When Linkin Park started calling out other bands for being “too poppy” and how rock bands have forgotten what it means to be a rock band in the lead up to The Hunting Party, I was really iffy.
What gave a band who many would consider once at the forefront of heavy nu-metal and then went mainstream pop the right to call out other bands on the same thing? It felt really hypocritical of the band, so we waited for the album to reserve final judgement. An album the band proclaimed was a return to their roots, a real rock record and the heaviest thing they’ve done in a while.
Right from the get-go this album goes hard with Chester clearing out the vocal pipes. It has been some time since we’ve heard Linkin Park this heavy and this loud. After releasing a couple of heavily electronic albums, it’s safe to say the band are back. Real guitar riffs, throaty vocals and actual drums — this is Linkin Park at their best since Hybrid Theory.
However, don’t think Linkin Park were so quick to completely rid themselves of their modern electronic pop sound from their last two albums, you hear bits and pieces of their modern sound throughout various songs on the album every now and then. Not every track on this record is heavy and early 00’s teen angst, but you know what? That’s okay because for the better part this is a really solid album.
Besides the obvious return to form for front-man Chester Bennington the real return to form presents itself in the form of none other than secondary front-man and rap guy Mike Shinoda. The Hunting Party offers up some of the best rap verses and flow we’ve ever heard come out of Shinoda’s mouth. In the track “Guilty All The Same” the appearance of legendary rapper Rakim didn’t really feel necessary. In-fact, it really highlights how similar Shinoda’s vocal style is to that of Rakim’s. If Mike handled the rap part, this track would still have been great.
Whilst the album features a pretty impressive list of guest cameos from the likes of Daron Malakian (from System of A Down) and Rakim, the most impressive for me was Page Hamilton featuring in the track, “All For Nothing” the chorus works so well. The track “Rebellion” featuring Darion actually sounds like something System of A Down would have written themselves. The palm-muted repeated guitar riff wouldn’t sound out of place on any System of A Down record. I was honestly a bit disappointed, lyrically the track isn’t very strong, but it’s pretty catchy and works well.
The biggest surprise for me on The Hunting Party is track, “War” which features part way through the album. It’s a hardcore punk track and while you might roll your eyes at the thought of Linkin Park attempting punk, they actually pull it off with ease including an awesome guitar solo to match. I would pay good money to hear Linkin Park attempt an entire albums worth of punk sounding tunes, I think they could pull it off.
Most disappointing cameo on the album goes to Tom Morello in “Drawbar“. I would have loved to hear Tom contribute something more substantial, his unique guitar style went relatively unnoticed on this track. While it’s a great instrumental, they could have done without the addition of Tom and the track wouldn’t have sounded any different. The drum-work in this track however is fantastic, it has a slight seedy smokey jazz club feel about it I love.
There is enough on The Hunting Party for a seasoned Linkin Park fan to like, I don’t think it meets the calibre of Hybrid Theory of which it was compared to, but it is one of the best albums the band have put out in a very long time. The production which was handled by guitarist Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda feels surprisingly organic and raw (especially apparent on hardcore punk track “War”).
The way the album was talked up, I expected it to be a lot heavier than it actually was. It’s clear Linkin Park under pressure from their label were advised not to go full-heavy out of fear of losing their new-found radio loving audience (even if they would never admit it), but it’s heavy enough they’ve won back my interest in the interim and if they continue on with the heavier sound for future releases, my faith would have been restored.
Rating: 8 out of 10.