Back in April, I had both the opportunity and the privilege to listen to a few of the tracks off of Linkin Park’s upcoming new record The Hunting Party due for release on June 17th in the US. My impressions of the six tracks I heard at that time were extremely positive, and since then I’ve been eager to get the chance to review the new album as a whole to see if the rest of the album holds up to the CD’s stellar first half. And boy does it ever.
My full review of The Hunting Party, complete with the final score will arrive within the next day or so; but in the meantime, here are full track by track impressions of all 12 tracks on The Hunting Party, complete with the tracks I already reviewed earlier this year.
01. 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”.
02. 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”.
03. 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.
04. The Summoning
Used as a transition track to lead into the next track, ‘War’, ‘The Summoning’ begins with a long harmonic note that feels very reminiscent of Tool’s instrumental Lost Keys, but builds to a distortion filled clash of noises, spiraling slowly out of control until the next track begins. This track is very short, and mostly serves as a temporary calm before the storm.
In interviews leading up the release of this record, vocalist Mike Shinoda has frequently teased this record as paying homage to the band’s earliest influences, while bringing the band’s sound and style into new and previously unexplored territories. Even with this knowledge, there is still no way to prepare yourself mentally for the complete musical onslaught that exists on War. This is Linkin Park at their most unforgiving, and the results are simply head-spinning. This is a track you’d expect from an underground Brooklyn noise-rock band and not the band that created In The End. Featuring early Metallica style vocals, laced with screams from Chester Bennington that inform you “there’s no peace, only war…victory determines who’s wrong or right”, War tops off it’s ferocity with a truly astonishing and revelatory solo from guitarist Brad Delson. Highly recommend you wear body armor in the pit when this song gets performed live this summer.
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.
07. 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. With it’s gorgeous backing vocals, and intense atmospheric 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.” This was the second track to be given an early release off of The Hunting Party, which comes as no surprise due to its highly memorable sound and powerful melodies.
08. 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.
09. Mark The Graves
Introduced with a melancholy note reminiscent to The Summoning, Mark the Graves builds into the longest intro for any song on The Hunting Party with a mix of ascending guitars and jam-like riffs that reach a powerful climax before being drowned out into a series of ambient strumming guitars. Chester fades to the forefront with vocals that are some of the most notable on the album singing “No trace of what remains, no stones to mark the graves, only memories we thought we could deny”. Mike Shinoda comes in for dual layered vocals as a prevailing chorus of hanging words make you want to scream along and feel the same hope Chester defiantly embodies throughout the entire song. A juxtaposition of sonic sounds and heavy guitars conclude the track as everything collapses around Chester’s progressively more intense and powerful screaming of the chorus. Definitely a stand out track which fans of No Roads Left and The Little Things Give You Away may appreciate.
10. Drawbar (Featuring Tom Morello)
While admittedly not quite the style of music you’d expect to hear Tom Morello guitar work on, Drawbar serves as a dark and atmospheric piano/guitar driven postlude to Mark The Graves that allows the listener to take a breath and reflect before the next track begins. Ends with single piano notes reminiscent of Elton John or even Pink Floyd.
11. Final Masquerade
Easily single material, Final Masquerade may be the only legitimate “soft” song on the record, but it serves as one of the album’s biggest highlights. Linkin Park have always had a penchant for writing excellent and uplifting rock ballads, and this track is of no exception. A great display of Chester’s vocal range, you really get the feeling that Chester is believing what he’s singing here as he croons “The light on the horizon is brighter yesterday, the shadows floating over, the sky’s began to fade, you said it was forever, but then it slipped away, standing at the end of the final masquerade”. Akin to a 1980’s rock ballad, Chester’s verses are complimented by wonderful airy keyboard synths that make this track feel like a beautiful mix of both the past and present of rock music. I’ve always felt the band could handle an 80’s style rock ballad very well, and this song proves it. The track builds slowly to a great instrumental part, giving way to a vocal breakdown of the song’s chorus, elevating the track to a stadium anthem as Chester sings the song’s chorus one last time over “whoa oh ohs” sung beautifully by his Linkin Park band-mates.
12. A Line In The Sand
Thunderstorms and the familiar sound of a single note gradually surfacing from static open the album’s most diverse track. A Line in the Sand’s tone is that of a closing song, an ominous symphony of darkness with only Mike Shinoda’s echoing vocals being the light. With no warning, that light turns to fire as the song explodes into a metal style riff, a glimpse into what we saw through the entirety of The Hunting Party. Military style drums provide the framework for a notable second verse which sees co-vocalist Chester Bennington harmonize with Mike before taking over a dominant chorus of contentious vocals and heavy guitars. A bridge with Mike sparingly rhyming lyrics is evocative of the breakdown in Hybrid Theory’s By Myself as he proclaims “I had never been a coward, I had never seen blood, you had sold me an ocean, and I was lost in the flood”, quieting the wall of noise momentarily, before an ascending onslaught of punishing riffs overlay Brad’s guitar solos and Chester’s screams. The song ends how it starts as Mike reflectively looks at the damage done over lingering guitar notes. A Line in the Sand acts as the graveyard to everything on the album, an eclectic combustion of hard, soft and everything in between.