Rap metal is dead. Linkin Park are not, because they were always more than the meager sum of that combination — more pop and classic rock in their riffs, hooks and drive, even on Collision Course, their 2004 mash-up with Jay-Z. On Minutes to Midnight, co-produced by Rick Rubin, Linkin Park are more of something else — topical — and furiously good at it. In the last song, “The Little Things Give You Away,” the band coolly torpedoes George W. Bush’s petty, disastrous arrogance on Iraq and New Orleans (for starters), building from acoustic strum and soft-shoe electronics to magisterial Seventies-arena guitar and lacerating disgust. “All you’ve ever wanted was someone to truly look up to you,” Chester Bennington sings. “And six feet underwater/I do.”
That’s not all. Bennington is not going over old-girlfriend ground when he promises, “Your time is borrowed,” in the hammering thrash of “No More Sorrow.” And Mike Shinoda’s state-of-disbelief rap “Hands Held High” comes with military-funeral drums and an “amen” chorus. This would be as much fun as a filibuster if Linkin Park did not pay equal attention to the punch and detail in the gritty stomp “Bleed It Out” and the balled-fist guilt of “What I’ve Done.” “Shadow of the Day” is a too-literal echo of Joshua Tree-era U2, but most of Minutes is honed, metallic pop with a hip-hop stride and a wake-up kick. “What the fuck is wrong with me?” Bennington barks over the jingle bells and distortion in “Given Up.” The answer all over this record: nothing that getting off your ass can’t fix.