LCD Soundsystem (Electronic)
Sound of Silver (3.5/4)- 2007
James Murphy is one brilliant man. Not only has he mastered catchy electronic beats, but he’s also an intelligent songwriter. LCD Soundsystem combines those two things with exceptional results. This is electronic music that is simply well written music, not just creative beats. Songs like “All My Friends” and “Someone Great” are masterful tracks that are unlike anything else in the genre, and they make up for a few failed experiments here or there. As a whole, Sound of Silver is excellent, and it’s the type of album that can turn any listener into an electronic fan.
Leaves’ Eyes (Symphonic Metal)
Vinland Saga (2/4)- 2005
Vinland Saga’s pop-influenced take on symphonic metal adds very little to the genre. Liv Kristine plays it safe from a vocal standpoint, showing little of the great range she displayed with Theatre of Tragedy, and the album’s story couldn’t be more generic. Vinland Saga is simply an unremarkable album, and other than a few catchy hooks, there’s little here that fans of symphonic metal haven’t heard numerous times before.
Leviathan (Atmospheric Black Metal)
Massive Conspiracy Against All Life (3/4)- 2008
Jeff Whitehead, the man behind one-man atmospheric black metal band Leviathan, and has crafted one dark and haunting album with Massive Conspiracy Against All Life. If you want an album full of dark atmospheric music that will send chills down your spine, this is as good of an album as there is. It’s appropriately disturbing and hard to listen to, and I mean that in the best way possible. Leviathan is an intentionally dark and inaccessible project that is definitely not for everyone. Anyone who appreciates dark and disturbing music, however, should check out this atmospheric black metal release. No 2008 album came close to reaching the level of darkness found in Massive Conspiracy Against All Life.
Linkin Park (Nu-Metal/Hard Rock)
Minutes to Midnight (1/4)- 2006
First off, I must confess that Linkin Park was the band that got me into music. I'm sure many music-loving teenagers could say the same, and despite the band's simplistic riffs, terrible lyrics, and unoriginal style, many would still call themselves a fan. Even though nu-metal is all but dead, Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight is quite possibly the most anticipated album of the year, and has a good chance of being the highest selling rock album of 2007. Their debut album, Hybrid Theory, isn't actually all that bad. Linkin Park excelled at writing angry lyrics that were both accessible and appropriate to pre-teens, and they actually were pretty good for a nu-metal band. That's all in the past. Linkin Park has a new style, and long time fans of the band will be in for a major disappointment.
On the album artwork above, take a look at the "Parental Advisory" sticker. That's the first of many things wrong with Minutes to Midnight. Linkin Park has never been a profane band. That's one of the reasons they appealed so much to pre-teens. Their lyrics were angst-ridden, but not to the point where it felt like a gimmick (or at least to teens who identified with what LP was saying). Minutes to Midnight is an unnecessarily profane album. The chorus of the first track, "Given Up," features the line "Tell me what the fuck is wrong with me?" The sad thing is that the profanity actually prevents that part from being catchy and throws off the song's rhythm. Not only is it unnecessary, but it takes away from the point of the song, and makes it sound worse. This becomes a trend throughout the album. On the album's genuine moments, such as "Hands Held High," it's hard to believe Mike Shinoda when he stops in the middle of a pro-peace/love song to say "fuck that / I want to see some fists pumping." It just seems out of place and takes away from the otherwise genuine meaning of the song. There's nothing wrong with profanity in music, but it's just sad to hear a band write a focused and genuine song, only to ruin it by giving off an unnecessary f-bomb.
Now that that's out of the way, it's time to look at the rest of the album. It sucks. No, that's putting it too lightly. I would say it's a pile of crap, but that would imply that Minutes to Midnight is on the same level as crap. It's beyond that. The "music" on this album is quite possibly the most horrendous excuse for entertainment I've ever had the displeasure of hearing. Yes, it's that bad, and I'm not sure I'm getting my message across well enough. Linkin Park has sold out, and they've crafted an album that tries to combine the poser-emo likes of My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, and somehow manages to be worse than both of them. Many have inaccurately considered Linkin Park an emo band with their past albums, but they close that debate here. They've become emo and even more unoriginal than before. Gone are the turntables. Gone, for the most part, is Mike Shinoda's rapping. Gone is my respect for this band. The previously mentioned opener, "Given Up," is about what you would think it's about. It's your typical hard rock emo song that has Chester Bennington screaming things like "Put me out of my fucking misery" (which is oddly what I was thinking while listening to both the song and album) and "I've given up / I'm sick of feeling." Linkin Park has always been an angry band, but they've gone from overly angry to unnecessarily emo. My initial reaction to it was that it's the worst Linkin Park song I've ever heard. It turns out to be one of the best songs on the album. The fact that there are worse songs than that on this album is a testament to just how bad of an album Linkin Park has made. The songs after that are almost indistinguishable. They all sound like the same emo ballads with fake lyrics. For a genre that is named from the word "emotional," it's odd that it consistently features lyrics that lack emotion. That's what Minutes to Midnight is missing more than anything. It's stripped of any sort of emotion, originality, or enjoyable aspect to speak of. The lead single "What I've Done" is probably the best of the bunch here, and also one of the heaviest songs on the album. Problem is, many Linkin Park fans have considered that song a huge disappointment, and not nearly heavy enough. The majority of the album is the previously stated unemotional ballads that all sound the same.
It takes 7 tracks before anything even remotely interesting comes from this album, and that's the somewhat genuine "Hands Held High." If it weren't for the profanity, it might have actually been a good moment on this sad excuse of an album, even though it sounds more like a Fort Minor song than a song by Linkin Park. Unfortunately, it's up and down, and sounds an awful lot like a poor rewrite of Fort Minor's "Where'd You Go." Everything after that is unspeakably bad and unoriginal. "Valentine's Day" is the worst and most emo of the bunch, and it might be worth listening to for a laugh. It sounds like it was written by an insecure 12 year old who was dumped by his girlfriend. That is to say, the lyrics may work if you're in a depressed mood, but it's boring and often painful to listen to.
The rest of the album continues along the same path as that song, which causes the album to go from one of the worst albums of the year to one of the worst rock albums ever released by a major label band. Is it worse than Good Charlotte's newest album (which received an F from me, if you remember)? Almost certainly. Anyone who worked on this "album" should hang their head in shame. Please, do not buy this album. I say that from the bottom of my heart. I don't want anyone to be subjected to the hour of torture that I went through while listening to the demise of what was once my favorite band. Minutes to Midnight has a left a permanent scar on my ears, and I hope that no one pays to listen to what just may be the worst album I've ever heard.
Liquid Tension Experiment (Progressive Rock/Metal)
Liquid Tension Experiment (3/4)- 1998
Of the many progressive supergroups, Liquid Tension Experiment may just be the most talented. Containing three members of Dream Theater (Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess, and John Petrucci) and King Crimson bassist Tony Levin, Liquid Tension Experiment is one of the most technical and awe-inspiring groups out there, and their debut is about what one would expect from musicians of their caliber. Much of it sounds like a jam session, and the whole album is little more than a showcase of skill. However, that’s far from a bad thing, and Liquid Tension Experiment does not disappointment when to comes to creating some of the most technical music in rock.