Composure

Three and a half months. This is the amount of time since my last update. It’s also the amount of time since I’ve done anything related to writing, which isn’t good for my sanity. You can look at my past, and notice several lapses in my posting, but I usually do writing in between posts. The recent lapses in posting (late 2014) involves a personal writing project. This writing project is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I finished the writing portion around the time I posted “Games of 2014.” That post was also a massive undertaking, by the way. After the post, I started the process of editing my writing project, and I ran out of juice; I couldn’t look at words, or form words anymore. I needed a break.

So what did I do? One, I turned to Minecraft to recharge me. I built winter houses, long-ass rail bridges, an underwater house, and I dug a big-ass hole. I have plans to build a big-ass temple in the big-ass hole. While playing Minecraft, I got a lot of shows and movies watched. Overall, I felt it was a productive time.

Minecraft - Rail Bridge

This is the rail bridge… yeah I didn’t half ass it. The left portion is kind of a cross section of it. Now imagine this spanning about ten times the length you see here. That’s just one portion of the rail… now imagine I have about 5 or more of these portions… yeah it’s a lot.

Minecraft is only a supplement. I got through a few games from my backlog. I played through Brothers: A Tale of Two Son around the time I posted “Games of 2014.” Brothers is a simple game. I played as two brothers; the right side of the controller controlled one brother, and the left side controlled the other brother. I solved some fairly simple puzzles. The graphics have a storybook aesthetic to them. What makes the game standout to me is the emotions the game provokes, and how it is able to provoke it without using dialogue. The characters speak a language that is not known to me, and there are no subtitles. However, I was able to understand what was happening based on the characters’ animations and actions, and I felt sad when the characters felt sad, or something bad happened. I was going to write up a post relating to Brothers, but the furthest I got was a rough outline; I just couldn’t create a quality post that would do justice to the game.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

There are moments when you can just chill out with your brother and enjoy the view.

After the seriousness of Brothers, I choose to play through Need for Speed: Rivals and Wolfenstein: The New Order. Racing games are relaxing to me. I love the Burnout series, and Rivals was pretty much created by the same people. I had a lot of fun with Rivals. I did everything, and got the platinum trophy for it. I put in a lot of hours (I haven’t tallied my game hours for the game, but I’d guess around 25 hours). I thought The New Order would also be relaxing, and something I wouldn’t have to take so serious. I was wrong. The New Order has a fantastic story, and it’s fun as well. Super violent, but the narrative actually fit my action. I’m hoping to do a review of The New Order soon, so I won’t say too much about it.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Yep… looks like a Wolfenstein game.

I finished those two games about the same time, and I needed something to fill up time for two games. So I chose Far Cry 4. I had a lot of fun with Far Cry 3, and I heard FC4 was basically more of FC3, but better. The mountains of Kyrat (FC4) are a lot more fun then the Rook Islands (FC3). There’s a lot to do. I also plan to do a full review of Far Cry 4 so I won’t say much more.

Far Cry 4

I like hunting in Far Cry 4; especially the most dangerous game…

I didn’t do just video games. Life still goes on, and stuff happens, and that will continue. I’m shooting to update the blog every two weeks. I also have to continue editing my writing project, and I’ll let you know when that is finished. I also need to read more, but that’s not your problem. I’ll try to get those reviews up in the next few weeks. For my next game, I think I’m going to give Assassin’s Creed: Unity a shot, or maybe a lighter game. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading.

Games of 2014

2013 is a difficult year to top when it comes to video games. There were a ton of fun games released. I had a lot of fun with them. There was a lot of hype going into 2014. I ended up purchasing both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. I also updated my PC to run the latest games. I’m ready to play games, but 2014 actually saw a drop in the number of games I played; this is attributed to me spending more time on the games I did get around to playing.

As with last year, this is a list of games I did play during 2014, so you might see games that were released a few years ago, but I just got around to playing them. Again, I’ve separated the games into interesting categories.

The Replay

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Games of 2014 - Call of Duty 4

Damn. The feels.

I know Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out a long time ago, but I replayed the story in 2014. It was a good choice. When people discuss Call of Duty 4, they often forget the story. While replaying it, I felt a lump swell in my throat a few times; there are some very emotional moments. It is very good at set pieces, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Not Enough Time to Keep Playing

Titanfall

Games of 2014 - Titanfall

Sic ‘im, boy!

