Linkin Park - The Hunting Party Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.17.2014
Linkin Park brings the aggression back on their sixth studio album The Hunting Party, but do they find a new creative high or deliver a hollow retread of their classic work? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
1. "Keys to the Kingdom" (3:38)
2. "All for Nothing" (ft. Page Hamilton) (3:33)
3. "Guilty All the Same" (ft. Rakim) (5:56)
4. "The Summoning" (1:00)
5. "War" (2:11)
6. "Wastelands" (3:15)
7. "Until It's Gone" (3:53)
8. "Rebellion" (ft. Daron Malakian) (3:44)
9. "Mark the Graves" (5:05)
10. "Drawbar" (ft. Tom Morello) (2:46)
11. "Final Masquerade" (3:37)
12. "A Line in the Sand" (6:35)
Linkin Park has, for better or worse, been at the forefront of rock music for the better part of the last fifteen years. The rap rock band that burst onto the scene with 2000's juggernaut Hybrid Theory are no longer neonates to the music industry; they've been put through the crucible and remain standing while many of their genremates like Limp Bizkit have fallen to the wayside. And yet they've not had the smoothest ride. Like all rock acts, the California-based band had to survive through the lean years of rock music and have had what many music listeners consider some missteps along the way. The most obvious example of that was A Thousand Suns in 2010, an electro-rock effort that polarized their fanbase and alienated a lot of hardcore Linkin Park fans.
They've learned from their lesson since that experimental effort and 2012's Living Things can be seen as an attempt to right the train. That was merely a footnote in terms of getting back to their core identity compared to their new album, however. On The Hunting Party, Linkin Park goes back to their Hybrid Theory roots and deliver an album that is perhaps even more aggressive and abrasive. I mean that in a good way; it's perfectly fine for an act to experiment and branch out musically as they mature. The band was accused of sticking to a tried-and-true formula that was getting stale by the time that Minutes for Midnight was released in 2007 and there's some truth in that argument. On The Hunting Party the band goes back to that very formula but this is a different Linkin Park. They aren't the angry guys with an adolescent mindset, screaming and rapping emo sentiment. This is an older and more mature band, one that has taken the bumps and bruises along the road, incorporating them into a more interesting and, indeed, more creatively powerful set of music.
There's no doubt that they're ready to unleash on this album; opening track "Keys to the Kingdom" starts with a distorted Chester Bennington unleashing that shout he said a few years back that he didn't want to do anymore, before Rob Bourdon kicks in with the drums and the rest join right in with a hard rock riff. This song sounds very much like a mission statement for the album; it combines the band's post-Meteora melodies for Mike Shinoda's sung verses with the fury of Bennington's chorus before Shinoda comes back in to deliver his rap flow with a level of belligerence and bravado that we haven't heard from him in a while. The next track is "All or Nothing," an attack track in which Shinoda spits, "So what ícha waiting for/anticipating more/while you debate what it could take to instigate a war." It's hellfire and brimstone in the nose of their detractors, an anthem of defiance punctuated by Helmet's Page Hamilton contributions. The band's message is clear: they're back and take no prisoners. Love or hate the band for all their strengths and faults, it's nice to hear that they've got some real fire in them again.
That fire flows right into "Guilty All the Same" as well. Through the last decade or so the band has increasingly found themselves falling into the politically-themed tracks along the lines of Rage Against the Machine or Flobots and that echoes throughout this Rakim-featured track. It flows smoothly from "All or Nothing's" message as Bennington's opening lyrics sneer, "Tell us all again/what you think we should be." This is more a message for the haves who set the rules for the have-nots but don't follow those very rules and when Rakim busts in he's a perfect fit, flowing rhetoric over Brad Delson and Dave Farrell's guitar work.
The band doesn't save all their commentary for that one song though; they have plenty to go around and as from the on the punky, take-no-prisoners metal of "War" to the hard-driving "Rebellion," the band clearly has a lot to say. Both are highlights of the album, with System of a Down's Daron Malakian blazing his way through a backing riff on the latter as Shinoda takes aim at the "fortunate ones who've never faced oppression's gun." The former is a full-on statement that this isn't the band who just repeats the same riffs over and over again; this is unlike just about anything we've heard of the band to this point and yet it seems perfectly nestled within their discography.
This isn't to say though that we're completely without the Linkin Park that we know and either love, hate or love to hate. "Until It's Gone" and "Final Masquerade" speak to the more melodic parts of their early career. "Gone" features Bennington delivering the kind of melancholy lyrics in a restrained voice that we remember from "What I've Done." It has elements of A Thousand Suns but is better than that album; however, it does sound just a little "been there, done that." "Masquerade" hearkens more to the "Minutes to Midnight" era than anything, a "Leave Out All the Rest" or "Shadow of the Day" style song that works because...well, frankly because it's the kind of song that no one can do justice quite link Linkin Park.
If there's a song that just doesn't hold the muster on The Hunting Party it would be "Mark the Graves." It's a bold track, another example of the band experimenting but one that just doesn't quite work the way they want it to. Mileage will vary for many and some may appreciate what they're trying to do with this hard driving intro into a stripped down discordance that flows underneath Bennington's lyrics, and it's certainly an admirable effort but it just doesn't take off like the band wants it to. Tom Morello brings it back around with his work on the trippy instrumental "Drawbar" though and by the time "Final Masquerade" kicks in, the awkwardness is completely gone. Final track "A Line in the Sand" provides a solid closer to what is without question Linkin Park's best album in years.
Standout Tracks: "All or Nothing," "Guilty All the Same," "War," "Rebellion," "Final Masquerade"
Skippable: "Mark the Graves"
The 411: The Hunting Party is Linkin Park's best work since Meteora and perhaps their best work yet. The aggression of their earlier work gives wings to a more focused and mature band that have been through the wringer of growing pains and come out stronger on the other side. The band sounds more vital than ever, delivering music manages the rare trick of being sure to please old-school fans and holding nothing back without just repeating their old steps ad nauseum.