and then they record a song and then they mix it and finish it ... we don't do that," Shinoda laughed. "We do everything at once, every step of the way. From the moment we're putting things down on the laptop, I'm already kind of mixing it a little bit [and] sometimes those things end up being songs, like 'CASTLE OF GLASS,' [where] my vocal performance in the first part of that song, pretty much almost everything you hear in the beginning of the song was the very first demo. Like, that went from nothing there, to those things, and then the song got built.
"Some songs we'll come up with demos, and they won't ever turn into anything ... we'll hear them, and we'll know they're not ever going to be a great song on their own," he continued. "But there may be a section of it, a little glimmer of cool something in it, and the song 'Until It Breaks' is built from just those. There were like four demos that we had made that weren't going anywhere individually, but when you put them all together, they make something really interesting. It's supposed to feel really jarring and weird, and for me it was a really fun song to make."
So yes, while LIVING THINGS does represent a return to the band's thundering past, it is also very much a snapshot of the band in 2012, still at the peak of their powers, still melding seemingly disparate sounds and influences, and pushing the envelope whenever possible. By whatever means necessary.
"Just because you see Brad [Delson] playing a guitar on stage, doesn't mean he just writes guitar on the album. A lot of times, especially on this record, more often than not, he wasn't playing guitar," Shinoda said. "But regardless of who played what, in our band, that's not important. It's more about everybody's got a voice, and everybody's got an influence on the song, and if one guy's not really happy with something, then we try to address it."