Monday, December 9, 2013

WOOL (Review)

A lot of people will say that Wool is the greatest science fiction novel in decades. And then you’ll have the occasional straggler who says Wool is utterly overrated. The thing is, if you’ve discovered Wool prior to its Simon & Schuster-published release on March 12th, 2013, then you very likely specifically searched for dystopian or post-apocalyptic books—more likely than not, you found Wool on countless Goodreads lists or maybe a blog or two (plus, at the time, Wool’s Omnibus edition was quite cheap)—and with that being said, Wool delivers on its promise (and premise): it is an original science fiction book with dystopian and post-apocalyptic undertones.


What makes Wool so dang good is that I can actually see the world and people he describes; and I—despite the avid reader that I am—have trouble with some science fiction works within the last decade (Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age comes to mind: the concept is good, but its discombobulated with so many scientific terms and ideas that the characters and details are lost in the background; Wool’s characters and locations, on the other hand, are crystal clear). And Hugh Howey never lets the science outweigh the characters. We accept that the characters know what they’re doing; that’s good enough for the reader. Many science fiction writers tend to go overboard on the “science” part of science fiction, rather than the fiction.


The premise is simple. It’s not overly perplexed. People live in underground silos; to control their population, one person is sent out to die in a toxic world (which brings us to the plot of the novel, and the reason for the title—the people are given wool suits to wear; they are given the task to go out into the wastelands, clean the sensors—which are essentially cameras, so everyone else can see the landscape—and then . . . die), and then, after the cleaning, one married couple are given permission to have a child. This processed has gone on for hundreds of years.


Wool begins with a LOST-esque mystery which unravels over the course of a few chapters until we meet the main protagonist, Juliette. That’s as much of the plot that I’ll get into. Just consider Wool as Game of Thrones-esque drama in the confines of an underground silo.


Expect great things from Hugh Howey in the future because the future of science fiction (and self-publishing) is in his hands.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gifts for the Serious Reader: Book Series

Firstly, this is a list of only five book series. In case I don't choose your favorite franchise, don't be offended. For this list, I mostly stayed away from young adult series (with the exception of Abarat), since young adult series seem to be blowing up pop culture lately; plus I really want to give recognition to series that are underappreciated (with the exception of A Song of Ice and Fire, but even so, I fear many will skip the books and just watch the masterful HBO series—but guess what? As good as the show is, the books are better).

Without further ado, I bring to you five series that would be ideal for the serious reader you know as Christmas gift.


Stephen King—you’ve heard of him, I know you have. You’re probably familiar with his more popular works, such as The Stand, ‘salem’s Lot, and The Shining. However, horror isn’t all that Stephen King writes. A lot of people are blown away by the fact that he wrote Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
Which brings us to the first gift for the reader you know: The Dark Tower series.

Combining Science Fiction, Horror, Action, Western, Romance, you name it—it’s the Linkin Park of book series, you could say. And the books are incredibly written (The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass is my favorite novel of all time). The ending is similar to J.J. Abrams’ LOST—you’ll either love it, or hate it, but you’ll feel a whole storm of emotions overcome you.

And get this . . . the Dark Tower series connects to other Stephen King books, so if one gets hooked on TDT, they will have a very busy reading schedule in 2014.

Unfortunately, however, there isn't a set where you can buy all seven books. But I recommend buying the boxed set containing the first four books (which are considered the best in the series anyway).

Similar to: LOST (TV show), Fringe (TV show), Thor (film series)

PRICE: $26.05.
(not including the last three books)


Yes, the HBO television series is great, but the book series is even better. A Song of Ice and Fire is the greatest fantasy series (by an American writer) of all time. Hands down. And nobody kills off characters better than George R.R. Martin.

Similar to: Lord of the Rings, Skyrim (video game)

PRICE: $27.47


There's a lot of talk about Hugh Howey. If you haven't heard of him, then perhaps you've been living under a rock (or aren't into books; but this isn't about you, it's about whoever you're thinking about buying this series for for Christmas).

Hugh Howey is a self-published author. What does that mean? He didn't have an agent, a professional editor, or a publisher. The first book in the series, Wool, started out as a short story e-book; and then, over time, fans wanted Hugh to finish the book. And he's written two other books since, Shift and Dust.

A lot of people consider Wool as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time; I concur.

Similar to: Fallout 3 (video game), Oblivion (film)

PRICE: $41.28


Robert McCammon is one of the most magical writers out there; nobody writes characters quite like him. From Swan Song (often compared to Stephen King's The Stand) to Boy Life (which has a perfect 5-star rating on to Gone South, McCammon's characters really come to life. He creates characters that we understand, that we can see; there's never a moment where the reader thinks, People don't talk like that. (Trust me, as much as I love Stephen King, there are lots of dialogue that isn't natural.)

