Sound — 4
I know some may say that Linkin Park has found the right balance of electronic and nu-metal/rock/metal, the two sides of that Linkin Park is comprised of, but if I may disagree with that. I say, Linkin Park is confused, stuck in between the middle. Their past two albums "A Thousand Suns" and "Living Things," while electronic and received some criticism (some very harsh) for straying from their metal roots and into more electronic landscapes, the one thing that made the two albums feel like they have identity is that they focused on a direction and stuck with it.
"The Hunting Party" does not have that same focus. Linkin Park jumps from trying to go all out punk in War to an awkward guitar piano ballad with Tom Morello that never really builds up to anything in "Drawbar." From full on thrash metal in "Mark the Graves" verse only for an extremely polite and pleasant chorus that just seemed extremely out of place.
A reason for this lack of direction, if I may suggest, may be due to the change of songwriting method for "The Hunting Party." All of the songs from "The Hunting Party" was written on the spot in the studio, allowing the band to spontaneously try out the written tracks without truly grasping the big picture that would be achieved if the songs were written outside the studio with a clearer mind, allowing inspiration to come to them instead of forcing an idea in the studio.
Another complaint I have is the production. Mike Shinoda is head of creative direction now, as he now produces the tracks for the band. I don't like it. Rick Rubin, though criticised highly, knew how to produce a tight album. Some may question Linkin Park's direction and genre choice in their previous two albums and their lighter sound in "M2M," but I'd be damned if they believe the albums were produced poorly. The guitars were crisps, and the bass backed things up pretty solidly. "The Hunting Party," I don't know what is going on. The guitars just don't have a powerful enough impact. The harmonies were there, and perhaps too much, but they just don't shine. They are muddled behind the production. They weren't tight in comparison to the powerful drop tuned guitars in "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora."
I feel as if Linkin Park is trying too much. I get that they were trying to make a heavier album, but the reason why Linkin Park was so great back was because their riffs were simple and the focus was put on the vocals, the very talented duo of Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington. It's not to say Brad Delson isn't talented, just listen to his beautiful solo from "The Little Things Give You Away," but the moment you drain out the duo in favor if mediocre guitar riffs that rely on layering melodies instead of creating a one powerful lead is the moment everything becomes dull.
The reason why I did not give it a 0? I had not said a single positive thing about the album's sound yet.
Well, I feel the drumming has become/very/tight. It's the saving grace for this album. Rob Bourdan has definitely shined in this album, keeping the band together with solid and tight drumming, but at the same time not doing too much. Perhaps the rest of the band should follow suit? Keep things simple.
Lyrics — 5
Chester isn't the same. I don't feel his anger anymore. Aging? Probably. But even his more soft parts of the album, such as some of Until It's Gone, lack the angelic tenderness of some of Linkin Park's other songs, such as "Waiting for the End."
And regarding the themes? Yes, it is has matured. I must commend them for not resorting to writing angsty lyrics such as the ones back in "Meteora." Instead, they write of themes more grandoise that exist outside of one's mental frustrations within the comfort of their homes. "Guilty All the Same" attacked the hypocrisy of society. War is political commentary. Props.
And yet, it bores me. I just don't get the feeling that Linkin Park truly cares for these themes. It is as if the lyrics and the music are separate entities. As if the music is done first to sound as cool as possible or to go in the direction they were going, and the lyrics are just plastered on top. Disappointing. I'll give it a 5 because they at least try to explore interesting themes.
Overall Impression — 5
The most impressive songs from the album? I am a man who is agonized by his anticipation of a new System Of A Down record, and hearing Daron Malakian's recognizable guitar is quite nice. I am impressed with "Rebellion," as due to Malakian's signature guitar, it lays as a foundation for the band to build upon.
Another song that impresses me is "Guilty All the Same," despite Rakim's very forced inclusion into the song. Sorry, it just does not fit. You might as well shout out "Rakim! From Wu-Tang! Aw yeah! Here we go!" before his bridge rap. It fits just as well as Juicy J's rap in "Dark Horse." However, the song itself is quite memorable. Mostly because the band decided to finally focus on Chester's melody instead of throwing too much guitar.
In conclusion, I am quite disappointed with the album. I'm hoping that Linkin Park will get their act together and try to retain their distinct sound present in past albums. Most people are just hyped that they're actually making rock, but what happens when Linkin Park just makes rock for the sake of going "back to their roots" instead of trying develop musically in a natural direction? This.