Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Rap-Metal, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Post-Grunge, Rap-Rock, Nü Metal
Thirteen years after being steeled in the crucible of Ozzfest, and millions of record sales later, Linkin Park have grown into one of America’s biggest rock bands. But now they’re ratcheting the kick-ass up another notch: Their new album, 'The Hunting Party,' is not only the hardest and heaviest thing they’ve ever released, but it’s also their first album to pack the sort of guitar firepower that would actually appeal to your average headbanger. The record's potent mixture of punk, thrash, and hard rock--as heard on such bracing tracks as “Keys to the Kingdom,” “Guilty All the Same,” “Mark the Graves” and “A Line in the Sand”--is an especially ballsy move from a band that’s drifted deep into experimental/electronic territory on their two most recent albums, 2010’s 'A Thousand Suns' and 2012’s 'Living Things.
Review Summary: Make no mistake – this is the record that Linkin Park know they should have made seven years ago. There was a time when the incomprehensibly thick Minutes to Midnight threatened to swallow Linkin Park whole. Laughably self-absorbed on an artistic level while retaining the intellectual breadth of a roadside billboard, the album ended up being remembered more for its criminal underuse of Mike Shinoda than for its parent band’s efforts at hauling themselves away from a severely outdated nu metal sound.
Breaking away from Rick Rubin, with whom they had a three-album association, Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda co-produce this time around and retreat from the moody electronica that characterized many of those records. Instead, The Hunting Party is designed as a return to rock, evoking the group's earliest records. Reconnecting with the past is a standard move for a heavy band 15 years into its career, but The Hunting Party is effectively aggressive, partially due to how far into the ether Linkin Park strayed on Living Things and, especially, A Thousand Suns.
"I didn't want to scream any more," Linkin Park's Chester Bennington told the Guardian in 2011, explaining the nu-metal giants' unlikely stylistic detour towards political electronica. Just three years on, the scream is back, along with the guitars, as Bennington, rapper Mike Shinoda and guests ranging from Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello to rap pioneer Rakim deliver furious blasts against war, oppression, apocalypse and other very bad things. Shinoda's desire to make a (rather expensively produced) punk rock record and Bennington's more ethereal electropop segments don't always make comfortable bedfellows, but Rob Bourdon's terrific drumming means the energy never lets up.
Linkin Park have talked a good game in the run up to the release of their sixth album, saying that they’re sick of bands copying Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire and promising to hit back with some of their heaviest material to date. Members of System Of A Down and Rage Against The Machine have joined the fight here. But while Daron Malakian’s appearance on ‘Rebellion’ packs a hefty punch, Tom Morello’s spot is disappointing – ‘Drawbar’ sidesteps the riffs altogether for a plaintive piano wheeze.
Considering that they formed nearly 20 years ago, it’s fair to say that the sustained longevity, mystique, and status of Californian sextet Linkin Park is remarkable. After all, countless bands have found incredible success following the release of their debuts, and 2000’s Hybrid Theory certainly made Linkin Park a household name; however, few acts have ever maintained the same level of popularity nearly 15 years later. To their credit, though, Linkin Park broke onto the scene with a fairly matchless synthesis of styles, including rock, alternative metal, and rap.
It’s hard to deny that Linkin Park has come out looking the best of all the most prominent nu metal/alt rock acts from the turn of the millennium. While often seen through the same nostalgic lens as their contemporaries, they didn’t become a cultural punchline quite the way so many others did (as an example, this weekend’s 22 Jump Street repurposes Creed’s “Higher” as a nightmarish hellscape unto itself), nor did they peter out entirely, doomed to play the Gathering of the Juggalos until time immemorial. The band has managed to stay prominent by retaining much of their fanbase, by wisely branching out (a la Collision Course, their post-Black Album EP with Jay Z), but mostly by continuing to make a kind of music that was falling out of fashion while transitioning away from some of the more questionable aspects.
More than a decade ago, Linkin Park sold a couple zillion records by making better-than-Bizkit rap metal and collaborating with Jay Z. They've since wandered the emo wilderness, and singer Chester Bennington is now also fronting Stone Temple Pilots. But on Album Six they're back with a retro-neo-aggro sound that would've been too intense for modern-rock radio in 1999.
It seems about right that in 2014 Linkin Park could be a rallying point for “New Sincerity,” as loaded as the term may be. The band has bore the brunt-end of jokes throughout the previous decade, but isn’t it obvious to hate on Linkin Park? At this point, the position of “the hater” should be a cheap, uncritical mentality rooted in middle-school classical conditioning that demanded you to stop listening to what gave you those “naïve shivers” in favor of some flaccid form of indie rock. Rap-rock electronica? Tinges of nu-metal? These categories have aroused the disgust and disdain of anyone seeking an “authentic” musical education.
There's something inherently fascinating about an act that have survived, even thrived, in the wake of a genre that built up and tore down its progenitors with Replicant-style efficiency and ruthlessness. Linkin Park make for a particularly interesting case, given that they have never really altered their style to any major degree. Nearly 14 years on, Hybrid Theory offers a perfect microcosm of nu-metal; a catchy but ultimately hollow mix of distorted guitars, punchy drums, screaming, spitting and, you know it, DJ skillz.