Linkin Park have been one of the most successful and productive rock bands of the 21st century, but that’s not stopping them from changing things up on their sixth album. After spending the last couple of records leaning more melodic, the band is thoroughly embracing a guitar-driven hard rock sound with ‘The Hunting Party.’ No reward without risk, and Linkin Park takes a handful of both. Ditching processed beats, dusting off their guitars and drum sticks, the boys are alive and kicking and there’s no greater proof than their latest album. ‘The Hunting Party’ is a record that mixes punk chemistry with rap and heavy metal elements. Nearly 14 years on, Hybrid Theory offers a perfect description of what nu-metal is; a catchy but ultimately mix of distorted guitars, punchy drums, screaming, spitting and, head banging.
The follow-ups followed up, registering as either by-numbers (Meteora), lightweight (Minutes to Midnight) or just plain forgettable (A Thousand Suns, Living Things). Yet, despite their apparent embrace of the pop style genre of music, Linkin Park continues to command healthy interest from a fan base that shook off the likes of Papa Roach, Static X and P.O.D. long ago.
Unlike their previous album openers, ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ blasts hard, steady and straight to the point: this is a rock album. Gone are the synths and keyboards from ‘Lost in the Echo’ or the excessively long intros from ‘A Thousand Suns’. There are exceptions, songs like ‘Final Masquerade’ and ‘Until It’s Gone’ reinstate the mainstream/slightly pop side of their sound, but with better song writing and actual music. Lyrically, it’s often up or down, there are plenty of bland and generic lines here and there as well as some decent writing. However, what the album lacks in words makes up for in music. Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon have stepped out of the shadows to display some of the band’s best instrumentation since Meteora. The two vocalists have also stepped up. The mastermind behind Fort Minor displays some impressive flow on ‘All for Nothing’ and ‘Wastelands’ and successfully takes on the mantra of lead singer on more than a few songs, most notably
the highly dynamic ‘A Line in the Sand’, which also happens to be one of the highlights of the record. Chester treads into uncharted territory with some chilling vocal range on ‘Mark the Graves’, but most of his parts fail to impress with the exception of some strong screams in the album opener and ‘Rebellion’.
And the less said about Bennington’s shambolic lyrics (“I thought I kept you safe and sound/I thought I made you strong/But something made me realize/That I was wrong”), the better. Elsewhere, Tom Morello’s performance on “Drawbar” turns out to be nothing more than a distraction, while “The Summoning”, a full minute of chewed-up samples, drum fills, and ambient noises, does nothing but bleed off some of the album’s hard-earned momentum. Worst of all perhaps, are the numerous moments of perceptible hubris on the record: just prior to the start of “Guilty All The Same”, for instance, Shinoda can be heard telling Delson to “Put the heavy shit there”, it’s one thing for a band to have the guts and desire to attempt a stylistic change; it’s another thing entirely for them to be so far up their own asses about it.
Guest appearances are mostly a swing and a miss. Tom Morello is the obvious disappointment, his presence is completely unnoticeable on ‘Drawbar’, while ‘Rebellion’ could have used some of Daron’s vocals and Rakim could have just been left out completely. Page Hamilton’s contribution on ‘All for Nothing’, however, is one of the best things on the record and happens to feature the most memorable chorus from this track list.
‘The Hunting Party’ is a huge risk for a brand and image like Linkin Park. There’s a handful of songs here that would likely cause your mother or techno-savy friend to instantly switch off the radio. However, it’s a massive step in the right direction and puts the band back on the music map. It’s hard to argue against fans who claim this is the album that should have come out after Meteora, because well it really should have. It feels like a completely natural progression in terms of sound and maturity while at the same time reinstates the band’s relevance in the music scene.
Standout tracks: Keys to the Kingdom, All for Nothing, A Line in the Sand
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