I don’t play a lot of multiplayer games. I suck at them, and I don’t have time to get good at them. I love playing Titanfall and I wish I could devote more time to it. The shooting is solid, but the movement is what makes it stand out from the crowd. You can wall run, you have a jet pack to get you higher, and you can hop into a mech, and move in a similar fashion. The addition of AI enemies mixed with player enemies helps people like me who are wet around the ears have fun and contribute to the team score. I never got a chance to finish up the “story” mode to unlock a mech; the servers are fairly empty on PC, especially for story mode. Everyone moved onto the regular multiplayer after the first week. They are done with paid DLCs, and they’ve put out a few free DLCs, which is nice of them. The game is really fun, and I’m hoping to revisit it one of these days.

The System Seller

inFamous: Second Son

Games of 2014 - inFamous: Second Son

So pretty…

I liked the first inFamous. I played a little bit of the second, but I got side tracked. It was fun, just more important things stole my attention. When I saw previews for inFamous: Second Son, I noticed how beautiful the game looked. It also looked fun, but the graphics is what sold me on it. So I bought a Playstation 4 after Second Son came out. It was a good choice. It’s easily one of the most beautiful games I have played, especially for an open world game. I had a lot of fun playing as Delsin in Sucker Punch’s Seattle. Each power is has it’s advantages, and they are each fun to play with. I spent most of my time with neon because it’s more of a precision power. Also, running up buildings is fun.

Best Summer Game

Mass Effect 3

Games of 2014 - Mass Effect 3

I’m sure all I’ll need is that pistol…

I finally got around to playing Mass Effect 3 in 2014. I really enjoyed the first two, so I knew I’d enjoy this one. I enjoy the characters in this series, and I wanted to experience as much as I could of them. I put in almost 50 hours into the third installment. I don’t have any gripes with the ending. I have the free DLC ending, and I also have the Citadel DLC. The Citadel DLC brought a satisfying closure to a lot of characters, including older ones. I’m not exactly sure what the ending DLC added, but I felt pretty satisfied. I’m thinking that’s mostly because of the Citadel DLC. Overall, it’s a good ending to a series I spent a lot of time with.

Swearing at Your Friends Has Never Been So Fun

Mario Kart 8.

Games of 2014 - Mario Kart 8

You know, since Roy is one of Bowser’s minions, you’d think Bowser would cut him some slack during Mario Kart.

Mario Kart games are always gems. A new game comes out, and I play it, and I have fun. It’s a great equation. Mario Kart 8 is the shiniest of these gems. The graphics are stunning in HD. The gameplay is pretty much unchanged from the Wii version, but the track design creates a new spin in the old formula. You race on wacky courses that turn upside down and sideways, which might not sound interesting, but it really does create a neat effect while playing. Playing multilayer on the couch with “friends” will create rivalries, but you’ll have a smile on your face as you curse at your friend/nemesis.

Best Value DLC

Mario Kart 8 DLC

Games of 2014 - Mario Kart 8 DLC

This is just a ploy so I can share two screenshots out of the 169 I took from Mario Kart, instead of one screenshot.

The DLC for Mario Kart 8 deserves a special mention. There will be two DLC packs, and one of them has been released. You can order both DLC packs for $11.99, which is cheap for what you get. I would have spent that on the first DLC pack alone. The first DLC pack included eight new tacks, which includes tracks such as Mute City from F-Zero, and a Hyrule themed map. These are really cool, especially Mute City, which translates really well to Mario Kart 8’s physics. The DLC also includes new characters, like Link, and new cars. There’s a lot of stuff, especially for what comes out to about $6.00. I’m looking forward to the second DLC which comes out in May. Nintendo might be new to DLC, but they are doing it right.

I Should’ve Spent Money for It

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Games of 2014 - Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

This little bastard cries a lot… but I think it’s because I suck.

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth was free for Playstation Plus members a few months ago. I remembered reading praises about it, but it just looked weird to me; it still does. Free is free, and I downloaded it. One day, I was downloading another game, and I decided to give it a whirl, just until my other game finished downloading; I didn’t play the other game. At first, Binding of Isaac was frusterating, but after dying eight times, I got the hang of it; I also got a really good weapon right away, and I was basically overpowered throughout the playthrough. It’s difficult for me to explain. It’s randomly generated, the story is bizarre, everything is weird (poop everywhere, gross looking enemies, God, and the list goes on). It’s a fun game to pick up and play. I was doing my screenshots, and I ended up playing the game for over an hour, even though I had found the perfect screenshot early on… yes, that basically means I died within five minutes of hunting for screenshots.

Good, but Flawed

Destiny

Games of 2014 - Destiny

I could’ve shown you some combat, or an enemy being vaporized. Instead, I give you this pretty scene.

