So Don Gilmore is to metal what Stock, Aitken & Waterman were to Brit pop in the ’80s, back when Kylie Minogue dressed up in colourful bubble gum clothing, smiled cheese all the time and managed to sing. Many a barely-adult band, albeit some good, has visited the production factory of Don Gilmore.
But there’s just something about his greatest production to date, Linkin Park. In a genre that has generated as many nu-metal clichés as boy bands, they offer that extra je ne sais quoi. They certainly didn’t invent anything – Faith No More perfected rock ‘n rap in the early 90s – but they are giving us the excitement that’s so lacking today. Who hasn’t sung along to In the End?
There isn’t much in the creativity department, meaning it’s not too different from Hybrid Theory. Instead of satisfying the unreasonable expectations of many critics, who accuse them of duplicating their money-generating sound, they just did their own thing.
Is it a clone of their first album? Yes and no. It’s only a sophomore album, so they had to play it safe. Even the first single is a descendant of the infectious Crawling family – it’s called how to keep fans happy. No – actually it’s Somewhere I Belong. The opening track Don’t Stay, full of twisted riffs and swallowing beats, may seem misleading. The rest of the album is predictable.
But that’s not to say it isn’t good. It is. Breaking the Habit almost sounds like a synthed ’80s track, a la Depeche Mode. It features a 10-piece orchestra, drowned out by the guitar. Or is it Chester Bennington’s vocal range? You get a hoarse throat just listening to him.
The lyrics are dark. It’s Linkin’s very own orchestral manoeuvres in the dark. And although they’re better written, they really haven’t evolved that much. They’ve gone from adolescent angst to…more angst. Come on, guys, you’re adults. Maybe that’s where all these rock bands fail. They’re still stuck in the same age category as their pre-teen, angst-ridden public. Perhaps the most disappointing track is Easier to Run, a semi-ballad where Chester pours out his rage and you press the skip button.
It’s all so predictable, but in a way, it’s also a step forward: Tighter harmonies and stronger melodies. Meteora has all the fundamental elements that appeal to teens: rap, metal, screaming, loud guitars, a DJ, more screaming. Hey, there’s even some electronica (“I love Depeche Mode,” says Chester’s rapping counterpart Mike Shinoda).
But the difference is that their parents hum along. The music is melodic enough to appeal to adults; there’s a catchiness to it. The riffs are more polished; the scratching is more, well, scratchy, the drums have a power of their own. And take a listen to the instrumental Session, a demonstration of their improved talents.
They’ve locked themselves in the mould they created for themselves. They better be careful and evolve on their next album – they risk becoming obscured by all the mini Linkins practicing in their parents’ garages after school, and turning into just another nu-metal band who enjoyed a couple of glory days.