Review Summary: Adapt or die...
This is the next stage in Linkin Park's evolution.
The band who virtually took nu-metal to the mainstream with Hybrid Theory and then evolved into an alternative rock band (Minutes to Midnight) on their way to making electronic music (A Thousand Suns & Living Things) had grown stagnant in the eyes of fans, and apparently in the eyes of the band themselves. Mike Shinoda, when discussing The Hunting Party at length has said that Linkin Park wanted to "weed out the emo" in their music, that "our label told us this record will be a hard sell at radio, and that "rock music has gone soft and we want to bring it back". And boy, does The Hunting Party ever live up to those quotes.
The first two tracks blow Living Things out of the water: "Keys To The Kingdom" is a anthemic heavy-as-*** track that begins with a heavily distorted screamed vocal from Chester Bennington before Rob Bourdon and Brad Delson take it the *** over. "All For Nothing" is insanely groovy, as Mike Shinoda wages a polemic during the verses before Helmet frontman Page Hamilton sings the explosive chorus. With those two tracks alone, it is obvious that Linkin Park got sick of being indolent in terms of songwriting. Bourdon and Delson are the stars on The Hunting Party, as they are let out of their cages and allowed to roam. Most tracks feature at least one guitar solo, if not more, and Delson provides some really solid riffing throughout the album. Bourdon plays drums like a madman, so much so that he ***ed up his back during the recording sessions because he was playing so hard. On faster tracks like "Guilty All The Same", he goes nuts. "War" is probably his best performance on the album, as it is the fastest song here, and he keeps up ably.
"A Line In The Sand" recycles "Victimized" from Living Things and also borrows from "Guilty All The Same" to devastating effect. It's the perfect album closer, because it's basically a massive call to arms. "Mark The Graves" features a neat off-kilter groove that will worm it's way around your ears for a while.
Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda go in for the kill vocally on The Hunting Party. Shinoda takes lead vocally on several tracks with his rapping, and dude sounds pissed off as hell when he's spitting rhymes here. "Wastelands" is a prime example, as he lets loose over a hip-hop beat from Bourdon. He also contributes singing to a couple tracks, including the extremely System of a Down-esque track "Rebellion" which features System's Daron Malakian on guitar. Chester Bennington's vocals are fine, for anyone who's complaining. His screams, when he unleashes them, are more visceral and raw than he has sounded in years. His cleans are decent, but Shinoda is the main one to focus on here.
The Hunting Party is not perfect, by any means. "Drawbar" absolutely wastes the talents of one Tom Morello, "Guilty All The Same" is about a minute too long, and the mix on that particular track almost buries Rakim's vicious guest verse. The production is gloriously raw, but one could expect that from a self-produced effort. It's good that the band shed the deadweight known as Rick Rubin though. The softer tracks "Until It's Gone" and "Final Masquerade" are good songs, but they sound a bit out of place on The Hunting Party. All of these are just very minor gripes, though.
There is an overall feeling on The Hunting Party of anger and viciousness. Indeed, Linkin Park had stated that they wanted to make a "90s rock record" and they have done that. The Hunting Party is the most cathartic and passion-filled record Linkin Park has ever written. They definitely needed a change after the electronic-heavy spirit of their last two efforts: A Thousand Suns was a beautiful record, but it's not easy to get into it for casual fans. Living Things tried to balance their present with past, but the songwriting suffered slightly. The Hunting Party changes that, while going for the throat in the process. I could go on all day about how great this album is, but I'll leave you with a poem that the band included on the back of the CD booklet:
We Are Not Satisfied.
We Are Hungry.
Hungry For The Visceral.
We Are Not Heroes Or Anti-Heroes.
We Carry Only The Flag That Is Our Own.
Now Is Not The Time To Look Back To See If Anyone Is Following.
Now Is The Time To Charge Forward Into The Unknown.
THE HUNTING PARTY...