I was hyped for Destiny. How could the studio that created Halo mess up a first person shooter? Turns out they can’t mess up the “first person shooter” part, but there’s more to a game then just the genre. Destiny tries to a do a lot of things. It’s a first person shooter, RPG, and, technically, an MMO. The combat is fun, and it is the closest thing to perfect, at least right now. Shooting aliens in the face has never felt so good. Melee is the best melee from any game, period. You’d think if Bungie would stumble anywhere, it would be on the MMO part, but they actually did a solid job at that. I enjoyed wandering around the worlds and seeing other people. Once you enter a “dungeon,” you don’t see any other people (unless you are in a party), which is nice since I’m a single player type person. I do have a lot of fun participating in public events when they randomly appear. Bungie ended up implementing poor RPG elements. It’s fun getting loot, but the problem is, once you hit level 20, the game becomes a grind-fest. If you want to level, you have to grind for better loot. This requires playing the same old boring missions over and over again (disguised as weekly and daily events). I don’t care if the story was terrible; the end game grind is the worst sin they committed. I finished up the story, got to level 23, and quit the game. I played a little bit for screenshots, and I was reminded just how pretty the game could be. It does so much right, but fucking up the end game in an RPG is the worse sin of all.

Made the End Game the Best

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

Games of 2014 - Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

I found this dude within one minute of entering the area; this is why I love this game now.

When Diablo 3 was first released, I had a lot of fun. Then I hit about 100 hours (I think), and I realized the game was a steaming pile of shit. End game was grindy, and was focused around the auction house. The auction house also ruined drop rates, because Blizzard had to balance the items since real money was involved. If you started a new character, you had to grind through the lower difficulties over and over. I could go on, but the moral of the story is Diablo 3 sucked ass when it was first released, and it took a long time to come to this conclusion. I retired Diablo 3 within a month or two from release. Fast forward to the release of its expansion, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. Blizzard shut down the auction house, fixed loot drop rates so you can find good items, which made the combat fun again so you can find more items, redid the difficulties and made it so you can choose your difficulty (even new characters as long as you beat that difficulty with a different character), added a new act and a bunch of other neat things with the expansion. Blizzard fixed every single one of my gripes about Diablo 3, except the story; but they made it so you can basically go wherever you want with Adventure Mode. If you haven’t checked out Diablo 3 since release, I suggest you take another look. It’s a great game, and I’ll end up going back to it from time to time.

Most Played Game

Minecraft

Games of 2014 - Minecraft

The amount of time it took me to build this has been blocked out from my memory, most likely for my own sanity.

I bought Minecraft at the very end of 2013. It didn’t make the cut for Games of 2013, but here it is now. I started a server with a few friends, and I’ve poured over 200 hours into it… it’s disgusting. I throw on something from Netflix on in the background, and I play Minecraft. I watched House of Card, Orange is the New Black, Parks and Recs (twice), Ghost Stories, Games of Thrones, a few other anime titles, a few movies, and a few other TV series. In Minecraft, I’ve built a big ass island, rail bridge system, skyhouse, and a weird winterland area. It doesn’t sound like much, but I put a lot of detail in all of it. Minecraft scratches my creative and nitpicking side of me. It amazes me how much time I can spend in Minecraft, but I enjoy every second.

Smoothest Game/Game of the Year

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Games of 2014 - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

I was trying to recreate this screenshot, except with more pink and orange.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is my personal Game of the Year. It has all of the elements that I love: brutal stealth, smooth combat, and huge mounts. Everything is smooth about this game: traversing the world, combat, the animations. The best part about Shadow of Mordor is the nemesis system. I started the game, and the first map is completely open to me. I jump from my safe little tower and see an orc whipping some slaves. I can’t have any of that happening on my watch. I sneak up on him, and cut his throat, because that’s the cool thing to do to slavers. I’m pretty proud of myself, until the screen cuts to an orc yelling “Ranger!” and then he threatens me. His name does not deserve to be mentioned anymore. But at the time, he kicked my ass. I died. I didn’t have any special skills, and I had not mastered the combat system. I respawn, and encounter him again. I die. He keeps getting stronger. I avoid that part of the map on my next respawn. However, this fucker is persistent and finds me while I”m in a middle of a mission. I die again; it’s personal now. I browse my skills, and find the ones I need. I work towards getting those skills. I get them, and I hunt my nemesis down. I find him. I don’t die right away. I put up a good fight. I’m low on health and my hands are sweaty. Finally, I’m able to execute him. He dies. His rune becomes a trophy. All is right in the world. I have several stories like this one. That’s the beauty of the nemesis system, and a huge reason why Shadow of Mordor is my favorite game from 2014. I’m one trophy shy from earning the platinum trophy. I might get it one day.

