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In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda revealed that they felt themselves being sucked into the pop melting pot. You think so?? To them, "The Hunting Party" was about defying expectations. Based on the singles that had been released prior to the album’s streaming availability, I was dubious whether much had changed. Upon hearing it in its entirety, they have exceeded my expectations. Until now, I never cared to know the names of the drummer, guitarist or bass player because I felt their roles have been fairly inconsequential in LPs previous work. Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson and Dave Farrell, pleased to meet you.
Some impressions of the tracks in order of appearance:
1. Keys to the Kingdom – Great opener! Punk guitars, vocal harmonies, a little rap. Nice contrast of heavy and quiet
2. All For Nothing — Page Hamilton of Helmet play guitar and sings chorus. Rap driven with shout chorus. Guitar solo mimicking chorus. Another nice track.
3. Guilty All The Same — Ambiguous meter and syncopated guitar picked up by piano then followed by an urgent guitar riff intro. The expected rap was handled by Rakim (from the influential late ‘80’s hip-hop duo Eric B. and Rakim). This is a prime example of Linkin Park’s intentional deviation from the norm. The rap section is a nice change of pace both in terms of vocalist and the flow of his meter. Rapid-fire to halting, then rapid fire again. Brad lays down some good guitar work at the end.
4. The Summoning – a short instrumental
5. War — High energy punk! This has a Bad Religion-esque feel w/guitar solo. Another good one.
6. Wasteland – straight- forward rap verse / sing chorus, double=time marching drum beat (this seems to be one of Rob’s go-to beats), prominent guitars, has a “When They Come For Me” feel
7. Until It’s Gone – A Numb/What I’ve Done regurgitation. The chilling 6/4 synth/guitar lick is the only stand out feature of this tune. Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard LP mid-tempo effort. It is catchy even if the lyrics are clichéd. Pretty “meh” as a stand-alone, but in the context of the album it serves as a breather in light of the effort and energy expended to this point. The phrase “battle to be fought” alludes to an underlying theme of struggle throughout this record.
8. Rebellion – Good energy with Daron Malakian, singer/guitarist of System of a Down. The SOAD thumbprint is obvious on this quirky, unsettling, hypnotic number. An out-of-tune marching band bridge and a disco synth break are strange, but cool. – Lyrics “We are the fortunate one, we never face oppression’s gun” and then “we lost before the start….one by one we fall apart” reiterate the theme of conflict.
9. Mark the Graves – Good straight time to double time intro. The floating vocals are reminiscent of Breakout. Nice guitar and drum licks also.
10. Drawbar – Instrumental featuring piano, martial snare drum and Tom Morello doing some harmonic noodling on the drawbar. The bare piano at the end gives a foreshadowing of the next song. It makes me wistful for the Fort Minor days.
11. Final Masquerade – Another basic Linkin Park tune, yet with guitar-driven intensity.
12. A Line in the Sand – This starts with a nice pared-down vocal opening before the guitars kick in. It shares the same chord progression and underlying rhythmic feel as Guilty All the Same. The phrase “Give me back what’s mine” is appropriate (intentional?) in light of the “expectations” angle. Good syncopated guitar work and guitar solo to bring it back to the haunting vocal denouement. This creates a conclusion of tension, not release, giving the listener an anticipation of something more to come.
Additionally, I love the quasi-Incubus filler between songs. It helps to give a little continuity to the effort, although not a perfect flow.
In sum, "The Hunting Party" is one step closer to the Linkin Park sound that their fans have missed. It is instantly a solid third best effort behind Hybrid Theory and Meteora. Rating them against their own body of work, I rate this 8.0 of 10.0, with the caveat that LP has now raised the bar of renewed and raised expectations for their future works.
– Old Skul