You won't be disappointed in the Matthew Corbett series. The series consists of: Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, *Mister Slaughter, and The Providence Rider.*

Similar to: Sherlock Holmes, The Raven (film)

PRICE: $27.20 (*note: 2nd two books are only ebooks at the moment*)


Disclaimer: this is an odd book series full of odd characters with an overall very odd tone. Clive Barker wrote The Hellbound Heart (later adapted into the beloved cult classic Hellraiser); but this series isn't quite as dark. It's one of those series, while reading it, I couldn't quite tell if it was for young adults or for adults. But I certainly do recommend this series for young adults; fans of Harry Potter would definitely enjoy this series. Plus Clive Barker doesn't get nearly as much recognition as he deserves.

The Abarat series consists of three books so far: Abarat, Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War, and Abarat: Absolute Midnight.

Similar to: Neil Gaiman (author), Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and a really bizarre dream.

PRICE: $24.15

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Glenn Howerton Always Gets Shot in the Head (in Philadelphia)

I am very surprised I'm the first person to blog about this (considering that the Google search I did, I got zero results). But it is interesting and therefore I'm going to pop the cherry on this intriguing matter. As the title suggests: Glenn Howerton (from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) gets shot in the head often.

1) In Serenity (2005):

2) In 2008's The Strangers (starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman):

3) In Crank 2: High Voltage this happens:

4) And then, in the It's Always Sunny episode called "The Gang Saves the Day," Dennis gets shot in the head while negotiating with a robber (I unfortunately couldn't find a clip) -- which is clearly a homage to him dying in other films. But it seems as though I'm the first person to publically discuss this.

It's also noteworthy to say that he's in the upcoming TV show, Fargo (based on the ultraviolent Coen brothers film) . . .

. . . and, considering he likely won't be a main character, I wonder how he's going to die in that show.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Resident Evil: Red Falls Argument

Bare with me. I’m comparing Resident Evil: Red Falls with Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight. Why? Because it isn’t what the general audience expected from a Resident Evil fan film, but it is what the hardcore, faithful Resident Evil fans wanted, even if they missed the old puzzle solving days. The truth is, as The Joker says, "There's no going back"; likewise, Resident Evil can only go forward. Yes, the franchise has been missing its mark, but it has seen the error of its way. And, like Linkin Park critics who hated Minutes to Midnight because it was no longer Nu Metal, Resident Evil: Red Falls critics seem to be stuck on the fact that we don't have Resident Evil characters (despite the fact that such characters wouldn't make sense in the story which we told). Due to our budget, and what Travis Hayward—as a director—is good at, we had make it the way we knew best. Action-horror; action was what we knew how to succeed at, but we still attempted horror. And, with the assistance of a creepy score, we succeeded as much as we needed to. We had zombies, but the zombies were not the focus (they were only the obstacles); we had Resident Evil lore, but it wasn’t the focus (although BSAA badges can be spotted often). The Resident Evil mythology—while playing a very important role in the plot—was subtle.
But at least we had realistic action; we didn't copy-and-paste scenes from the games (although some of the "critics" suggested we should, despite its illogicalness); we didn't bastardize fans favorite characters by casting them poorly; we didn't spoof the series like many fan films do based on their fears of making serious fan fiction; heck, we got CAPCOM's stamp of approval.
But the critics, once in a blue moon, do have valid points. A sequel could be scarier. A sequel could have characters from the game (well, actually HUNK would be the only character I would write into the script). A sequel could have a female character (although not a BSAA operative, not to be sexist). A sequel could have more zombies. And finally, a sequel could have a bigger budget, allowing us to tell a grander story.
I only hope people can look past the budget and see it for what it is: a template for what we could do if we actually did have a budget.

Monday, May 27, 2013

9 Ways to Save Resident Evil 7

The apotheosis of all theses pertaining to horror was stated in Danny Boyle’s sort-of-zombie-epic 28 Days Later, in which the scientist at the very beginning of the film says, “In order to cure, you must first understand.”

          With that being said, I’ve composed a list of everything that CAPCOM should avoid in Resident Evil 7, and what they should bring into the mix.




          There’s a reason why Dead Space 3 wasn’t as good as the first two; it wasn’t necessarily story or gameplay—it was having a partner to dull the scares. When you step into a survival horror game, you don’t want a partner because it makes things too easy; unless the partner, of course, isn’t armed, isn’t strong, and is important to keep alive—such as Ashley from Resident Evil 4—or are capable of dying, like in Deadrising, and NOT from dying via cut scene, but rather dying because of your own in-game decisions. That would be the only scenario that having a partner—whether armed or not—would be a good idea.

          Hasn’t CAPCOM learned from Resident Evil Zero that we don’t want an AI partner that will make the game easier to play, along with less scary?

          Resident Evil 7 needs to put an end to the partner system, plain and simple. Have Mercenaries be for co-op or multiplayer, because co-op has no place in a Resident Evil game.




