It’s hard to know where to start with Linkin Park’s One More Light. Given the direction taken by the singles already released from the album such as Heavy, Good Goodbye and Battle Symphony, it was obvious the band had made a complete departure from virtually everything they’d done previously. On listening to One More Light in it’s entirety, you find out just what a radical shift they have taken. Anyone looking for a continuation of what seemed to be a return to their heavy roots on parts of The Hunting Party should probably stop reading now.
Aside from the odd jangle of an acoustic here and a few seconds of distortion there, guitars are virtually absent for the entire album. Rob Bourdon’s drumming, a primary feature of many a previous Linkin Park album, is understated throughout and feels like it is there literally for timekeeping and little else. Synths are in in a big way, which makes one think Joe Hahn has probably had to upgrade his set up as the primary source of instrumentation on this album. This album is powered almost exclusively by synth and Chester Bennington’s vocals, with Mike Shinoda taking the occasional turn, but this is very much Chester’s album to vocally dominate.
So, to the songs themselves. The album begins with Nobody Can Save Me, which is essentially an up-tempo ballad that doesn’t really go anywhere. Good Goodbye sees Mike Shinoda’s brightest performance of the album, but the track feels like nothing more than a blatant grab for some of the stardust recently sprinkled on grime guest stars Pusha T and especially Stormzy. Talking To Myself, the one track to feature more than a smidgen of guitars, is unfortunately only noteworthy for that fact and little else.
Ironically, the albums two strongest tracks are the ones where Linkin Park go full on pop. Battle Symphony has an effective mainstream appeal to it, while One More Light’s first single, Heavy (featuring female pop star Kiiara), for all the mocking it received on it’s initial release, is genuinely quite a catchy song with earworm qualities. Other tracks like Sorry For Now (even with the album’s only guitar solo) and Halfway Right just do not leave enough of a lasting impression to be anything more than pleasant background music. The album’s title track is a slow burning ballad that is Chester Bennington’s best performance of the album (and will blatently be “a lighter / phone moment” at the band’s upcoming world tour) and is perhaps the track that will sit best with the fans who have been with the band since the start. The closing Sharp Edges is bordering on “Linkin Park does country pop” and is a bewildering way to finish the album – the title track would have been a much better choice.
Ultimately, Linkin Park have made what is an OK pop album. If this album had come from a different band, it may well be that it would be received more favourably. But it hasn’t, it’s come from the band that made Hybrid Theory, Meteora and Minutes To Midnight. Whilst stylistically they’ve swerved many times on the subsequent releases, never have they rejected their past as they have done with One More Light. It’s that overriding fact that will make this album ultimately unpalitable to so many. Chester said in a recent interview that a section of their fans needed to move on from Hybrid Theory; While that may be true to some degree, it’s not going to happen while they’re making albums like One More Light. Where Linkin Park go from here, all bets are definitely off. They’ve always done their own thing, and will continue to do so, but let’s hope they do not continue down this path.
One More Light is released today (19th May) through Warner Bros.