CD: Linkin Park - One More Light "Erstwhile nu-metallers' new direction falls flat"

From The Arts Desk

On its release, Linkin Park's recent single, the ironically titled "Heavy", caused outrage among fans. It wasn't so much the warbling vocals, as much as the total reversal of the band's customary controlled rage. Some took to writing mock obituaries on Twitter; others wrote worse. So might this be the end of Linkin Park, or can change actually be a good thing?

First things first – how does One More Light actually sound? In a nutshell, this is simply a sleek, occasionally R'n'B tinged, modern electro-pop album. And, other than the cognitive dissonance of it being a Linkin Park LP, there isn't anything inherently wrong with that. The real problem is that none of it is particularly good. Some critics have drawn comparisons with Owl City and Passenger, and, unbelievably, it's fair comment. Elsewhere – on "Nobody Can Save Me" or "Battle Symphony" for instance – you have to check whether you are listening to Justin Bieber or Imagine Dragons.

Of course, Linkin Park hasn't been real nu-metal for a while. But there has always been an intensity that gives their music a cathartic quality. The closest we get on One More Light is "Good Goodbye", and that comes from rappers Pusha T and Stormzy. And why do we get guest rapping but none from Mike Shinoda?

The album's other relative highlight, ironically, is "Heavy". Once you get past the shock of the song's style, there's something infectious about Kiiara's guest vocals. A kind of earworm quality, if you like. But then again the same is often true of Ed Sheeran, and that doesn't equate to actual artistic merit. It's this lack of substance that really goes to the root of the problem with this album. When "Heavy" was released, many considered it mysterious that the band should have abandoned the sensibilities they'd been trading on for 20-odd years. But for a rock band to go off on a tangent really isn't that unusual. What is strange is for a new musical direction to be so devoid of any real interest.

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