I’ve written in the past about my experience with Linkin Park in the post “Linkin Park – Not A Robot.” That post was written before Living Things, but my thoughts on Linkin Park still remain true; I think they are awesome. The Hunting Party bares it teeth, lunges into my ear canal, and rips apart my perception of Linkin Park.
The Hunting Party has a personality of its own. It wants the hunt. It eagerly awaits its prey. Prey that needs to be rocked apart. Prey that thinks rock is too “poppy.” The guitars are in the spotlight, and the drums are strong. The album demands the volume to be cranked up. The album has 12 tracks, with two of the tracks instrumentals. But this doesn’t make the album a mere snack; the extended instrumentals at the beginning, thrown in the middle, or bringing up the end of songs turn this into a full, red blooded meal. The album clocks in at a satisfying 45 minutes, and each minute satisfies your soul.
The album kicks off with “Keys to the Kingdom.” Chester’s distorted screaming greets your ears and the song begins. The instruments kick their way in, and then Mike’s beautiful singing comes in to contradict Chester’s screaming and the loud drums. At first you might think Mike went soft. After the second chorus, however, Mike begins to craft a rap with a sharpened edge to it; that rap makes me crave more (and more I shall get). We get a nice instrumental near the end of the song. The first of many instrumentals you rarely see in modern rock music. The song ends with some “oh’s” thrown in, as Chester screams the chorus. It’s lovely, in a twisted way. Starting an album with this song is a bold choice. I can see why they did it, but coming in with no expectations, it can be a bit overwhelming. At the same time, Linkin Park displays the fact they mean business, and it sets the tone for the remainder of the album. I’m not sure why the kid says “I’m not allowed to say certain things;” I fear this will remain a mystery.
“All For Nothing” features Page Hamilton (Helmet). I don’t know much about him, but he provides vocals for the chorus, and does some guitar at the end of the song. I’ll get back to him. Guitars and drums are a running theme in this album. “All For Nothing” has those in full force, and starts out with Mike’s rapping, flowing from word to word in the verses. The chorus hypnotizes you with Tom Hamilton’s vocals, with the effect strengthened by Chester echoing “You say.” Chester’s yelling rallies you to join, but you aren’t 100% sure you should. Another instrumental near the end of the song with the guitars being sung by Page. A transition occurs at the end of the song with Mike saying, “Put the heavy shit there.” We are two songs in, and they are not light by any definition of the word. What could it mean…
It means “Guilty All The Same,” which was the first song debuted from the album. The beginning guitar riff was the riff teased before. It is “the heavy shit.” You are greeted by drums and guitars blasting, and then piano is added, and it just builds into an earful of bliss… again in a twisted sort of way. It turns down a little (very little) when Chester sings the verses, and yells the chorus. In between the vocals, the music jumps back up. About 2/3 through the song, Rakim surprises you mostly because you are expecting Mike. I didn’t know much about Rakim, but I can hear his influence on Mike. Rakim’s rapping has a similar flow and bite as Mike’s. Looking at the lyric book, Rakim’s rap has more content than the rest of the song. I like that.
“The Summoning” is almost a palate cleanser. It’s coming off the hard hitting “Guilty All The Same;” your ears receive a methodical white noise, with seemingly random, quiet drums and piano, with a guitar burst added in for good measure. It slowly builds, becoming louder, until it stops. Silence. Little league baseball game… again, I don’t know why. Possibly, because, they hit a home run with “Guilty All The Same.”
From the deafening silence at the end of “The Summoning,” “War” mauls us with the power of punk. I’m not a big fan of punk music, so “War” is my least favorite song on the album. But it is sooooooo good. The punk format of the song abides perfectly with the lyrical content. The complete and utter pause of the music right before the chorus is amazing. After the silence, Chester yells a single word: war. Respect and reverence ease out during the silence, while disdain emotionally jumps out from the yelling. It’s a contradiction I love. “War” ends just as suddenly as it began.
With the sudden stop of “War,” “Wastelands” slowly emerges from the ruins. I’m thinking that’s on purpose (although I don’t think war stops suddenly, and the lyrics of “War” supports the philosophy… I’m digging too deep again). Some drums build up to the rhythm of the guitar. Mike raps upon this stage of drums and guitar. The cadence of the song feels like a march on a war path; even though the song “War” is over. I love the huge climax at the end; it just falls to Chester singing the chorus. He’s singing with a different emotion from the previous iteration of the chorus. Then it slowly builds up by adding drums, and then the other instruments come back up, and the rhythm is back. It’s awe inspiring, actually. And with that, we come to the end of the song, and some light percussion playing us into the next song.
That light percussion continues into the heart of “Until It’s Gone.” Some Linkin Park electronics are added for good measure. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it’s present in “Numb” from Meteora and “Burn It Down” from Living Things. Front and center, the drums grab your attention. This is actually a really interesting song, and it’s placement on the album is paramount. This is the first “palate cleanser,” as “The Summoning” was not. It’s the Linkin Park we all know and love, except it has claws. The synthetic sounds is what separates this song from the songs that came before. Another thing about this song is the lyrical content. Listening to the lyrics, we know the message is “You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone.” Chester is singing about something specific, as conveyed through the emotional depth of his voice, but he doesn’t betray exactly what he’s missing. The lyrics are very general, but the vocals describe something personal. The music only adds to that emotion. The song winds down with a bassy, video game beat, and a baby sound. I don’t know how else to describe it. That’s what happens. Again, I’m confused.
