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October 9, 2010

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'Suns' signals new direction

THE day after Linkin Park's latest album was released, the lead singer, Chester Bennington, logged on to iTunes to check some of the reviews. Though the responses weren't all positive, he liked what he read.

"This time around it's like they either love it and it's five-stars across the board or they hate the record so much that ... if they could they would throw it at us," Bennington says. "And I think that's great."

While there's still heavy metal-fused hip-hop on "A Thousand Suns," there's also psychedelic, instrumental moments that are a departure for the Los Angeles-based rap-rockers.

Mike Shinoda says "Suns" is an album that "asks a lot of attention from people."

"It's more of a 48-minute experience than it is just a collection of singles," says the lead lyricist.

"We really tried to make an album that took you out of your head a little bit ... and we wanted to take people on this journey," Bennington adds. "It's a musical drug type of thing."

The new sound wasn't intentional for the guys. They say while creating 2007's "Minutes to Midnight," they decided to head in a direction different from their first two albums: The 2003 multi-platinum effort "Meteora" and their 10 million-selling debut, 2000's "Hybrid Theory."

Though some fans may not appreciate the new disc, others have. "Suns" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts this month; it also hit the top spot in Europe and Canada.

Bennington says because of the sound the band is known for - a mix of rap and heavy metal - it's virtually impossible to satisfy their many kinds of fans.

"As artists (making music is) a completely selfish endeavor," he says. "We're making music for us, that we like. We're not making music for other people ... We're not thinking, 'Let's make a pie-graph of all our fans and find out how many people fit in whatever category and then make the perfect album for them.' Like, that would be absolutely ridiculous."

Bennington says the band is more interested in growing creatively: "We like putting (ourselves) on the line so to speak and really take chances with the music that we're making and we're becoming more and more comfortable doing that."

One main artistic departure for the band on "Suns" is the use of political speeches. There are interludes that take from an interview with physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer regarding the Manhattan Project and another from Dr Martin Luther King Jr's 1967 anti-war speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time for Breaking Silence."

"They're hearing hope, they're hearing anger, they're hearing stuff about, humanity destroying itself," Shinoda says of the album's messages. "You talk to your friends, you see things on the news, you read things online and all this stuff just happens, and we wanted to find a way to kind of put all that stuff together."

Shinoda says because of the digital turn music has taken in the last decade, most fans expect to hear a singles' album, not an album's album. He wanted to make sure Linkin Park didn't fall into that lane.

Quoting the band's bass player, Phoenix, Shinoda explains: "I just feel like the music that's out there in the mainstream for the most part, there's so much candy. It's good for a short taste, it's good for a little short burst of whatever and then there's no substance to it, and you can't eat a lot of it or you'll get a stomachache."

"I want something that has some substance - some sustenance," Shinoda continues. "(But) we're finding that a lot of fans are having a hard time even wrapping their heads around it, much less explaining what it is that they're checking out."


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