Minutes To Midnight (Machine Shop Recordings/Warner Bros. Records) is the third studio release from Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory, 2000; Meteora, 2003), set for release internationally on May 14, with the North American release one day later on May 15. The album, co-produced by the legendary Rick Rubin and band frontman Mike Shinoda, took 14 months to write and record. This intensive process resulted in the recording of over one hundred rough ideas for songs. The album’s first single, “What I’ve Done,” debuted at #1 at Alternative and #3 on Active charts.
The album title is a reference to the Doomsday Clock, a clock created in 1947 by scientists from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. Its purpose is to portray how close (in imaginary “minutes”) the world is to nuclear destruction (“midnight”). The clock’s hand was originally set to seven Minutes To Midnight (11:53) at the start of the Cold War in 1947, and has been pushed forward or reversed several times since then. It now stands at five Minutes To Midnight (11:55). History lessons aside, Mike Shinoda has commented about the title, saying, “Don’t take that at face value. There are layers of meaning; most metaphoric… It’s a reference to the Doomsday Clock, the Apocalypse, a metaphor for death and rebirth, but it could also be applied to the music industry, sort of tongue-in-cheek.”
Lead vocalist Chester Bennington explains that, while writing about subjects “we wouldn’t have touched a few years back,” the band set its sights on “surpassing anything that we had done,” moving beyond the predictable to craft “an amazing record.” Vocalist/MC Shinoda, who also contributes guitar and keyboards, affirms that the band broke comfortable patterns. “Phoenix and Brad experimented with vocal melodies, Chester and I tried playing drums and percussion, Joe ran songs through guitar amps and effects, and Rob wrote songs on piano,” says Shinoda. While much of this did not make the final cut, it all “helped us successfully redefine the way we write a song.
Guitarist Brad Delson appreciated “stepping outside our comfort zone and performing or writing in a way that we never had before,” driving the band to create an album that’s “not only incredibly diverse, but the depth of the material is really strong.” Part of the credit goes to producer Rick Rubin, as recalled by Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon. “He has an incredible ear for spotting a great performance,” says Bourdon. “Sometimes, during a full-band recording, he’d pick out a drum take that had the slightest difference in feel… What I learned from him is there’s more to a performance than perfect timing. When a ‘moment’ is captured in recording, sometimes it can’t be duplicated.”
Minutes To Midnight reveals its more experimental moments in songs such as “Given Up,” which merges punk/industrial guitar with multiple clap tracks and sound effects such as jingling keys, as well as “In Pieces,” whose intro keyboard-and-beat loop leads into a staccato guitar before opening into a blistering guitar solo. The pensive “Shadow of the Day” plumbs the depths of depression with minimalist guitar that crescendos, and “Leave Out All the Rest,” with Chester Bennington’s sweet voice also rising, implores a friend or perhaps a lover to “keep me in your memory” once he is gone. Lest Linkin Park fans believe the album is entirely steeped in heavy emotions, there’s the full-on exuberance of “Bleed It Out,” with its arena rock-inspired guitar and bass, roadhouse blues piano, Motown-style drums, and irreverent death-party rap verses.
It all began in the west San Fernando Valley of Southern California when Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon became fast friends while attending high school in Agoura Hills. After graduation, with the addition of Joseph Hahn and Phoenix, the band took the name Xero, then morphed into Hybrid Theory with changes to its membership. The final piece fell into place in 1999 in the form of Arizona vocalist Chester Bennington, and they chose the name Linkin Park, a wry variation of a local park in Santa Monica, California.
Their signing to Warner Bros. Records led to their debut album, Hybrid Theory, in October 2000. Exploring frustration, anger, fear and confusion from a younger person’s perspective, Hybrid Theory was lauded by Rolling Stone as “twelve songs of compact fire indivisibly blending alternative metal, hip-hop, and turntable art.” It launched three chart-topping singles including “In The End,” received a 2002 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Crawling,” as well as nominations for Best Rock Album and Best New Artist.
Following the innovative Reanimation, a remix album which featured collaborations with Black Thought, Jonathan Davis and others that rose to #2 on the Billboard 200, Linkin Park underwent a painstaking approach in the creation of their next album, Meteora. Released in March 2003, the album offered a wider sound palette and an even more diverse array of styles: from wildly distressed samples and heavy guitars on songs such as “Somewhere I Belong,” to strings and piano on “Breaking The Habit” to complex beats on “Easier To Run,” all complemented by Bennington’s and Shinoda’s powerful vocals. In late 2004, the ambitious Collision Course again found Linkin Park in collaboration, creating mash-ups of seven LP songs and six Jay-Z songs, and winning another Grammy for Numb/Encore.
Frat Party at the Pankake Festival, in November 2001, offered the first Linkin Park DVD, soon followed by Linkin Park Live In Texas, filmed during their summer stadium tour with Metallica, as well as Breaking the Habit, Collision Course and Live 8. Launching their own Projekt Revolution tour with artists as diverse as Korn and Snoop Dogg (becoming the best-selling tour of 2004), Linkin Park also established Music for Relief, an organization dedicated to helping those affected by natural disasters to help victims recover and rebuild.
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