Sound — 7
When I heard the first single from "The Hunting Party," "Guilty All the Same," I had high hopes for the album. As an avid fan of the heavy underground song "Qwerty" Linkin Park released in 2006, the guitar in this song was like "Qwerty" on steroids.
Unfortunately, the same didn't go for the rest of the album. I'll give Brad Delson and Rob Bourdon credit for their work, with Bourdon blowing his back out for the album and Delson stepping out of his comfort zone to solo, but a lot of the guitar riffs on this album sound so much alike that I can't tell if I'm listening to "Final Masquerade" or "Wastelands" if I don't actively listen to the words.
Linkin Park also guest stars two musicians on guitar (Daron Malakian of System of a Down and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave), although if I hadn't read it I would have only been able to pick out Daron Malakian on "Rebellion." When I think of Tom Morello, the first thing that comes to mind is stuff like the crazy whammy from "Killing in the Name," not soft little arpeggios. I feel like he should have been doing something a little more up front.
When you listen to the entire album and compare it to their previous works, you'll find that there's one thing that's really missing. And it's Joe Hahn. Frankly, LP sounds like a five-man band on this record. What happened to all that crazy turntable work and all those cool samples? The only place where you can really pick Joe out is on the instrumental tacks. While some of the guitar was nice to hear coming from Brad, I wish Joe would've given some flavor to some of the tracks to make them more unique. Just think about how some of those Hybrid Theory tracks would sound without Joe, like "Crawling" or "With You."
Overall, the sound isn't bad. But it's also not something you can really get into and say, "Hey, check out how cool this song sounds!" Nothing really stands out (save "Rebellion," because that guitar sounds like it came straight off of System of a Down's "Toxicity").
Lyrics — 8
It's obvious that the duo is aging. I don't think Chester Bennington will ever be able to scream like he did on "Hybrid Theory" (or even on "Minutes to Midnight" with "Given Up") again. But it seems like as time goes on, Mike Shinoda gets better. His rapping, although awkward and somewhat forced on some tracks, has good flow. And his newly-discovered singing voice does well on this album. The harmony on the chorus of "Rebellion" with him and Bennington is perfect.
Going back to Chester, his voice has lost some of its power. I don't mean his ability to get gruff, I mean the way he can bring power to his words. Even in the more emotional songs like "Until It's Gone," I don't feel the kind of emotion I should. It sounds like he isn't really behind the words he's singing. I understand this band has been around for 14 years, but I want to at least have some of the kind of power Chester brought to his vocals in songs like "Breaking the Habit" or "The Little Things Give You Away."
The lyrics are hardly anything to write home about, but that's sticking with the theme I guess. Can you really get behind the theme of "Rebellion," honestly? Or Rakim taking potshots at people in the music industry? I know I haven't been affected by the music industry in any bad way.
That leads me to the two guests vocalists this album offers: the rapper Rakim and Page Hamilton of Helmet. I have no complaints about these two; Rakim's rapping paired with the guitar breaking down in "Guilty All the Same" is golden, and Hamilton is what brings "All for Nothing" full circle. Kudos to Linkin Park for their guest vocalist choices.
Overall Impression — 8
I know the first thing I did when "The Hunting Party" was released was find the nearest place selling music and buy this album. I was super-stoked for it. It was a bit hyped up, but it's not a letdown. My favorites have to be "Guilty All the Same," "Rebellion," "All for Nothing," and "Until it's Gone."
The album's best feature is definitely how much effort Rob and Brad put into it. The lead guitar and drumming is great, even if not that complex. The guests all do a great job on their respective tracks (though Morello could've stood out more), and the sound for the album looks like it might be a sign that Linkin Park is ready to make some awesome music in the future.
However, I can't help but notice that Phoenix and Joe are just... gone. On "Living Things" I was fine with not hearing a lot of bass guitar because the focus was on the electronic elements, but here Phoenix hardly exists except to provide some low end for the rather dull rhythm guitar. I think had not so much emphasis been put on the guitar, Joe and Phoenix could have turned some tracks into notable songs.
This last question on the review is always to hard to tactfully integrate, so I won't even try. If this album was stolen or lost I would definitely buy it again. I'm one of those despicable people who loved "A Thousand Suns" and "Minutes to Midnight" for the amazing diversity, and while this album didn't quite bring that, it showed me that the band has still got what it takes to make a good record. Linkin Park has kept me a fan for a long time, and while this album didn't quite blow my doors out, it's a solid CD that'll go in my collection.