Review Summary: The hunt for heavy has finally ended.
I’ll always remember the first time I heard a Linkin Park song. It was May of 2004, and I was on a JetBlue flight headed straight to Orlando. Before the plane took off, I was listening to an MP3 player I found in the front pouch of my backpack. As I put the headphones in my ear and pressed play, the first track that played was “Numb”, and I instantly fell in love with it, headbanging on the plane as it rolled off the tarmac and shot into the clear blue sky. Since then, I’ve witnessed the ballad-stricken, bland disappointment that was Minutes to Midnight
, the electronic-influenced A Thousand Suns
and Living Things
, and the abomination of a remix album that was Recharged
. It’s safe to say that Linkin Park is the band that I’ve followed the longest on my ongoing musical path, and ever since 2003 all they did was disappoint.
Eleven years later, they’re finally back on track.
Fans have been begging for a return to their nu-metal roots for quite a while now, and frankly, that seems rather justified given how drab and unoriginal the band has been recently. Although The Hunting Party
is visceral in its own way, it’s not exactly the same brand of aggression that was prevalent during the rap-rock craze; instead, the record relies on its hard-hitting riffs and powerful screams to create a heavy, vicious sound that takes its cues from punk and occasionally metal. “What makes a 37-year-old angry is different than what made us angry back in the day," said Mike Shinoda, and for the most part, the aggressive energy found in The Hunting Party
is remarkably different than those found during the band’s early days.
The album marks the first use of guest musicians on a Linkin Park album, and for the most part, they’re hit-or-miss. Rap icon Rakim lends a verse on lead single “Guilty All the Same”, which, although well done, seems rather out of place amongst the thrashy riffs and furious drumming. Likewise, Tom Morello’s appearance on the instrumental track “Drawbar” comes off as wasted potential as his presence is rarely felt. The piano-driven interlude masks his talents on the guitar, and in the end, the rock legend’s appearance comes off as one solely for the name value. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Helmet frontman Page Hamilton lends an absolutely spectacular vocal performance on “All or Nothing”, a track that sees Shinoda drop some pretty nice rhymes, showing off some impressive flow while Hamilton and Chester Bennington combine forces to create a truly anthemic chorus that shows off the chemistry between the two singers. “Rebellion” features Daron Malakian from System of a Down on the guitar, and the track’s main riff wouldn’t sound out of place on Toxicity
or System of a Down
. Although it would have been a welcome treat to hear him sing a few lines, Chester’s agonized screams during the song’s bridge see him bring back the fire inside that we all knew he still had left in him.
Although The Hunting Party
delivers in terms of its heaviness, the album manages to spread its wings fully and immerse itself in its energy and passion. “Keys to the Kingdom” kicks off the record with Chester’s loud, warbling screams as he gives one of his best vocal performances in his entire career. Rob Bourdon’s drumming overall is much more prominent than before, and the faster pace of the album’s songs let him showcase his talents more than ever before. “War” wears its punk influences right on its sleeve – the opening riffs and drumfill bring to mind late 80s Bad Religion, even if the lyrics are pretty lazy. Even though The Hunting Party
prides itself on being a return to Linkin Park’s heavy roots (and it should, because it made them get their energy back), that’s not to say they’re softer side has been completely eradicated. The penultimate track “Final Masquerade” showcases Chester’s soaring vocals, filled with just as much emotion as his screams. It works perfectly as the calm before the storm, as the dynamic six-minute epic closer “A Line in the Sand” bookends the album in a culmination of all its anger, beauty and riffage.
There are a few missteps – second single “Until It’s Gone” recycles the cliché “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone” over mind-numbingly dull instrumentation, creating a snail-paced ballad that is neither engaging nor emotional. Even though Linkin Park never used pensive, thoughtful lyrics as their mantra, there still are some unsettling one-liners (“You said it was forever but then it slipped away” is ripped straight out of the sappy teenage breakup anthem handbook). “Mark the Graves” drags on for a little over five minutes, going nowhere in spite of some nice instrumentation courtesy of Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon.
With The Hunting Party
, Linkin Park have realized that by retracing their hard rock roots, the energy and passion of their first two albums have come back to them, resulting in a welcome surprise from a band who spent the last decade drifting further and further from their nu-metal beginnings. Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon both play a much more important role in the record’s instrumentation, which wouldn’t be nearly as captivating if it weren’t for their aggressive playing style. The drumfills come fast, and the riffs are delivered with pure unadulterated visceral energy. Ironically, the project originally began with more indie pop influences before Shinoda realized the error of his ways and scrapped the idea. Forgoing commercial success, Linkin Park take a leap in their musical progression and land exactly where they needed to in spite of its radio-unfriendliness. The energy and passion behind their best material has finally come back around, and The Hunting Party
proves that they’ve still got it left in them.