          When you think Resident Evil and Zero, you think of a mansion; Raccoon City’s streets and police department is what you think about for Resident Evil 2 and 3: Nemesis; a village, castle, an industrial facility for Resident Evil 4; a boat in Revelations. And then it takes a dive. In RE5, nothing was really distinguishable; I certainly can’t name my favorite location. Perhaps the swamps. But when you think of RE5, you don’t think swamps—you think the shantytown that is . . . uh, what’s the name of the city again? Kijuju? Something like that. (And yes, I’m deliberately playing dumb because I can easily Google the name, but that’s not the point.) And in RE6, get out a notepad and make a list of all the locations—you’ll need a couple pages. Then how many of those locations were significant to the actual story? How many of those locations were interesting? Only a handful. And even if a location was interesting, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay elements were.

          Part of the reason why RE5 and RE6 had the weakest locations (and location designs, mind you), is because it’s pointless to backtrack in either game, pointless to explore. Even though RE4 was a straightforward game (it wasn’t as if you were stuck in the village for the entire game), there was still need (and rewards) for exploring every nook and cranny. Backtracking is good. And it creates incentive for the game developers to put more detail and passion in the actual locations.

          For Resident Evil 7 to be effective, it needs to pick a location and then make it interesting. CAPCOM needs to add some RPG elements to make it necessary to backtrack and find things they couldn’t have otherwise; for instance, if at the beginning of the game there is a crumbly wall and then later on you find grenades and realize that you could blow that wall up, then that is smart game design. That’s also why The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were so good, and why Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword weren’t as good—because the latter two games had less emphasis on exploration. In Resident Evil 7, I want to find secret weapons, treasures, etc. . . . by exploring, not by following a cookie crumb trail to the next objective in the game.




          What the first several games of the franchise had—and you can’t dispute this—was a moody atmosphere. The atmosphere alone (contributed by a creepy score, of course) made those games terrifying as they were. And then add sound design, creature design, pacing, etc. . . . and, well, you needed to bring along an extra pair of underwear.

          This is where some fans might disagree on. Resident Evil 4. Okay, so the game might not have had a dark, sinister atmosphere as the first several games had, but it did have an atmosphere of its own. And it worked. Perhaps the first few games were the equivalent to hot sauce, and Resident Evil 4 was rich, almost-spicy cinnamon. It was Resident Evil even though it was different; it might have had a different taste, but it had a similar tang nevertheless.

          And then Resident Evil 5 had no atmosphere, and Resident Evil 6 had inconsistent atmosphere in all the campaigns.

          What Resident Evil 7 needs to do is create an atmosphere that creates a mood. The early trailers for Resident Evil 5 hinted at such a mood, whereas the actual game didn’t deliver. And RE7 needs to deliver—whether its taste is different than the other games, it needs to have a tang of horror, mystery, depression, hopelessness.




          I won’t spend much time on this category, but it needs to be addressed. Resident Evil 5 had decent controls (upgraded from Resident Evil 4); Resident Evil 6 had terrible controls. Reason for which: the loose camera that follows the character. It’s sad that I prefer the fixed camera behind the character over the incoherent one from RE6. If I want to see my character’s face, I’ll wait for a cut scene.




          All the best quick time events come from RE4—cutting the rope after the fight with the giant salamander, Jack Krauser’s fight, dodging the lasers, avoiding certain enemy attack, etc. . . . In RE5 and RE6, the quick time events are . . . sad to say . . . gimmicks. RE5’s quick time events are better than RE6’s.

          Resident Evil 7 needs to take a step back and think before doing. It would be awesome to see Chris Redfield having a hand-to-hand fight with a group of enemies and using a QTE to fight through them. But, the quick time events can’t be cut scenes anymore. The Last of Us is what Resident Evil 7’s QTEs need to look like. They need to be intergraded into the gameplay.

          Imagine this (in cinematography terms): During gameplay (not a cut scene) you see (character) getting surrounded by the enemy (whether zombie, human, ganados, majini, whatever). You’re prompted to press “X”—you miss your chance. An enemy damages you. “Y”—you press it and punch an enemy; “B”—you press it and counter an enemy attack and manage to get the enemy in a headlock. ‘Hold “A”’—you hold it, and your character is trying to break the enemy’s arm or neck and the enemy is struggling. Meanwhile another enemy attacks. While holding “A,” you’re prompted to press “RT” (if you succeed, you block the enemies attack and finish breaking the current enemy’s neck; if you fail, you lose your headlock and that enemy is free. Essentially you can choose this method of fighting a lot of enemies, or you can choose to blast them away. It’s an option. There’s pros and cons to going hand-to-hand, pros and cons to using a gun. This sort of QTE would be an optional risk assessment. Do you want to take a group of enemies hand-to-hand (which would save ammo but you’re more likely to get injured)? Or do you just want to start shooting? And even if you want to shoot, you can still apply some hand-to-hand.

