[23 August 2011]
If I were to let any old Linkin Park fans hear this album in its entirety without showing them the album artwork—or anything else physical for that matter—he or she would probably jab me in the ribs first to interrogate me on how I got my hands on their latest record before them and then proceed to be quivering like excited little children whom are going to the funfair for the first time. Well, surprise: The band in question is from one of the world’s smallest metropolitan cities, Singapore.
The syncopated industrial beats, MIDI sound samples, simple guitar chord progressions, synth effects and pained screams all contribute to an uncanny resemblance to the Linkin Park from nearly a decade ago, so it is no wonder some American fans had made a fan music video of a song off this album on YouTube (search for “The New Chester Bennington, Flawed Element”), mistakenly thinking that this is a new Linkin Park record. Sorry to disappoint those guys, but from the looks of Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park won’t be revisiting their old style again, not unless they stop with the weird brand of progressive rock they are playing now. Ironically, it is a new wave of younger bands that are resurrecting Linkin Park’s original style, and apart from Flawed Element, a few other notable bands that have been taking up Linkin Park’s abandoned mantle include Red and the now defunct Opiate for the Masses.
It is perfectly understandable for a band from such an obscure location in the music world to want to imitate a foreign musical style that had been proven to be a successful formula many years ago, but that is not to say that Flawed Element is just another “Linkin Park ripoff”. Granted, anyone who listens to this album can certainly hear Linkin Park in it—frontman Joe Chahal’s combination of catchy clean singing and spurts of anguished screams in a high register plays a big factor in this—but there are elements of progressive rock (not in the new Linkin Park weird style, either) and goth metal as well. There are Dream Theater moments on this album, most notably on tracks like “On the Surface” and “Wall of Lies”, in which primary guitarist Jashan D. Singh shreds out solos that remind one of the intricate tunes John Petrucci himself is famous for dishing out. Other tracks such as “Without You” and “In Memory Of” also feature acoustic guitar melodies softly plucked and strummed by secondary guitarist Clement See, which serve as interludes between passages of hard driving electric guitars ala old Linkin Park and thus showcase the progressive element more clearly.
Simple yet hauntingly beautiful keyboard melodies at the introduction of “Wall of Lies” and “Desolation” remind one of goth metal icons such as Evanescence and Lacuna Coil, and spectacularly, the rest of each song is not modeled after the goth metal song structure as expected, because keyboardist Jon He has a knack for flowing seamlessly and comfortably right into the dominantly nu-metal sound favored by the band. In fact, violins can even be heard on the tracks “Nothing Remains” and “Worms on Concrete”, the former of which is a soft melancholic number that will move even the most hardened criminals to tears and the latter of which is a unique fusion of hard rock and symphonic metal (you can hear chorale singing in the background toward the end).
The lyrical theme is honestly pretty clichéd, as it deals with the depressive and negative feelings an android has when facing this human world of ours and all of our very human problems (i.e. political and philosophical) that come packaged with it, and the album artwork is probably a graphic reflection of its troubles, depicting how alien our world appears to the android inasmuch so as how a digital world made up of lines of computer programming codes (think the Matrix) would appear foreign to us humans as well. Such lyrical themes that revolve around facing up to and confronting our common human problems like love and what it means to be human is a staple in the realm of alternative metal though, so perhaps it’s just personally not very interesting to me.
Although not a groundbreaking record that will be remembered in the annals of music history for decades to come, this is an extremely brilliant start to a career that shows great potential to go far beyond the shores of Singapore. A retrospectively fresh take on the traditional nu-metal style, this is the album that will reward the hitherto unrequited patience that old Linkin Park fans have for their fallen idols. Just make sure not to end up labeling this album as Linkin Park’s fifth record in your iPod.