Linkin Park has always been a band that has been brilliant at four things: Making unique-sounding music, not making the same album twice, being bloody brilliant and surprising us. They surprised us when they decided to go down the electronic root, although I saw that coming after Minutes to Midnight. So many fans thought that Linkin Park would go down the electronic root with their next album after Living Things. It seems that we forgot that they have said before that they’ll never make the same record twice. So imagine everybody’s surprise when the first single off of The Hunting Party dropped and it was this massive hard rock song that hit harder than a wrecking ball with a Miley Cyrus on it.
The Hunting Party was born out of Mike Shinoda’s sheer frustration with all the soft indie rock being played on “rock” radio. Instead of creating some alternative pop album sounding like several demos he had created, he decided to create an edgy album that took the band back to their original ethos and the music that influenced them. Essentially Shinoda wanted to create an album for his 15-year old self. “When I think of myself at 15,” Shinoda says, “I think of emotions being so raw and illogical. It hadn’t been watered down by experience. I liked music that was lyrically or sonically offensive—whatever would piss my parents off. We had to get back in touch with that in order to make this record.” What they do on this album is throw elements of hip-hop, hardcore punk and trash metal into their already hard-hitting sound.
Do they go back to their influences? They do more than that. They get their influences to feature on the album. Hip-hop legend Rakim spits verses on “Guilty All the Same”. Paige Hamilton from Hamlet squeezes in some vocals on “All for Nothing”. Daron Malakian of System For a Down puts a SOAD spin on the guitars of “Rebellion”. Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine helped craft the atmospheric instrumental track “Drawbar”.
The Hunting Party is kicked off by the explosive “Keys to the Kingdom”. First thing’s first: say hello to Chester Bennington’s famous screamed vocals distorted by a ragged electronic sound. The guitars burst in more or less after this and you’re treated to a Linkin Park doing what they do best: delivering angry music. I am overjoyed to hear Bennington deliver his brilliant screamed vocals again while Shinoda mixes it up with his melodic singing and his hard-hitting rap verses. He delivers the brilliant lyric of “Careful what you shoot / you might hit what you aim for.”
“All for Nothing” mashes punk rock guitar riffs with hip hop-styled beats. This creates a rhythm that works perfectly with Shinoda’s opening rap vocals followed by a vocal trade-off between Bennignton and Hamilton as Hamilton takes the main verses while Bennington injects with shouts of “You said!” “All for Nothing” sees Linkin Park playing the ambiguous lyrics; it is either a political rant or a major finger to record labels telling bands how they should sound.
Now we come to aforementioned single that turned rock circles on their heads the day it was released. Nobody was expecting Linkin Park to release a song like this after Living Things. Nor did they expect to hear Brad Delson shredding a nearly two-minute long guitar solo on the song’s intro. It is another song that takes on a political stance and takes a shot at the media and record labels, especially on Rakim’s brutal 24-bar verse.
“The Summoning” can be seen as the interlude to “War”. It is a brief moment of electronic fuzz and dubstep-like sounds with a gradual increase in suspense as the fuzz gets louder and louder before stopping for a moment. Then “War” bursts in and you’re forced to say hello to the hardcore punk version of Linkin Park. Bennington sounds like every single pissed off punk rocker in this song as he delivers a rant about war while screaming his lungs out. It is safe to say that Linkin Park has gone from channeling teenage (well grown-up) angst from personal issues to worldly issues in the most flawless way possible.
“Wastelands” opens with Shindo’s rapid rapping as he spews verses like “This is war with no weapons / Marching with no stepping.” It is essentially a song about the state of the music scene, or at least that is how I interpret it. Linkin Park is talking about how the music scene has become a literal wasteland with numerous copycats in it and people that try to outdo them but fail miserably. Bennington’s vocals punch through on the chorus as he delivers lyrics like “As your hopes turn to fears.”
“Until It’s Gone” sees Bennington abandon his harsh vocals for a more melodic sound accompanied by Rob Bourdon’s crashing drums, a soaring synth line and a soaring guitar riff that bursts in on the chorus. It collides the synth lines from Living Things with the riffs from Meteroa and lets Bennington have his way with his beautiful vocals.
Instrumentally, “Rebellion” sounds a lot like System of a Down meets Linkin Park thanks to the influence of Malakian. Vocally, it is brilliant. Shinoda and Bennington perform it in a duet style with their melodic vocals meshing so well together and creating a beautiful soaring sound. This sound is, in true System of a Down style, absolutely destroyed by Bennington launching into a vocal freak-out with Malakian shredding behind him on the guitar.
“Mark the Graves” sees a return of Bennington’s beautiful vocals that we heard on “Iridescent” while the instrumentals take on a more hardcore sound than the soaring synth from “Iridescent”. He breaks from this melodic sound after the bridge and resorts to a much harsher and almost shouty vocal style. Towards the end of the song, he launches into screams that have not been heard since the Hybrid Theory years.
“Drawbar” is a beautiful atmospheric instrumental track featuring the guitar genius of Morello. It serves as an introduction to the final two songs which take on a much softer sound than the rest of the album. Linkin Park has always been good at soft songs and they continue to show that excellence with “Final Masquerade”. This song is very reminiscent of “Leave Out All the Rest” yet it has the Meteora formula applied to it in terms of the instrumentals, with thundering guitar riffs weaving in out of a delicate piano and synth medley. The lyrical genius of Bennington and Shinoda shines through on this song as Bennington passionately delivers lyrics like “Tearing me apart with words you’ll never say.” It is Linkin Park performing a love ballad at its best. It is also quite possibly my favourite song off the album.
Although, “Line In the Sand” is tied with it for first place. This is a song that uses the Hybrid Theory formula combined with Shinoda’s melodic vocals and his gut-punching raps. The song opens in a delicate way when Shinoda delivers rather emotional yet protest-styled lyrics with “Today we stood on the wall / We laughed at the sun / We laughed at the guns / We laughed at it all.” After this, thundering guitars and drums kick in. The guitars calm themselves to allow Shinoda to sing with Bennington backing him up. When Bennington takes over the vocals, the guitars return along with the crashing drums as he screams “Give me back what is mine.” Shinoda’s rap verses are brilliant as always as he raps about the state of America. “Steady as a sniper / We were waiting on a wire.”
Linkin Park has always been a band that I love and with the release of The Hunting Party, I love them even more. They delivered an album that is much-needed in a current era where mainstream rock is dominated by rock bands that try to sound cool by using this fancy equipment and sounding “indie”. All they do is sound the same as 20 other bands instead of sticking to a sound that is their own. You can feel that Linkin Park has invested their soul into this album that is bound to tear the music scene a new one. They’re going back to the hard aggressive roots of their sound, which is always a bold move for a mainstream rock band. Linkin Park don’t care though. “We had a punk rock attitude of, ‘I don’t give a fuck, this is what I want to make.’” They’re in this for themselves and nobody else.