          That sort of innovative gameplay is what Resident Evil 7 needs to have. And it serves survival horror. It’s not just mindless QTE that was in RE6.




          A) limited enemies (that don’t drop ammo, that don’t respawn); limited ammo; innovative weapons (not to the extent of Deadrising, but if I don’t have ammo and I see a board of wood, I’ll want to use it).

          B) No more “end of chapters,” instead bring back the typewriter. Or, hey, if typewriters are outdated, then why not send an email on a computer or laptop and that’s how you save the progress? That’s a good modernly relevant solution, isn’t it?

          C) Bring back the “safe room.”

          D) Enemies should be able to break down doors (aside from safe rooms).

          E) The inventory needs to be fixed. As with all the games up until 5, bigger items took up more room; you had to be smart about what items you wanted to bring along.




            The Uroboros from RE5 was way too simple and not scary enough and it never really made sense how Ricardo magically turned into a sea monster because he injected himself with the Plagas on a boat; the C-Virus from RE6 could just do waaaaaay too many things, the mutations were too numerous and inconsistent—even an enemy with a biological chainsaw for a hand. It didn’t make sense how the C-Virus could create zombies, monsters, the Ustanak, and J’avos (which were the same thing as Majini but only looked different). If they really did want a virus that could do all those things, they needed to have had A LOT more in-game documents to read. In fact, RE6 didn’t have any in-game documents. That was a disappointment.

          I think Resident Evil 7 needs to have a novel’s worth of documentation within the game for whatever their “virus” is going to be. Because it needs to make sense in order for suspension of reality to happen for the player. And sure, it doesn’t have to be journals or pieces of paper, but cell phone text messages too. RE7 needs to be modern.




          Bring back the merchant. Enough said.




          Examples of simple Resident Evil plots:

          1) Leon’s sent to a European village to investigate leads on the kidnapping of the president’s daughter; once he finds her, he needs to save her. (RE4)

          2) You’re trying to survive and you discover the story/plot as you play (RE1, 2, 3, ZERO, Revelations)—and most of the “plot” in those games is actually more or less the backstory.

          Here’s an example of a plot that doesn’t make sense (or gets too discombobulated): For some reason the president of the United States is at a university in Tall Oaks and Leon shoots him and he is with a girl who he doesn’t know and Hunnigan somehow knows her and meanwhile there’re zombies everywhere in Tall Oaks; meanwhile, in Russia, Sherry Birkin magically finds Jake Mueller and discovers instantly that his blood is special and that a cure can be made  byusing it and, uh, somewhere else Chris is a captain of a BSAA team and

          (where’s Jill?)

          he . . . I have no idea what his objective is, other than killing B.O.W.s—and that’s the problem with RE6. The plot was WAY too overcomplicated. (And I still have no idea why Simons’ wife wanted to clone herself into Ada Wong and I had no idea why Simons’ wife wanted to kill Simons’ and!—brain!—hurts!

          Resident Evil 7 really needs to tone it down and find a simple story.

          My example of a simple plot:

          In a city a bioterrorist organization holds a group of people hostage and for every day that they don’t get what they want, they’ll kill a hostage and release a new B.O.W. into the city.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Linkin Park's LIVING THINGS (review)

Since deleted my #1 most-helpful voted review of Linkin Park's LIVING THINGS (for no apparent reason), I thought I should salvage what I could find and post it as a blog. I know some of what I've said in this review is dated, since it's been about a year since the album has come out, but it's still a good review.


Genre(s): Electronic Rock, Alternative Hip Hop, Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Reggae, and a little bit of Soul—or let’s just call the genre “Linkin Park” (there are many debates and disagreements, but it’s important to know that no two songs have the same genre—especially on LIVING THINGS).

Likely to be singles: Castle of Glass, I’ll Be Gone, Powerless

Hardest/Heaviest song(s): Victimized, Lies Greed Misery, Skin to Bone

Softest song(s): Roads Untraveled, Powerless

Strangest song(s): Castle of Glass, Skin to Bone, Until it Breaks, Victimized

Hybrid Theory/Meteora-esque: Lost in the Echo, In My Remains, Lies Greed Misery, Powerless

Best song: Castle of Glass

Worst song: Lies Greed Misery

Pros: Genre variety, flawless vocal execution, poetic lyrics, no explicit language, and there’s a perfect balance between tried-and-true genre songs that’ll please old LP fans and non-LP fans, and experimental songs which will attract the M2M and ATS fans.

