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Light at the End of the Tunnel


About the Author

Simon de Laat is a third-year History student who is currently doing a Psychology minor in Leiden. In his free time, he likes to play guitar, play volleyball, drink coffee all day long and try out new craft beers. This is the first year in which he is part of an ACE committee

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Four months ago, I wrote about the album ‘Post Traumatic by Linkin Park songwriter, rapper, keyboard player, and rhythm guitarist Mike Shinoda. I also mentioned my love for the 2010 album by Linkin Park called A Thousand Suns and in this article, I want to further explore the lyrical content and explain why I find this album just so freaking incredible. Before doing that, I want everyone who is not super familiar with the band to forget everything you think you know about the band. Linkin Park is mostly known for their early rap-rock & nu-metal music with screamy vocals, but musically and lyrically, this album is almost the polar opposite to their earlier, more well-known work.

A Thousand Suns is a concept album, which means that the album is not simply a collection of songs, each with a different meaning, but an entire work with several interludes that is essentially one long music piece that is only meant to be listened from the beginning till the end. There are fifteen tracks on this album, six of them being interludes and nine of them being full songs. The concept of the album is destruction and its aftermath and, more specifically, the chaos during and after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This is the result of Mike Shinoda being half Japanese, as well as the band’s desire to continue exploring different sounds and different lyrical content, something they started with in 2007 with the release of Minutes to Midnight. Even though the concept sounds depressing (and, granted, some of the lyrical content is), the different ways in which the concept is dealt with is done brilliantly.

The album begins with the two interludes ‘The Requiem’ and ‘the Radiance,’ that introduce the rather gloomy prospect of inevitable nuclear destruction. The vocals are not yet done by Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, but are a selection of sampled voices singing: ‘God bless us everyone, will we burn inside the fire of a thousand suns.’ This intro is followed by the first actual song called ‘Burning in the Skies,’ a song in which Bennington sings about the corrupt side of human nature:

“I’m singing in the smoke of bridges I have burned
So don’t apologize, I’m losing what I don’t deserve”

In ‘Robot Boy,’ the most underrated song on the album, the band take a step back and analyse the shortcomings of this ‘robot boy,’ which can be seen as humanity as a whole, and try to coach the robot boy

“You say, the weight of the world has kept you from letting go
And you think compassion’s a flaw and you’ll never let it show”

However, even in the worst of chaos, there are always ways in which you can rediscover your inner strengths and embrace your emotions and in the remainder of the verse, the robot boy is reminded of just that.

“And you’re sure, you’ve hurt in a way that no one will ever know
But someday, the weight of the world will give you the strength to go”

In ‘Waiting For The End,’ my favourite song of all time, there is some acquiescence about the situation, but also some confusion about what the way forward is. During the third verse, Mike Shinoda sings the following in almost a reggae style:

“What was left when the fire was gone
I thought it felt right, but that right was wrong
All caught up in the eye of the storm
And trying to figure out what it’s like moving on”

The following two songs are about the powers who are responsible for such massive destruction. ‘Blackout’ is an angry cry for help (“you take and take and take and take and take, fuck it are you listening, no”). ‘Wretches and Kings,’ on the other hand, takes a more active stance towards these powers. In this song, which is perhaps the strongest lyrically on the entire album, Chester Bennington passionately sings the following in the chorus:

“Steel unload, final blow
We the animals take control
Here us now, clear and true
Wretches and Kings we come for you”

In this chorus, ‘animals’ refers to the common people, often looked down upon by these powers as animals, whilst the wretches and kings are the corrupt powers that need to make place. The song in its entirety can be seen as a call for revolution and somehow gives a more optimistic view about a possible recovery after destruction.
This, in essence, is where the strength of the album in its entirety lies. Despite the fact that the album deals with serious themes, such as power and nuclear destruction, it is still able to give individuals some agency in building a future and finding hope, even in the worst of scenarios. In ‘Iridescent,’ the entire band at one point sings:

“Do you feel cold and lost in desperation
You build up hope, but failure is all you’ve known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go, let it go”

And after fourteen songs filled with turntabling, keyboards, and electric samples, the last song is a fully acoustic song, embracing the vulnerable side of humanity that will always be there in times of chaos. That song, called ‘The Messenger,’ is the perfect ending to a rollercoaster that is worth experiencing. For me, the album will forever hold a special place in my heart and even after many listens, it still gets me the same way as the first listen.

  1. The Requiem
  2. The Radiance
  3. Burning in The Skies
  4. Empty Spaces
  5. When They Come For Me
  6. Robot Boy
  7. Jornada Del Muerto
  8. Waiting For The End
  9. Blackout
  10. Wretches and Kings
  11. Wisdom, Justice, and Love
  12. Iridescent
  13. Fallout
  14. The Catalyst
  15. The Messenger