I wasn’t planning on writing a review of Linkin Park’s latest album The Hunting Party because I had mentioned the six-piece a few times in the run up to the album’s release and I felt I had nothing more to add. However, a close friend and keen Linkin Park fan asked for my thoughts and challenged me to listen to the album again. So here goes.
The frustrating thing about Linkin Park’s sixth studio album is that it is half of a decent album. Drawbar is an excellent instrumental that is rich in instrumentation and features the peculiar and schizophrenic guitar playing of Tom Morello. Morello’s performance is matched by Rob Bourdon, who shows great dynamical control over his drumming and demonstrates a musicality on par with the likes of Danny Carey, Neil Peart and Gavin Harrison.
Final Masquerade is equally brilliant, with a great mix of hard guitars and floating atmospherics beneath beautiful verse vocals from Chester Bennington. This juxtaposition between styles is reused within the closer, A Line In The Sand, but this time Mike Shinoda provides the solemn vocals between the sections of exploding riffs.
However, War, along with its introductory track, The Summoning, show the band at their weakest. The Summoning is a simple prelude, but as an instrumental piece it lacks the musical complexity or depth that is needed to compliment the build up of aural tension and, as such, it is very one dimensional and bland. Then War bursts into life, with an injection of high octane riffing and gritty vocals. Sadly, War doesn’t achieve the outcome it is looking for; the track is supposed to be a barrage of raw aggression, but Linkin park aren’t able to harness the rage into anything meaningful, a problem that Victimized suffered from their last album, Living Things. The lyrics are laughable (“war, destroy you, war, destroy you”), the aggression is misplaced and overbearing, and the track itself is void of any substance.
Despite this, Linkin Park do manage to create a decent metal song with Rebellion, which features the distinctive, manic guitar playing of Daron Malakian (System Of A Down and Scars On Broadway). Apart from the great introduction riff, Malakian’s main contribution to the song is to provide a sense of focus, resulting in a track that ties heavy guitars and electronics together better than Linkin Park have ever managed to do before.
The band come close to repeating this success with lead single Guilty All The Same. The three-part introduction transitions between guitars and synths well, which leads into a solid hard rock structure that is reminiscent of their Minutes To Midnight era. However, at 3:40 the track loses its way. Guest vocalist Rakim begins a rapping section that is far too long for the track, before Brad Delson provides a messy guitar solo that is drowned of any dynamics by an ocean of wah. Sadly Delson feels the need to repeat this style on War and to a lesser extent on Mark The Graves.
However, the main disappointment of this album is Bennington’s unusually weak vocals. His screams still remain a strong part of his repertoire, as demonstrated on Rebellion and Keys To The Kingdom, as does his gentle vocals found within the intro of Final Masquerade and throughout the dreamy verses of Mark The Graves. Unfortunately it is the vocals between these two extremes that suffer. Wastelands is a particularly weak track for him, as he chants a tired chorus melody that is almost identical to the one in Guilty All The Same. His vocal fragility is highlighted during the sparse bridge and is even more noticeable alongside the excellent vocals provided by Shinoda – a trend that repeats itself across the album; The Hunting Party lets Shinoda showcase his versatility with beautiful cleans, and a variety of different rapping styles, from the moody style present in the All For Nothing verses to the emotion-filled style of A Line In the Sand.
Ultimately The Hunting Party is an album where, despite the best efforts of Shinoda and Bourdon, the majority of songs fail to reach the desired revival of rock that the band had promised. With a stricter quality control and a more inspired performance by Bennington, this record would have been been saved from its fate to be a soundtrack for a mid-life crisis. As it is though, The Hunting Party has elements to attract fans of nu metal, hard rock and electronica, but unfortunately has neither the creativity nor the cohesiveness required for a repeat listen.
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