There are a lot of games being released in 2015. I won’t go over the ones I’m looking forward to, because I’m sure I’ll write about them at some point. I’ve got big plans for 2015. I hope to be writing more. I’ve been doing some personal writing, and hopefully I’ll have something to share soon. I took a break around the holidays, but this post is my debut back in the saddle. Thank you very much for reading. I hope your 2014 was filled with enjoyment, and I hope 2015 brings you more.

– Royfuss

Update Dump

I’ve been doing other writing projects these past few months, so I haven’t posted anything here. My goal is to do some writing at least once a week, which I would like to be on this blog, but time is finite. You’ll have a chance to check out my labors in the next few weeks. I don’t want to announce anything prematurely (Me? No! I never do that). I figured I should do an update dump for you.

Let’s start at current events, and move backwards. I plan was to do another album review this evening, but that plan changed when my view points on the album warped a bit. Relient K released Collapsible Lung last year, and I just picked it up. I downloaded it to my iPod and proceeded to listen to it in my car. This is about the time I contemplated throwing my iPod out the car window. I struggled through the first listen of the album. Collapsible Lung is very much a pop (pop rock) album. If I did my research, I would have found out they set out to make a pop album. I love Relient K. I own most of their albums, and thoroughly enjoy each one I own. However, I generally dislike pop music. I turn off my brain to enjoy today’s pop hits, and only if I have no other options. Coming to the realization that this album was pop caused my blood to boil.

But I powered through the first listen. Then a second play through happened. Oh, I still hated it. After a few more listens (I don’t know why I persisted, but I did) my reality started to tweak. At first, I devolved into my “turn off brain” listening state. The music has some catchy hooks. Hell, I even started singing some of the choruses! A few more listens, and the lyrics started to pop out. Relient K’s strongest talent is their lyrics. This album isn’t any different. For a pop album, the lyrics are fantastic. Combining it with the pop music hooks, and you have a solid pop album. Still, Collapsible Lung is not my thing, and it is my least favorite album by the band.

On the video game front, I’ve been playing Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor. This has been scratching my stabby stabby itch, and sneaky sneaky itch. Sneaking up and assassinating people is smoother than Assassin’s Creed and the combat has a rhythm like the Batman: Arkham games. I love it. One of my favorite features is the nemesis system. Within 5 minutes of starting a game, I was killed by a captain. This captain climbed the ranks because he killed me… three more times. I wanted revenge. He was level 13 at this point, but he pissed me off. I finally figured out I could assassinate him, and he went crying to his grave. It’s a good time. I should mention you reviving is part of the game, so the captains think it’s weird that you keep coming back, but they feel an obligation to try and send you to a more permanent grave. Some bastards somehow survive a fight with you, and attack you at inopportune times, like when you are in a middle of a mission. I still like that, because it makes the missions more interesting. I’m almost done with the main story, but I’ll be running around killing captains and war chiefs for awhile; they keep promoting minions for some reason.

I finished Mass Effect 3 before starting Shadows of Mordor. It took me a long time, but it was a blast. I really liked the first two games, but I waited a long time to play 3 for some reason. It was worth it to have the Citadel DLC and the patched ending. I enjoyed the ending. It was a little odd having basically three choices presented before you at the end of the game, and that was it. Overall, I like it and recommend it.

I’ve also been playing Mario Kart 8 for the WiiU. I loves me some Mario Kart and this one is the best one yet. Nintendo just released some DLC for it, and it’s well worth the price. I think 12 bucks for two DLCs, and the first DLC has eight new tracks and three new characters. It’s cool. Mario Kart is a ton of fun to play with friends… I yell a lot. Mario Kart 8 is a must have for any WiiU owner, and if you don’t have one, it might just be worth it to buy a system just for this game. There’s other games, like New Super Mario Bros. WiiU too. Oh, and Super Smash Bros. but I’m not a fan of the fighting game genre.

I’ve been trying to watch one movie a week. I have some recommendations. Grand Budapest Hotel is fantastic. It’s a Wes Anderson film, which I didn’t understand what that means until I watched this movie. It’s the best movie I’ve seen that came out this year. The acting, story, and writing just comes together perfectly. I also recommend Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I think Jake Gyllenhaal is a great actor, so I had to see this movie. I was not disappointed. The story surprised me. The trailers don’t really spoil very much. Chronicle also surprised me. I wasn’t expecting much from a “point of view” film, but it worked really well in this movie. I was surprised by the ending too. It’s good business.

