Linkin ParkMinutes to Midnight
Essential: "Leave Out All the Rest"
The liner notes of Linkin Park's third album pay lip service to straying outside the California hard rockers' comfort zone. But with the exception of silencing Mike Shinoda on much of the album -- the rapper still co produces with man in demand Rick Rubin-- the sextet sticks to its basic core blueprint of metal plus pop with a side of electronics. Those who enjoyed Shinoda's raps will be pleased to hear that the two rhymes he provides here are among his best and sit atop some of the album's most prickly tracks, especially the raw-nerve jam "Bleed it Out." His sole lead vocal, on the propulsive meditation "In Between," represents a nice change of pace as well. Lead vocalist Chester Bennington sounds as fit, flummoxed, and furious as ever, moving from a papery croon to a neck-vein-bursting howl while never losing the melody lines for which the group is famous. But like the pulsating electronic blips that accompany his rants, we've heard a lot of this despair before. Yet there's a reason this band remains upright long past the expiration date of the rap-metal revolution: For sheer catharsis rock that mixes melody and melancholy, Linkin Park delivers with efficiency. [Sarah Rodman]