It was quite expected that the moment of experimentation for Linkin Park would come. All great bands do experiment. As a matter of fact, it took the group 4 studio albums, 2 live albums, and 11 EPs, not to mention the 19 hit singles, to take their fans to another dimension, not necessarily a widely accepted one. On August 26, the video of “The Catalyst”, the first single from the forthcoming album “A Thousand Suns” (2010), premiered on MTV. Yet, Linkin Park fans are already divided.
“The Catalyst” Is Not a Signature LP Sound
After releasing “Minutes to Midnight” (2007) and peaking #1 on the U.S Billboard 200 and on the U.S. Top Rock Albums, Linkin Park return with not what one would call “a signature sound”. Unlike “In The End”, the band’s most successful hit ever from “Hybrid Theory” (2000), but also “Crawling” from the same album, “Numb” and “Somewhere I Belong” from “Meteora” (2003), “The Catalyst” is not a Linkin Park classic.
Mike Shinoda doesn’t rap at all. That’s number one clue that “The Catalyst” is not an LP classic. Not too much to comment on that, except maybe from the fact that Shinoda has also formed the “Fort Minor” side project since 2003 “to demonstrate his hip-hop background”. So, it maybe doesn’t come as a surprise how he doesn’t rap at all in “The Catalyst” although Linkin Park are known for mingling rap and metal, creating a uniquely rich blend that captures the masses.
Besides, the song’s structure is rather erratic. Basically, there is no flow to what we used to know as “Linkin Park” Nu Metal, a unique sound anchored with heavy, distorted guitars and energetic speeding up percussions. None of these genuine Linkin Park elements are present in “The Catalyst”. Instead, there are low-noise electric guitars, piano synths, Mr. Hahn who scratches relentlessly and a very elementary electronic drum beat that doesn’t really hold a stable tempo.
“The Catalyst” Is Catalytic In Its Own Ways
On the other hand though, “The Catalyst” deserves some credit.
First of all it has a great synth intro. Then, Chester Bennington’s signature screaming is present. His vocals are so familiar even to those who are not Linkin Park fans. With a really powerful way, Chester sings “God bless us everyone, we’re a broken people living under loaded gun” and then goes on “God save us everyone, will we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns? For the sins of our hand, the sins of our tongue, the sins of our father, the sins of our young.”
Another strong point is the song’s lyrics. It looks like the powerful lyrics of “The Catalyst” convey a message of guilt, even a message of making amends with what we’ve done to our planet, how we’ve ruined our lives, our relationships, how we’re paying for old time sins that aren’t even our own.
After listening to “The Catalyst” over and over again, there is little doubt that this track will divide the Linkin Park fans. Actually, it will show who the real fans of the group are; who can give credit to a group that experiments and tries to expand their talent and who immediately hates them for not writing the same music as in “Hybrid Theory” or “Meteora”.
However, in the history of Rock, many great bands have experimented, often at the cost of losing fans and followers and certainly at the cost of receiving negative criticism for altering their sound, even temporarily. The Cure did it, U2 did it, Radiohead did it, The Smashing Pumpkins did it, why not Linkin Park as well? It’s all part of the creative process, to experiment and to discover, to try out and to fail, even that. “The Catalyst” may not be the magnificent sound of the “Hybrid Theory” or the incredible “Meteora” rapping layer, but still, is a creative effort and as such it should be perceived. Besides, a group such as Linkin Park with a unique brand of genius wouldn’t risk to release a single and in a few days (September 14) a brand new album that would have nothing to say to the world. This wouldn’t be Rock; or Nu Metal. It wouldn’t be progressive in a world that falls apart.