Artist: Linkin Park
Album: The Hunting Party
Label: Warner Bros
Release Date: June 17th, 2014 (US)
Linkin Park channel Bad Religion, Black Flag, Helmet, Refused and other early influential rock bands in some of their most electrifying and aggressive sounding tracks to date. Learn why this album may just be Linkin Park’s middle finger to Alternative Rock’s “Status Quo” in our early preview below.
Let’s get the cat out of the bag, and address the elephant in the room for those who may not already know: I’m a huge Linkin Park fan. Having discovered their debut record when I was only 15 (I’m 28 now), I admit to spending many of my formative years and much of my early adulthood listening to Linkin Park’s music, following their career from their early nu-metal days, to their recent remix project and release with Steve Aoki.
Rather than fade away and die like most nu-metal bands of the era they were born from, Linkin Park have instead decided to branch out as a band, opting to make music that inspires them and pushes them out of their comfort zone from album to album. The results of this defiant frame of mind have resulted in numerous reinventions and re-imaginings of the band’s core sound, and it appears The Hunting Party is no exception to this rule.
Speaking to AltWire late last year; Mike Shinoda expressed a desire for more energy and ferocity in rock music, stating that he and his band-mates were searching for a sound they felt currently does not exist in the current offerings of mainstream rock music:
“The question is, what’s “rock” right now? Mumford and Sons? Capital Cities? AVICII? Vampire Weekend? Lorde? Arcade Fire has basically gone disco, and Trent Reznor spends too much of the new Nine Inch Nails album whispering–and I truly like all these bands, I’m just saying there’s something missing. I guess it doesn’t have to be “rock,” but I’m at a loss for something else I’d call it. I’m looking for ferocity, innovation, and energy without giving up songwriting, sophistication, and craftsmanship. It’s a tall order; even if we’re able to address it on our next Linkin Park album, it’ll take more than one band to really move the needle.”
The fruits of their labor are very apparent on the six incredible tracks I had the privilege of previewing this past week through Warner Brothers. Featuring a rejuvenated and highly energetic sounding Linkin Park, perhaps what’s most surprising of all is how different these tracks are from the band’s previous work, whilst still managing to give nods to the band’s roots and their past. Make no mistake; this is a new band, sonically and musically reborn after 15 years on the scene, with a mission and a plan to bring hard rock back to the Active Rock charts.
Contrary to the speculation going around about this album, if the six tracks I heard are of any indication…The Hunting Party will not be a return to the band’s nu-metal roots, nor will it be a retread of the Hybrid Theory sound updated for modern times. Instead Linkin Park have managed to create something very different from their previous releases, digging deep into the band’s vast library of early influences, to take cues from bands like Refused, Helmet, Bad Religion, Minor Threat and Black Flag whilst moving the needle forward to create a sound you’d be hard pressed to find on mainstream rock radio or anywhere else right now. It’s Linkin Park at their most confident and most assertive, and the results are undeniable. This is the sound Linkin Park were born to make.
Below are my impressions of the six tracks I’ve heard as well as descriptions of the overall vibe and sound of each of the tracks. Be sure to let us know which song you’re most excited for in the comments below!
Keys To The Kingdom
Confirmed as the opening track to The Hunting Party, this track wastes no time in introducing you to the band’s goal and mission statement for this record, delivering a brass knuckled punch to the face as Rob Bourdon channels Black Flag to deliver some of his quickest and fiercest drumming on a Linkin Park record to date. Feeling like a punk-rock influenced cousin of their earlier track “Victimized” (from 2012’s LIVING THINGS), vocalist Chester Bennington screams out his frustrations over the track’s high octane instrumentation as he laments to the listener “I’m my own casualty; I’ve fucked up everything I say, fighting in futility”.
