Linkin Park’s new album, The Hunting Party, released on 13th June, 2014. Described by the band as a pure rock record, the album significantly differs from their sound in their last two albums (A Thousand Suns and Living Things), more similar to their debut album, Hybrid Theory or perhaps the grittier tracks in Minutes to Midnight.
The best way to describe their new sound is this: it’s disappointing. The band has been experimenting with new music for so long (with disastrous results in Living Things and far better ones in A Thousand Suns) that to hear them try to reproduce the sound that originally made them famous seems more like a tribute to the past than anything. Mike Shinoda has stated that the album was a tribute to the genre of rock, and that the title The Hunting Party refers to the band “hunting” for rock music. Well, the only thing they seem to have achieved is mediocrity. Their sound, which has constantly been evolving (whether for better or worse) since 2000, now seems to have hit a dead end: this album is a dead ringer for their debut, Hybrid Theory. Brad Delson (the lead guitarist) said as much, calling the album “an alternate Hybrid Theory” and comparing it to a theoretical prequel to the same.
The album starts off well, with the opening track, Keys to the Kingdom, combining Chester Bennington’s famous vocals with an excellent rap set by Mike Shinoda. The track is bouncy and aggressive, veering from highs to lows quickly, and generally interesting. The next song is All For Nothing, which features Page Hamilton. The chorus is interesting, but the rest of the song passes over your head. The third track on the list is Guilty All The Same, featuring Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim fame. It was released as a single on March and is perhaps the song that has received the most exposure, and deservedly so, with a memorable guitar riff and unexpectedly brilliant vocals by Bennington, combined with heavy bass. So far, the album is acceptable: nothing that could potentially achieve the legendary status of Numb and In The End, but not utter drivel, either.
Here is where it begins to go downhill. Guilty All The Same is followed by The Summoning, which seems to be the band’s nod to the songs that normally open their albums; i.e. the short, instrumental tracks, usually less than a minute long (Foreword, Wake, The Requiem). Generally these songs do an excellent job of introducing the album (with the exception of Foreword), but the inclusion of this particular track in this awkward position simply serves to highlight the shoddiness that pervades the entire album. Next up is War, which is uninteresting, to say the least. The song is fast-paced, but falls short of being exciting. Even Delson’s guitar can’t save it.
Wastelands follows, and with it brings some relief. It is one of the few songs that I actually liked, and one of the select few that I would recommend. The beat is catchy and the sound exciting, perfectly mixing anger with the sense of pervasive isolation. Shinoda and Bennington both excel, but the success of the song can primarily be attributed to Joe Hahn (turntables, keyboard), who, with the eerie background music, perfectly serves to illustrate the song’s message.
Until It’s Gone continues the trend of palatable songs, with excellent background music accompanied by haunting vocals by Bennington. The sound here seems very similar to the loneliness and frustration so often expressed in Meteora, with a little Minutes to Midnight thrown in for good effect. The end result is good: an exciting, intriguing song that can be played over and over again.
I wish that Rebellion had been along the same lines, but instead the song, which features Daron Malakian (System of a Down) and was released as a single in early June, and though it does have its merits, it is largely forgettable. The bass seems contrived, the drums too out of pace with the vocals. The chorus intones “We are the fortunate ones” – well, not after that, we aren’t.
Mark The Graves starts off with an interesting solo, but then devolves to a largely uncomplicated number that seems to rely far too heavily on their traditional method of structuring songs. The highlight of the song is Bennington’s vocals in the middle, eerily similar to Waiting for the End (A Thousand Suns). It is followed by Drawbar, which features Tom Morello (who was once part of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, but is now mostly associated with Springsteen’s tours). The song is surprisingly soft, and seems more similar to Coldplay than anything that Linkin Park would possibly produce. Nevertheless, the effect is quite nice, even if the placement of the song is queer, and it fits somewhat uneasily into the album.
Final Masquerade is, frankly, boring. There is absolutely nothing in this song. Nada, zip, zilch. The album ends with A Line in the Sand, which is marginally better. It seems vaguely similar to an amalgamation of older songs from Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns, also bearing a marked resemblance to Guilty All The Same.
This is not the band’s worst album; that dubious honour goes to Living Things. But it isn’t the best, either. After setting a tradition of releasing albums that are all, in their own ways, better than the previous ones, with so much innovation and experimentation in their sound, with the way their art has transformed over the years, it is painful to listen to something as derivative as The Hunting Party. Independently, the album might not even be considered bad: it does contain a few good songs. But being that it is a Linkin Park album, it is mediocre at best. The only exceptional thing about it is the album art.