Cons: Short album, short songs, lacking a consistent theme relevant to the title (but there were birds chirping at the end of “Until it Breaks”)

Overall Rating: 9.5/10


“’cause once you got a theory of how the thing works,
Everybody wants the next thing to be just like the

- When They Come For Me



Firstly, there has not yet been one review of LIVING THINGS that has hit the nail on the head; hopefully I come close. At least I hope to hit the board in which the nail is securely poking out of. And when I say no reviews have hit the nail on the head, that includes negative, mixed, and positive reviews (don’t be offended, for I may not have read your review); this is a review in which I attempt to leave no stone unturned that will help you—the reader—understand what kind of album you’re going to listen to. Perhaps look at it as an in-depth analysis . . . which is no less than this album (or any album from Linkin Park) deserves.


Secondly, there are only a few reasons why you’re on Linkin Park’s LIVING THINGS Amazon page—1) You’ve listened to one or two songs and have decided you hate the album, so you’re giving it a crappy review based off from your previous listening experiences with Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns (and hence, a narrow-minded “OLD LP LOVING/NEW LP HATING” zombie that’s scouring through each new Linkin Park album for that Nu Metal sound that is clearly extinct and thus you have misplaced disappointment that could have been avoided altogether by having an open mind and just enjoying music that doesn’t make you wanna punch walls, or just not listen to it, knowing you’ll hate it, the same way I don’t listen to country music because I hate it! [*takes a deep breath in*]); 2) You’ve listened to all the songs and decided that you loved the album with a few critiques (or no critiques), and you’re writing a review for others to read and you just happened to read mine; or 3) You’ve come to see the average rating for LIVING THINGS, and perhaps you’ve read the best reviews for the album to get a clear idea of whether or not to buy it.



This review is for the latter, whether you’re a skeptic or a faithful fan. But first, if you’re unfamiliar with Linkin Park, there’s something to be known about them. And that is: they’re the most unpredictable mainstream band out there (and, alas, the most underrated and misunderstood, but I’ll get to that later)—their albums are unpredictable as a whole, and their songs are unpredictable segment for segment.


In early 2000, they made themselves the most successful Nu Metal band by creating a hybrid fusion between hip hop, rock, and metal; of course, that’s not to say they “invented” it—no, Limp Bizkit was a little before Linkin Park, and then there was also P.O.D. (remember them?), and the blend between hip hop and rock began even earlier with the infamous Run-D.M.C. / Aerosmith collaboration. But, it’s safe to say for the younger generations, Linkin Park refined the formula and made it cool and so catchy that your mom might know half the lyrics to most of their singles (or think they know the lyrics, but really they don’t, like my mom—and I don’t know anybody between sixteen to thirty-years-old that doesn’t know 80% of In The End’s lyrics). So, with that being said, Hybrid Theory and Meteora were smash hits—and even their remix album, Reanimation, was fairly successful—it had collaborations with Black Thought from The Roots, Aaron Lewis from Staind, and Jonathon Carpenter from Korn, along with other lesser known artists.


Then in 2007, Linkin Park changed it up. Literally they washed themselves clean of the Nu Metal sound; in a recent interview Chester Bennington compared Nu Metal to bellbottom jeans, “They were popular at the time . . .” but now wearing them would make you want to vomit. So, yes, they changed their genre, but they did not change their vibe or their artistic integrity. Truthfully, there were some songs in Minutes to Midnight that I didn’t love, but as a whole, Minutes to Midnight was exactly what it needed to be, and it was that album that made them survive the Nu Metal extinction event; it was their life boat; their Noah’s ark, if you will—and ironically their sophomore album, Meteora, was the meteor that caused the flood that resulted in them making Minutes to Midnight (because, not only were they getting sick and tired of Nu Metal, and being unfairly categorized as a Nu Metal band—along with every other “nu metal” band—but they also couldn’t make a Nu Metal album better than Meteora, nor could any other band—that’s why Nu Metal is dead, and Minutes to Midnight is why Linkin Park are alive). Minutes to Midnight had a few massive singles, such as “Leave Out All The Rest,” “Shadow of the Day,” “What I’ve Done” and “Bleed It Out” (“Given Up was their single to quench fans of harder music), but it didn’t have much rapping or screaming; that disappointed some Nu Metal fans, and grew respect in others for their risky departure (like me—but really, it was riskier staying in the Nu Metal genre if you look at the external and musical environment factors).


In 2010 they made A Thousand Suns, which is one of the most underrated albums of all time, comparable to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead’s Kid A; it was a concept album about nuclear holocaust, and it had a very dingy, post-apocalyptic vibe to it that wasn’t afraid to be politically or religiously preachy (or at least suggestive); an odd hybrid of Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead and Massive Attack. (Funny detail is that it came out around the same time as My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoy’s—which is also a post-apocalyptic semi-concept-album.) And because of their experimentation (and the content) it had a polarizing effect on Linkin Park’s “fans.” The Hybrid Theory trolls still didn’t approve, but for those who had accepted Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns was a huge treat of musical yumminess that added a new genre to Linkin Park’s array of sounds—Reggae. A Thousand Suns was philosophically deep in the effects of war and it had some spirituality (which I suppose also could have offended some people).