That’s all I got. I apologize if this post seems rushed. It is just an update dump, and I didn’t go into too much detail.  I’m going to work on more writing stuff in the next few weeks, so forgive me if I don’t update. Once I get my project done, I’ll post an update on this blog. Thanks for reading.

Starset – Transmissions

Starset Transmissions

Starset – Transmissions album cover
[source: International Solutions]

I was driven by friends to listen to Starset’s Transmissions back in August. However, I had some other music to get through. I also wanted to be in a “new music” type of mood. I listened to it a few times, and it really didn’t stand out to me. Then I started picking lyrics here and there, and I started piecing together the album as a whole. This is when everything snapped into place, and my ears fell in love with it. I decided to give it a proper examination with this blog post.

Transmissions is very much a concept album. Actually, Starset describes themselves as cinematic rock. Transmissions feels like a movie. A common theme runs through its core. There are musical transitions, as well as something I like to call “science talk.” “Science talk,” to me anyways, is the explanation of scientific subjects. In Transmissions this comes in the form of a scientist explaining satellite orbit, for example.

Each song can be interpreted several ways, depending on the person. That is an attribute of art, after all. The lyrics within Transmissions tell a story if you put all the songs together. “First Light” serves as a preface for the album; the subjects that will be covered over the course of the album are introduced here. The album follows the rise and fall (also the title of the ending track) of a journey. It was a joy to relate each song to the previous song. “Rise and Fall” is satisfying because it concludes the fall. The album restarts with “First Light” the story begins the rise again. Although a thorough examination of the lyrics isn’t necessary to enjoy Transmission, I do encourage you to do so.

Musically, Startset can be interesting. Starset has your standard rock guitars and drums. However, they throw in some stringed instruments, piano, and SciFi synthesized instruments. They may even throw in some sounds, such as life support machines, to add to the music. “Down With the Fallen” utilizes most of these sounds, and it’s a freaking awesome start to the album!

The music also carries around an instrumental theme. There is definitely a space theme going on. The SciFi, synthesized, instruments, as well as piano and stringed instruments, reenforce this theme. “My Demons” preys on these sounds to create a space feel, and creates one of the best songs I have ever heard. One of my favorite uses of the music to collaborate with the lyrics is “Point of No Return.” The song actually sounds like it is disintegrating, while the lyrics are about burning the past. I could list more examples; the music lines up thematically with the lyrics in every song.

Many of the songs will have outros that utilize stringed instruments and horns; this creates a movie-like feeling to the album. Some outros serve as an intro to the next song, such is the case of “My Demons” short piano outro. The next song, “Antigravity” is very piano heavy. I love me some piano. Some songs use the outro to have you fill in the blanks. The outro to “Antigravity” has a very epic movie like quality to it. During this instrumental, you can almost see some action happening. This action bridges the story to the next song, “Dark On Me.” Some songs use the “science talk” I mentioned earlier. “It Has Begun” does this. The “science talk” is describing how GPS navigation works. I’ll be honest; I don’t know exactly how it fits with the story I created, but it does fit with the space theme.

I think the biggest thing I like about the album is the vocalist. He’s able to drive the lyrics with powerful emotion. He can scream when there’s anger. He can be soft during a hopeful verse. He doesn’t have an outstanding voice, but his performance is outstanding, because of that emotion he carries.

There’s a lot to like about Starset’s debut album. You don’t see too many SciFi themes used in albums, and Transmissions delivers on that front. The music and vocals carry an emotional punch to them. The entire album just has a solid theme. My favorite song is more of a grouping of songs. “It Has Begun,” “My Demons,” and “Antigravity” tell the action of the story, and I absolutely love it. I couldn’t imagine any of those songs without the others. I recommend you listen to the album, and I encourage you to study it. It is well worth your time.

Oh, and the lead singer has this on stage when he performs.

Thanks for reading.

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party

Linkin Park The Hunting Party Album Cover

Linkin Park –  The Hunting Party Album Cover
[source: Warner Bros.]

I remember when Linkin Park first teased The Hunting Party; before we even knew the name of the album. All it was, was a heavy guitar riff. This was somewhat unexpected after the more eletronic vibe of Living Things, and it’s electronic dance music remix album, Recharged. Most people were sure it would be an EDM album. Living Things was good, but it is by far my least favorite of Linkin Park’s albums. The riff brought intrigue and excitement to my worrisome mind.

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 Sandslowly 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!