After being distracted by the adorable baby noise, “Rebellion” attacks us with its guitars. These guitars are alien to Linkin Park. These guitars call Daron Malakian their master master. The guitarist from System of the Down makes his guest appearance on the album, and it creates a lasting impact. After an intro to harshly push you into it, a Linkin Park sound is added to the mix. The rugged guitar continues, while something unexpected happens. Mike begins to sing over it. I love the dichotomy. The expectation would have been Chester’s screaming. Right after the first verse, Chester is eased into singing the chorus. This gets me excited. You don’t get to hear both of the singers singing one after the other very often. It’s beautiful. On top of that, you get to hear both of the singers singing with their voices going over each others voices. Mike’s voice will be prominent, but you can barely hear Chester’s voice in the background. Then it transitions to the other way around with Chester’s voice being prominent and Mike’s voice barely audible. It sounds amazing. Oh, and don’t worry. Chester does some screaming in “Rebellion” as well. It wouldn’t be right if he didn’t.
Reading the title of the song, “Mark The Graves” creates an image of something heavy. In actuality, light drums and guitars begin the song. The build up is slow, but when then it finally hits some heavy guitars, flashing some of its teeth. The first verse arrives with light guitars, and Chester singing in a melancholy state. Skipping a chorus, it moves onto the second verse, adding a bit of drums to it. One of my favorite lyrics from the album is in this song: “But the scars will never fade / At least I know somehow I made a mark.” The chorus is composed of four short lines and Chester emotionally yells each line. The tone of the song is different from the rest of the album, but its unique addition leaves a lasting impression.
“Drawbar” is the second instrumental track on the album. It features guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine). Bridging “Mark The Graves” and “Final Masquerade,” it serves more of an extended intro to the latter. Piano and guitar dance around each other at the very beginning. Slowly the guitar gains traction, as the piano joins the waltz. The piano starts to fade to the back, and the snare drum cuts in. The piano objects, but the drum and guitar continue. Finally, all the players come together, and the sound begins to slowly rise. As they reach their climax, the piano begins to dance alone. The last key is pressed, and the note fades to silence. At first I wished it would have went directly into “Final Masquerade,” but I’ve learned to appreciate the silence.
Drums push us out of the silence and into “Final Masquerade.” A familiar melody joins the drums. Chester sings the entire song. His voice stirs emotion into my thoughts. Much like “Until Its Gone,” “Final Masquerade” has a recognizable Linkin Park sound. I don’t have a lot to say, except it is a beautiful song. The power of the music mixes with Chester’s emotional voice in an elegant way. It feels like the last song of the album. But it’s not.
“Final Masquerade” fades, and “A Line In The Sand” slowly builds. A thunderstorm approaches. White noise and a tiny guitar is heard. Finally, Mike begins to eerily sing over the white noise. The storm begins to build while he sings. He finishes the first verse, and the storm bangs, starting with the drums. Guitars are added for effect, of course. The storm stabilizes, and Mike sings verse two, but this time with the power of the storm behind his voice. Chester even adds his voice to Mike’s to strengthen the verse. The storm rises again, and Chester yells the chorus; he is determined to overpower the storm. During the eye of the storm, it cycles down. Demanding to be heard, Mike begins to rap. The storm starts up again after his rap, and we are left to fend for ourselves against the heavy instrumentals. The storm comes to an end, and Mike begins to sing the first verse again. Hauntingly, Mike’s voice finishes the song and the album. I wish my music player didn’t loop the album back to “Keys To The Kingdom.” You need a few more seconds of silence to feel the impact from the song.
I could spend a few thousand more words on the lyrical content of each song, but I won’t. I will say The Hunting Party is impressive in that department. Each and every lyric is packed with emotion, and Mike and Chester amplify the emotion of the words with their voices. The guitars and drums are front and center, further adding depth to the lyrics. The magnitude of the impact hasn’t been felt on any other Linkin Park album, making this my personal favorite.
That’s the end of my thoughts on the album. I’m just going to type up a little bit about the process behind this review, so feel free to skip the next few paragraphs. I wanted to type this up in one setting, but it took longer than expected. I’ve listened to the album so many times. Tuesday, I sat down and listened to the entire album while following along with the lyric book. I made some minor notes. Afterwards, I started writing the introduction to this post. I started to play through the album again, and pausing while writing the paragraph for the song. After I had a good paragraph that described how I felt about the song, I continued on to the next song. I finished through “Until It’s Gone” on Tuesday, so if there’s a disconnect in the writing after that, I apologize. I finished writing on Wednesday, so I didn’t have to wait too long. Hopefully my editing will smooth things over, but if it doesn’t, now you know.
I listen to my music mostly in the car while I’m driving somewhere. Over the past few months, I listened to a playlist consisting of all of Linkin Park’s main studio albums (Hybrid Theory EP, Hybrid Theory, Meteora, Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns, and Living Things). After a few times of going through that, I added the rest of their songs (a few singles like “New Divide” and their remix albums, Reanimation and Recharged) and turned on the shuffle. I listened to the singles from The Hunting Party as they were released, and listened to the album on iTunes Radio when it was streaming before the release. I was typing up the E3 blog post while doing that, so my mind wasn’t really listening to it. I got The Hunting Party the Monday before it was released (preordered it from Linkin Park’s website, and it just happened to get here before Tuesday). I popped it on my iPod, and I listened to it exclusively in the car. I fell in love with the album, but I didn’t examine it this closely until Tuesday (which I described in the last paragraph). I want to do that with their previous albums sometime, but it’s difficult for me to find the time. It’s took me four hours to write the review, and I spent an hour or so listening to it the first time through to just listen to it (keep in mind, it’s only a 45 minute record). That’s about five hours of just examining an album, which felt longer actually. Don’t take that the wrong way; I enjoyed it. I’m going to end my rambling.
Thanks for reading!