With that being said, let my review begin . . .



And now we’re at Linkin Park’s fifth album, LIVING THINGS. If you take the best elements from Hybrid Theory, Meteora, Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns and throw in a dash of Folk and Reggae, you can imagine what LIVING THINGS sounds like. As a whole, it’s their most energetic album; it’s not as safe as Meteora, nor is it as risky as A Thousand Suns—it’s deliberately somewhere in between (for better or worse). But, once again, there’s going to be a big gaping chasm in reviews for this album. It’s too experimental for the Hybrid Theory fans, and it’s not experimental enough for the Thousand Suns fans (which I am). Good news is that LIVING THINGS is close to Meteora and Minutes to Midnight. HT fans may not like “Castle of Glass,” “Roads Untraveled,” “Skin to Bone,” and “Until it Breaks,” but will most likely like “Lost in the Echo,” “In My Remains,” “Lies Greed Misery,” and “Victimized.” But for ATS fans, the good news is that there will likely be only one song on the album that you’ll find weak (if you’re anything like me), and that song is “Lies Greed Misery.”


When the album begins, the first seven songs don’t let up, and then the momentum drops for two songs, and then—in the duration of one song (“Until It Breaks”)—it picks up, slows down, picks up, and slows down. Finally, the album ends with their best Power Ballad ever, and finishes LIVING THINGS with a similar taste that “Pushing Me Away” did for Hybrid Theory and “Numb” did for Meteora (I deliberately leave out “The Little Things Give You Away” from Minutes to Midnight and “The Messenger” from A Thousand Suns because those two songs were experimental endings as opposed to the tried-and-true approach that Linkin Park took with this album’s final track, “Powerless”).


Without further ado, I bring to you reviews for each song:


ONE) LOST IN THE ECHO: Let me start off by saying that Mike Shinoda delivers his best rapping ever, and that’s taking “When They Come For Me” and “Hands Held High” into consideration; and I’m not so much talking about lyrics as I am style and his verbal grace. In this song, he tears it up with Eminem-esque intensity. This is also the closest that Linkin Park comes to their old Hybrid Theory / Meteora sound. In truth, comparing other Linkin Park songs of similar formulas, it’s better than “In the End,” “Faint,” and “Bleed It Out.” But I do think that we’ve “heard” this sort of song one too many times; it’s certainly not as unique as “When They Come For Me” and hence, not a perfect score.

RATING: 8.5/10




TWO) IN MY REMAINS: When I listen to this song, I hear a combination between My Chemical Romance and Avenged Sevenfold—a crazy combination, I know, but there’s a certain vibe to the song when Mike starts chanting, “Like a soldier, falling, one by one by one,” that I get gooseflesh. When you listen to LIVING THINGS for the first time, you’ll think to yourself “this will probably be a single,” and when you get to the midway point in this album, you’ll start to doubt if this song will be a single at all . . . because, simply put, there’s still some bigger epicness to come. I only wish this song was as fleshed out as most of the Thousand Suns tracks were. It could have been EPIC instead of just really good.

RATING: 9/10


REMINISCENT OF: Nothing they’ve done before.


THREE) BURN IT DOWN: This is the first single from the album, so I’ll keep it short. As “What I’ve Done” was the bridge from Meteora to Minutes to Midnight, “Burn It Down” is the bridge from A Thousand Suns to LIVING THINGS. In other words, it has an in-between sound. And, the song itself is about burning down something old and building something new for better or worse. This is one of only two tracks on the entire album that feels like an entirely complete and fulfilling song (despite the imperfect score).

RATING: 9/10


REMINISCENT OF: New Divide + Waiting for the End


FOUR) LIES GREED MISERY: This song lies between a soft and a hard spot. It sounds like something that you might hear from Fort Minor (with, of course, Chester as a guest singer), except if this was on Mike Shinoda’s Fort Minor album, it would probably be my least favorite song on the album, and I like Linkin Park more than Fort Minor . . . so, what does that say about this song? It’s a bland, short and heavy hip-hop/punk-influenced song with a heavy chorus—and it’s one of my least favorite Linkin Park songs ever. But, the thing with Linkin Park is that one man’s trash is the next man’s treasure . . . but I believe it’s misplaced anger. I think LP wanted to make a song that their “angry HT fans” could enjoy (and by no means am I saying you’re an angry person if you like this song).

RATING: 4/10




FIVE) I’LL BE GONE: Owen Pallett (Arcade Fire collaborator) did the strings on this song. The verses are unique and sung beautifully, and the choruses are the best on this album, and maybe the best chorus on any album they’ve done. This was my mom’s favorite song; with that being said, this might be the biggest single on the album when the time comes. This is also the first song on the album (assuming you’re listening to it from beginning to end) that really shows the evolution of their abilities as a band and the progression of their sound.