All For Nothing (Featuring Page Hamilton)
A clearly intentional nod to Helmet in its influences and style (so much that Helmet lead vocalist Page Hamilton appears on the track), “All For Nothing” comes off as a challenge to the band’s critics and naysayers, while extending a middle fingered invitation for them to step up to the plate. Mike Shinoda fires back at those who attempt to control him, defiantly stating “no I’m not your soldier, I ain’t taking any orders, I’m a five star general infantry controller…”. Guest vocalist Page Hamilton steps in to sing the song’s chorus over Sum-41 style gang vocals from Chester Bennington as he proclaims “I’m gonna get what I deserve”.
Guilty All The Same (Featuring Rakim)
From its blistering two-minute intro to its squealing outro, the single hits you like a hurricane from the very first second and does not let up. “GATS” does not feature the electronic elements that had been found in some of the band’s most recent material, but instead offers something louder, rawer and nastier than we have ever heard from Linkin Park. It also features a surprise appearance from hip-hop legend Rakim, marking the first time a guest vocalist has appeared on one of the band’s studio releases. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s refreshing at a time when rock music has arguably lost some of its edge.
Fans of Mike Shinoda’s hip-hop oriented side project Fort Minor, will undoubtedly be left in awe over the exquisite rhyme pattern and wordplay Mike Shinoda delivers on top of Wasteland’s gritty stomping drum beat and distorted guitar riffs that pervade the song’s 3 minute plus running time. A confident display of his rap abilities, Shinoda puts his skills on full display stating “This is war with no weapons, marchin’ with no steppin’, murder with no killin’, ill in every direction” informing other emcees to first “do the math” because there’s “no equal, a John with no Yoko, more power, less people…” complimented by a chorus that features lyrics themed around an end of the world apocalyptic scenario, this track hits hard, and lets everybody know that Mr. Shinoda can run with the best of them.
Until It’s Gone
Beginning with a synth line reminiscent of 2003’s “Numb” from their sophomore release Meteora, Until It’s Gone takes a sharp turn into an unexpected brooding goth rock anthem, proving to be one of the most atmospheric and diverse songs on the 6 song sampler. It took me by surprise on the first listen, and is actually one of my favorite songs the band has done in recent memory. With it’s gorgeous choir like backing vocals, and intense orchestral backdrop this song stays with you, and impacts you long after well…’It’s Gone’. Atmospherically similar to the band’s 2010 release A Thousand Suns, Chester looks back woefully in regret at a failed relationship, singing “I thought I kept you safe and sound, I thought I made you strong, but something made me realize, that I was wrong.” It wouldn’t be out of place to expect this as the band’s next single given its highly memorable sound and powerful melodies.
Rebellion (Featuring Daron Malakian)
Sonically resembling a Toxicity-era System of a Down track, Daron Malakian’s signature guitar sound is on full display here as he delivers a blisteringly fast sixteenth note guitar riff behind Mike Shinoda’s sung lead vocals, breaking only momentarily for the chorus where Chester Bennington takes over the microphone to sing “we are the fortunate ones, imitations of rebellion”. Painting a picture of society’s downfall, Rebellion comes to a close with a super heavy fist pumping bridge of “Rebellion! Rebellion! One by one we fall apart!”
While System fans have been waiting for a new album that may seemingly never come, they may just find what they were missing on this ultra-heavy rock track that combines System of Down’s alternative-metal style with the early 90’s punk sound that influences and permeates through many of the tracks on The Hunting Party. Guaranteed to be a crowd favorite if it ever is performed live, this track will no doubt land on many rock fans “favorite tracks” list when The Hunting Party drops this June.
There’s no denying that The Hunting Party will polarize the fan base when it comes out on June 17th. Much like the band’s landmark record A Thousand Suns, the tracks I’ve heard off of The Hunting Party showcase the band sticking their necks out to take a creative risk musically, that will shock certain fans and listeners upon the initial first listen.
It’s bold, it’s beautiful and rest assured the changes are extremely welcome. Linkin Park have swooped in like a caped crusader to save rock music, and have made a statement that will be sure to turn many heads this summer. Look for The Hunting Party in stores, on June 17th, 2014.