ALBUM REVIEW – “The Hunting Party” by Linkin Park

The musical development of most bands is easy to chart. A nascent debut record’s sound is built upon over the course of a career, each successive release taking what came before and tweaking the formula incrementally. Since 2007 and the release of ‘everything-except-rap-metal’ transition record Minutes to Midnight, the previously easy to pigeonhole Linkin Park have done things differently, new albums seemingly representing a comprehensive rejection of everything about the previous one. So A Thousand Suns threw out any semblance of hard rock and the conventional pop rock song structures the group had become so known for in favour of freewheeling computerised soundscapes with more focus on mood than melody; two years later the sugar-rush immediacy of Living Things stood completely different to both its slow burning predecessor and the angsty nu metal of yore. If that album emphasised the pop and electronic angles of the Linkin Park sound, things have been thrown on their head once more on their turbulent, super-aggressive latest opus, The Hunting Party. 

‘Guilty All the Same’ was the first indication of something stirring, the more primal side of the band that’s been dormant for a decade finally rising out of its slumber. Channelling traditional heavy metal guitar licks and relentless double-kick drums in an explosion of energy, the song has now proven a good representation of the record’s fiery heart, if not its actual sound. Instead, this is an album that comes closer to 90s alternative metal or even hardcore punk – the latter fully manifesting on ‘War’. Brad Delson’s guitar work is back with a vengeance, his riffs punching above their weight on numerous occasions, but it’s drummer Rob Bourdon who really stamps his mark on things with a career-best performance of tumbling fills and breakneck beats.

Much has been made of the fact that this is the first studio Linkin Park album to feature guest artist appearances, and while Tom Morello’s appearance on post-rock instrumental ‘Drawbar’ is hugely underwhelming, elsewhere the decision pays dividends. Paige Hamilton of Helmet provides one of the record’s best choruses on ‘All For Nothing’, and the buzzsaw riffs of ‘Rebellion’ are so unmistakably Daron Malakian that without the vocals it could well be a System of a Down song. The band’s actual vocalists both turn in strong performances themselves. Chester Bennington’s screams are more impassioned than they have been since Meteora; Mike Shinoda balances slickness and swagger in his rapped verses, the best of which are on ‘Wastelands’.

Though this might just be the most aggressive and serrated Linkin Park release since the Hybrid Theory EP, there are quieter moments to provide brief respite, including two instrumentals in ‘The Summoning’ and aforementioned ‘Drawbar’. Two ballads also give the album’s second half a more varied feel, ‘Final Masquerade’ the clear superior to oversimplified single ‘Until It’s Gone’ thanks to beautiful guitar work and a typically great vocal delivery in the choruses from Bennington. Similarly, another two songs adapt the unconventional progressive song templates of A Thousand Suns into a heavier skin, this time ‘Mark the Graves’ standing out as the more successful of the couplet. Though closer ‘A Line in the Sand’ does impress with contorting Metallica-esque multi-riff sections and tasteful singing from Shinoda, it feels too underdeveloped and uninspired at times to be considered a complete success.

That’s true of The Hunting Party as a whole, which has more rough edges than is typical of Linkin Park in songwriting as well as production. Exhilarating opener ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ loses momentum each time it suddenly halts, as if the band couldn’t work out how to connect each section of the song; the seemingly random interludes between songs, meanwhile, are more disorienting than helpful in linking the album as a whole and frequently feel forced. Imperfection nonetheless strangely suits this record, a completely different proposition to the clinical assault of Hybrid Theory or the immaculate dreamscape that is A Thousand Suns. Dizzying, unsettled and seemingly pissed off to no end, the Linkin Park of The Hunting Party isn’t the best incarnation of one of modern rock’s most talented bands, but it is definitely one of the most interesting.

Rating: 8 / 10

[Michael Bird]

‘Guilty All the Same’

‘Final Masquerade’



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