Sound — 8
Linkin Park formed in 1996 as Xero, then after recruiting Chester Bennington in 1998 they briefly changed their name to Hybrid Theory before settling on Linkin Park. The band signed their first record deal with Warner Bros. Records in 1999 and have been churning out music steadily since then. With the release of their two last albums, "A Thousand Suns" and "Living Things" they had moved dramatically into a more electronic sound as a band. Mike Shinoda, who has been the dominant creative force in the band since they formed, stated that the material he was writing was music that he didn't want to tour behind. This ultimately caused him to reevaluate what the band was doing and resulted in the band focusing on going back to a more traditional rock sound, and creating one of the heavier albums by the band, "The Hunting Party." The name of the album is roughly tied to an article that Mike Shinoda had read saying that modern men are like herbivores waiting for an opportunity to run into them instead of going out and finding that opportunity for themselves. "Guilty All the Same" was the lead single from the album, which was released in March of 2014, and the second single, "Until It's Gone," was released in May 2014. There are 12 tracks on the album, which is being released by Warner Bros. Records via their Machine Shop imprint, and the album clocks in at 45 minutes.
The album opens up with the track "Keys to the Kingdom," which pretty much lets you know out of the gate that you're dealing with something a little bit different from Linkin Park. We're talking some screamed vocals, some distorted guitars - you still have some keyboards and some clean and rapped vocals, but it is all part of the mix. Also, it is nice to see Chester Bennington singing where he isn't doing his Scott Weiland impression (okay, that's it - I got that out of my system now). Next is "All for Nothing" which includes guest vocals from Page Hamilton from Helmet, though it starts with some distorted guitars and rapped vocals. The song actually has a pretty strong Helmet vibe if you can get over the rapped lyrics. "Guilty All the Same" starts out sounding like a garage band recorded on a room mic, and from there builds into something really unique. The lead guitar does a lot of cool stuff with melody and the drums sound sloppy in just the right way. Rakim, the American rapper, provides some rapped vocals on the track. Next is a very short 1 minute track titled "The Summoning," which really just sounds like a collection of noises which gets louder and louder and ends with an audio sample from what sounds like a baseball or softball game. "War" is a very aggressive track right out of the gate and utilizes a lot of screamed vocals. "Wastelands" utilizes some clapping and stomping for the percussion, then a groove-heavy guitar comes in that sounds like something written by Rob Zombie, but with Mike Shinoda rapping over it. The guitar riffs on this track are definitely some of my favorite from the album. The second single from the album, "Until It's Gone" opens up with an almost Irish melody in there, and this track does get closer to their more recent sound than most of the other material on the album, but it still have a heavier and louder core than anything they've released in their past few releases. "Rebellion" is up next, and features Daron Malakian on guitar - and honestly you can tell pretty much immediately that he's on this track. The frenetic rhythm guitar is joined pretty quickly by a second guitar playing a weird little melody. "Mark the Graves" is basically heavy guitar riffing and a cleaner guitar playing a higher pitched droning lick with mostly very clean vocals. "Drawbar" features Tom Morello as a guest on guitar, but he's not doing a lot of playing that sounds like the guitar sound I identify with Tom Morello. It is really much more ambient type of stuff on guitar, and there is some piano thrown in, too. "Final Masquerade" is kind of like the bridge between the last album and "The Hunting Party." I imagine that this must have been the first song they wrote when they started working on this album before they'd finished moving in the direction this album finally went. With that being said, there is still some distorted guitar and riffs on this track. The album closes out with the track "A Line in the Sand," which opens with the sound of thunder crashing and an ambient melody. When the clean vocals come in, there is very little instrumentation - it is very sparse. From there the track goes on to be over 6 minutes long, and includes several very heavy passages, clean vocals, screamed vocals and quieter passages. The track does a lot of stuff, but it does it well.
Lyrics — 8
Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington have, of course, been doing vocals for Linkin Park for over 16 years and at this point you would think it was all pretty straightforward and they aren't going to do anything to surprise you, but honestly, that is exactly what they did on several tracks from the album. This is also the first album where the band has included guest musicians, with two of those guest musicians providing guest vocals: Page Hamilton (of Helmet) provides vocals on "All for Nothing," and Rakim provides vocals on "Guilty All the Same." There is definitely a lot more in the way of diversity on the vocals in comparison to their last few releases, and I can't find anything to really gripe about. As a sample of the lyrics from the album here are some lyrics from the lead single "Guilty All the Same": "Tell us all again/ what you think we should be/ what the answers are/ what it is we can't see/ tell us all again/ how to do what you say/ how to fall in line/ how there's no other way/ but oh, well all know/ you're guilty all the same/ too sick to be ashamed/ you want to point your finger/ but there's no one else to blame/ show us all again/ that our hands are unclean/ that we're unprepared/ that you have what we need/ show us all again/ cause we cannot be saved/ cause the end is near/ now there's no other way/ and oh, you will know." I can get behind those lyrics.
Overall Impression — 8
In all honesty, the last few Linkin Park albums had disenchanted me with the band and I wasn't looking forward to reviewing this release. Then, I heard it and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their sound and this album was something I could enjoy once again. I'm not saying it is perfect, but it is absolutely a step in the right direction. Mike Shinoda stated in a Rolling Stone's interview, "We're not 18-year-old kids making a loud record - we're 37-year-old adults making a loud record. And what makes a 37-year-old angry is different than what made us angry back in the day." That is actually a pretty accurate way to describe this album. My favorite tracks on the album are "Wastelands," "All for Nothing," "A Line in the Sand" and "Keys to the Kingdom." I'm definitely happy with Linkin Park's direction here, and I hope they go even further with it on their next release.