RATING: 10/10


REMINISCENT OF: From the Inside and What I’ve Done


SIX) CASTLE OF GLASS: NME has called this song a country song . . . eh, not really. Although it does have a sort of twangy guitar arrangement; I call it Western rock if it’s anything at all to do with a country vibe. This is my favorite song on the album; it’s even my girlfriend’s favorite song at the moment (and she’s only a moderate Linkin Park fan). The song starts off with a hypnotic chugging of a steam engine-esque tempo and builds with a folk—almost country or western—guitar arrangement (it could be keyboard; it’s hard to tell with LP). And when Mike Shinoda starts singing, “take me down to the river bend, take me down to the fighting end,” you know that this is going to be a magical song which isn’t your typical Linkin Park. The chorus is short, poetic, and catchy. When I listen to the song, for some reason I think of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. It also is reminiscent of Mumford & Sons and Johnny Cash. This is the song that I would play to people who are skeptical about the album.

RATING 14/10   :-P


REMINISCENT OF: Nothing they’ve done before.


SEVEN) VICTIMIZED: The working title for this song was “Battle-axe,” and when you listen to it, you’ll know why. It’s short, blunt, and straight to the point. It could be longer, but it doesn’t need to be; in fact, it is what it is, and that’s okay in my book. If anything could be said about this song, I would say that it was influenced by 80’s punk bands and the rapping reminds me of The Roots.

RATING: 7.5/10


REMINISCENT OF: Nothing they’ve done before.


EIGHT) ROADS UNTRAVELED: Folk, Blues, and Soul, and it feels like it could be the spiritual successor to “My December.” There isn’t much to be said about this song, except for . . . there’s an omnipresent clinking of glass or maybe chimes of some sort . . .  It’s also the slowest song on the album, and it’s one of the most unexpected tracks. I wish it was longer and had more lyrics, but what’s done is done. I certainly can’t imagine another band of Linkin Park’s caliber attempting (and succeeding) in this type of song, so whatever could be better about this song is not relevant. All songs can be better (and a song being too short is better than a song being too long).

RATING: 10/10


REMINISCENT OF: My December and Robot Boy


NINE) SKIN TO BONE: This song was supposed to be (according to Mike and Chester) one of their Folk-influenced songs on the album, but I sort of get a late Kanye West vibe from it. Or maybe if Kanye West made babies with Bob Dylan—I’m not sure. This song is one of the most difficult to describe; I guess you can even call it heavy dubstep (and I had read a review somewhere comparing this song to dubstep, but I’m not familiar with the genre—and I think that dubstep is the new Nu Metal at the moment in the sense that “everything” is dubstep; so I would make the point to say that if this song has any dubstep musical elements in it, then it’s of good taste). It’s really a bizarre song about constancy and permanency and death. The lyrics remind us that the clock is ticking.

RATING: 8/10


REMINISCENT OF: Wretches and Kings (without rapping)


TEN) UNTIL IT BREAKS: The composition of this song is really what makes it so unique. For me to describe it, it would almost feel like I’d be spoiling the fun. So, I’m not going to describe the composition—but I’ll say it’s a combination of A Thousand Suns and something that the hip hop group The Roots would make with a hint of Green Day; I feel like this would have been a great song to be included on A Thousand Suns. It’s one of my favorites on the album, but I can guarantee that those who didn’t like A Thousand Suns will not like this song (and if you do like this song, are you sure you didn’t like A Thousand Suns? Just wondering). To each their own.

RATING: 10/10


REMINISCENT OF: When They Come For Me and Hands Held High


ELEVEN) TINFOIL: Instrumental. It’s actually pretty good and I think it’s a required bridge from “Until It Breaks” to the final track, “Powerless.”


TWELVE) POWERLESS: If you put this song at the end of any of their previous albums, it would work for those albums as well as it does for this album; “Powerless” has little fragments of their previous ballads inside. But, aside from that, it works perfectly as its own thing. And what it is is an emotional Power Ballad about being with someone who you love but watch them ruin things for themselves and others. And it’s the most touching song they’ve ever done, in my opinion (and I sort of wish it was longer for that reason). You really feel something when you listen to it; the lyrics connect with anyone who’s been let down; the chorus is full of raw emotions in which is sung just as beautifully as Chester sang “The Messenger.” And then when you hear the chanting/howling “Ooooo ooooo oooo ooooo,” you can’t help but feel gooseflesh and the hairs rise up on your arm and feel a sob crawl up your throat, or maybe tears swell in your eyes (okay, I’m exaggerating, just a little). When the song ends, you want more . . . but you can’t have more, because the album has reached its end.

