The Hunting Party
Artist: Linkin Park
Year Released: 2014
With the release of Link Park’s sixth studio album, The Hunting Party, we (finally) see the departure of producer Rick Rubin and the re-emergence of the band that released the certified Diamond Hybrid Theory and four times Platinum Meteora. Heading up production on this release are Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda (guitarist and guitarist/piano/vocalist respectively), a much welcome return to the “in house” way of doing things that made Linkin Park one of the definitive bands of the first part of this century. With an acknowledged return to their rock roots, the members of Linkin Park have grown in their message but have gotten back to delivering that message with a punch and a scream.
So, I was not a fan of Rick Rubin’s work on Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns or Living Things; I felt that lyrically the band was there and sometimes event musically they were there, but all three albums seemed over produced and destined to be picked up by pop-friendly radio stations. Which bothered me, a lot. Linkin Park had been a group that gained momentum despite their harshness and assertive tone, those were just the things that made them known to a generation of kids surviving the turn of the century and the impending apocalypse that was Y2K on through the event of 9/11 and war in a far off land. The angst and attitude echoed the attitudes of their legions of fans and the powerful music propelled the listeners emotions to a place where no one was alone in being lost, alone or pissed off.
Then Rick Rubin entered, and things changed. Sure, everyone was getting older and Chester Bennington had some things he was doing and Mike Shinoda had some things he was dealing with and side projects came along and a lot of factors played into the changes that occurred, but the tone of the music was so radically different that I blame Rick Rubin. I could hear in the lyrics the impact that current events were having on the band, the anti-establishment protests, and condemnations of war and a certain President. The feeling was present in the lyrics but not in the way the words were projected onto the listeners, not this one at least.
With The Hunting Party we hear the opinions of Linkin Park on the state of the world today; War, Wastelands of Today, and Rebellion in particular reflect the growth of Linkin Park as people; the angst of yesterday is replaced with the reality of tomorrow. I, for one, welcome the growth. I can relate to them, as I have since Hybrid Theory and I welcome a band that grows with me both lyrically and musically, which has happened in an unadulterated way finally. The power of the lyrics is as present as it has ever been only now the music matches the message.
That isn’t to say that this album is perfect, it certainly isn’t. It is a step in the right direction, though and I imagine a lot of fans that fell to the side will recognize that Linkin Park has once again given themselves an identity, even if there are still some kinks to work out. For instance, too many of Mike’s contributions lyrically are less rapping and more talking (similar to the previous three studio albums), and while Chester lets loose with some screams in this collection of twelve tracks, we could always do with a few more insanely primal and prolonged screams from the king of primal screams (George Fisher of Cannibal Corpse not withstanding). Another notable absence from the early days of Linkin Park are the turntable talents of Mr Hahn, not to say they are totally absent, just not as pronounced as they once were.
The addition of guests such as Page Hamilton on All for Nothing (of Helmet), Daron Malakian on Rebellion (of System of a Down), and Tom Morello on Drawbar (formerly of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) are so perfectly suited to their respective songs that while you know they are there, their contributions enhance the experience rather than draw the focus away from it.
The clear winner on this album for me is the track War, clearly a nod to old-school Punk. At 2 minutes and 11 seconds, this track was designed to be fast and hard, with Chester at the helm doing what he does best this is the track that adds some authenticity to the experience that is The Hunting Party. Another solid track is Rebellion, with Daron Malakian adding his talents with the guitar helping to deliver the message of self-incrimination thorough privilege sung by both Chester and Mike.
Until It’s Gone however is clearly a contender for inclusion in the next Michael Bay movie franchise. This song seems to want the same reception that similarly themed songs (Leave Out All The Rest for instance) have received, but we tend to find what we are looking for when we stop looking, which is what this track should have done.
When all is said and done, now that I have listened to the album half a dozen times in its entirety, and a few select tracks a couple of additional times, and only having heard Guilty All The Same once on the radio before tonight, this is the best Linkin Park studio album since Meteora and I sincerely hope that it marks the return of Mike, Chester, Brad, Phoenix, Rob and Mr Hahn running their own show and making the music that they have a passion for, as free of influence as anyone signed to Warner Brothers is able to.