RATING: 10/10


REMINISCENT OF: Pushing Me Away, Numb, and In Pieces



As a consistent fan of Hybrid Theory, Meteora, Fort Minor’s The Rising Tied, Minutes to Midnight, and A Thousand Suns, I can honestly say that what hurt Linkin Park the most was trying to build a bridge between them and the fans that they lost; and in doing so (which is the equivalent of trying to get back with someone that cheated on you just because you got a haircut and wore dress shoes instead of converse), they sort of backtracked—call it being comfortable in their skins if you want, but I call it being scared and hurt by all their negative reviews from M2M and ATS, and so they didn’t want to get bad reviews from “fans (but let’s just say ‘stubborn nu metal’ fans).” And thus, LIVING THINGS doesn’t quite live up to A Thousand Suns, in terms of feeling like a complete, fulfilling album; but it will very likely find a few fickle Hybrid Theory fans that might like “Lost in the Echo,” “In My Remains,” and “Lies Greed Misery”.


Another flaw I found—which was glaringly obvious in “Lies Greed Misery”—was the fact that they are, in a way, relapsing about an ideology that they sang about often in Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns (and even in Meteora for the most part), which was . . . forgiveness; it’s not you, it’s me; selflessness—that way of thinking. I found that “Lies Greed Misery” crumbled that foundation that was built by previous songs of good, righteous morals, such as “Breaking the Habit,” “Leave Out All The Rest,” “What I’ve Done,” “In Between,” “Burning in the Skies,” “Robot Boy,” “Iridescent,” and “The Messenger”. There was nothing redeeming about “Lies Greed Misery”—it felt like petty high school politics when you just wanna get back at somebody without a good cause (so-and-so said this about me, and I’m gonna say this about them). If the song was about how people’s stupid actions cause them to be in the state poverty or bad health that they’re in, as the lyric, “you did it to yourself” states, and then perhaps it would have made the song better. But the song was more or less just about being in a verbal feud with someone . . . a little petty, if you ask me. Yes, it’s a big gripe, but it’s only one song, and it doesn’t knock off a star. If you’re an angry person, you might like this song. But I’m not angry. The Hybrid Theory years were a decade ago.     :-P



1. If they had fully fleshed out each song, and hence making the album longer, it would have felt like a complete album—as Minutes to Midnight and A Thousands Suns both felt like (even if you hated those albums). Some songs were just too short to state their actual meanings successfully.


A) “Lies Greed Misery” should have added a little something—perhaps an extra rapping verse that overlaps Chester screaming, “You did it to yourself!” and perhaps making it a longer, more fulfilling song. And perhaps if they would have done something extra to this song, it wouldn’t have been my least favorite.


B) “Castle of Glass” was such a beautiful, unique song, and it ranks up as one of my favorite Linkin Park songs ever. But, when they have such a gem, why couldn’t they unleash it? I would love to have heard at least three more minutes of this dark western weirdness that would have made it into something legendary (but I have a feeling they knew this was going to be a single, so they made it short—a shame, really).


C) “Roads Untraveled” was pretty. And it was pretty short for being so pretty. In M2M and ATS, they would have milked it a little more, and they should have with this song, too.


Ultimately, if those three songs were amplified, then I think the album would have felt more complete. And perhaps people wouldn’t have cared that “Victimized” was so short (because the two songs sandwiching it would have been long). The only songs on the album that I felt were truly “complete” were “Burn It Down” and “Until it Breaks”.


2. When I heard the title of the album was LIVING THINGS, I was pumped because I was thinking it was the natural extension of the concepts applied in A Thousand Suns (what I mean is that ATS was about nuclear holocaust and dead things—(get it?)—and thus, this album’s title . . .), but the title didn’t really mean anything in connections with the songs (other than it being about personal relationships), except that it did feel more energetic than ATS (and hence the CAPITALIZED title). I wish they would have made LIVING THINGS into at least a semi-concept album instead of a compilation of songs (really good songs, I might add, just there wasn’t a consistent flow as there was in ATS).



It’s kind of hard to define this album’s genre—the best I can say is that it’s a musical chimera between Avenged Sevenfold, The Roots, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Unlike their last album, LIVING THINGS is deeply personal with songs a non-LP-fan can enjoy (unless they’re too stubborn to even listen to any of their music, like a friend of mine that wouldn’t give “Castle of Glass” a chance, because she mental conceives them as a Screamo band), songs that an only-Old-LP-fan can (and should) finally come around and enjoy again, and still contains some bold risks that ATS fans can enjoy, with genres ranging from Electronic Rock, Hip Hop, Reggae, Folk and Punk; it’s an album in which each strum of guitar and bass is masterfully crafted and placed, each pound or tap of the drum has a purpose while creating hypnotic beats, and the lyrics are honed, the vocals ruthless and raw. Even Mr. Hahn, the DJ, has a comfortable—not overbearing, but not overly minimal (like in M2M)—place in each song.



Along with life, there’s pain; and with pain, there’s hope. This album will have a song for you. I recommend that you buy the album too, instead of downloading it illegally, because Linkin Park takes pride in their album artwork.