Firstly, Happy Canada Day to all fellow canucks!
Now, onto the album. I waited a good deal of time to review this album, just so I could digest and process it. I have been hasty in the past when assigning my reviews to things, such as the classic example of A Thousand Suns. I hated A Thousand Suns when I first listened to it on the bus, coming home from college in 2010. I was thinking the whole time, “this isn’t Linkin Park!” Even Minutes to Midnight, which had a decidedly softer tone, still had their trademark sounds. But I couldn’t put it down. And now I consider it to be the best album I’ve ever heard. A Thousand Suns, among other things, taught me the lesson of patience. Sometimes you need a shift in perspective.
The Hunting Party came out on June 17, and I’ve been listening to it in pieces ever since. It’s very much a revival of their nu-metal sounds, just with the electronic elements stripped away and buried in the background. If this album had come out after Meteora, it would have felt like a natural evolution. Unfortunately, Linkin Park has been on a strange journey these past few years. After A Thousand Suns, considered by many to be their greatest work, they then squandered that good will with Living Things, which is, by all accounts, their worst album. Oddly, Mike Shinoda’s scalding remarks on the state of rock music that he hoped this album would combat were represented in Living Things itself. I can’t discern whether or not that is a sign of self-reflection, or pure ignorance. Or maybe both.
Anyways, here’s a track by track review of the album.
Keys to the Kingdom – 5 / 10
This one is tough. Reading the first impressions on LPA, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone seemed to love it. I had this impression that it was a mind blowing track. And while it’s a good opener – in that it communicates the theme that the album is striving for – I found it rather lackluster. The absence of a consistent melody makes it difficult to follow the constantly shifting landscape which starts with Shinoda’s vocals, then Bennington’s, and then Shinoda’s rapping. It’s all very bizarre. I struggle to rate it high or low, because I simply do not know what to do with it.
All for Nothing (feat. Page Hamilton) – 10 / 10
“So let me break this fucker down for ya.” I have a method for telling when I really like a song. When listening to the album for the first time, and a song ends, if I instinctively hit the rewind button, I know it’s a winner. In the case of “All for Nothing,” I must have restarted this track about 6 times before I had to force myself to continue. While it’s a little short (just over 3 minutes), there’s something incredibly energetic about this song that I just adore. I’ve only heard a few Helmet tracks, so I can’t really say whether or not its similar, but I definitely feel that Hamilton’s vocals, with Bennington’s backing, adds a delicious layer of freshness to what could have been a generic Linkin Park track. Shinoda’s rhymes are a strange fusion of hip-hop and punk, and it’s just fantastic. Another sign that I love this song: when no one is around, I will dance to it, in an embarrassingly awful fashion.
Guilty all the Same (feat. Rakim) – 7 / 10
The first single off The Hunting Party, there’s not much I can say about this track that others haven’t said better. One thing I love about it is its length – Linkin Park songs that exceed 4 minutes are exceedingly rare. Just as “Burn It Down” was a preview for what was to be expected on Living Things, “Guilty all the Same” was used to demo the new (or rather, old) sound that Linkin Park was attempting to pull off. I love the guitars, as well as that opening minute, which is quite atmospheric. Unfortunately, it’s also very much a Linkin Park song, with uninteresting lyrics and a predictable structure. Rakim saves it, though, and listening to him, I can’t help but be reminded of Hacktivist for some reason.
The Summoning – 7 / 10
It’s a one minute interlude, and initially, there was not much to say. However, after reading an LPA thread describing the track of containing bits and pieces of other Linkin Park songs, I became strangely mesmerized with cracking this song’s code. This technique was used before on “The Requiem” on A Thousand Suns, which featured bits of each song on that album. I find the track highly mysterious for this reason.
War – 3 / 10
Now begins the trifecta of garbage that permeates The Hunting Party. Clearly “War” is the bigger brother of Living Thing‘s “Victimized,” which was a pretty disappointing punk inspired track. Similarly, “War” is pretty awful. It sounds somewhat catchy, but laughably bad lyrics, compounded with a message so trite that I can’t help but laugh, doesn’t inspire much confidence in Linkin Park’s ability to go punk. Just ugh.
Wastelands – 4 / 10
Remember when I mentioned “a Linkin Park song, with uninteresting lyrics and a predictable structure?” That’s “Wastelands.” The chorus is basically “Guilty all the Same,” with different words. Shinoda’s great rhythm on “All for Nothing” is non-existent here, where he again raps about the world’s problems. Hey man, you did it on A Thousand Suns, and you did it way better there. “Wastelands” is a Linkin Park song, and Linkin Park is best when they are making music that doesn’t elicit that response.
Until It’s Gone – 0 / 10
The real black sheep of the album. I’ve hated this song ever since I first heard it on that horrible lyric video on YouTube. Conceptually, it’s the most removed song from the album’s mission statement. “Until It’s Gone” is pure pop, with heavy synths, and Bennington repeating the track’s title 14 times in a three minute window. Completely uninspired while actively being the very kind of music that Linkin Park spent months railing against. I don’t like all of Linkin Park’s songs, but never before have I rated one a 0. It’s much, much easier to skip the “War” / “Wastelands” / “Until It’s Gone” triumvirate, rather than listen to its grating blandness.
Rebellion (feat. Daron Malakian) – 8 / 10
Now back to the good stuff. System of a Down is very obviously influencing this song, but the guitars just scream to be danced with. Shinoda returns on the verses, but thankfully he’s back to his vocals, and he really kills it here. I also loved the song’s theme, which is ostensibly about the trend of people who complain about every fucking thing – the thing about living in the first world is that, while problems are dire and need to be addressed, whether or not people accept your deluded sense of self-worth is not nearly as critical as the armed conflicts that are erupting all over the world. Where “War” and “Wastelands” fail to deliver a meaningful political message, “Rebellion” really picks up the slack, and it does that by shining a light on what we’re doing. Gender politics are important, but maybe we can stop people from murdering each other with machine guns first?
Mark the Graves – 9 / 10
If there was ever a song on The Hunting Party that channeled A Thousand Suns, it would be “Mark the Graves.” Somewhere between a ballad and an instrumental, this is the kind of music I would love to see Linkin Park make more of. The song is 5 minutes, but I hardly ever feel that it has passed when the track ends. The track has a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, caught between being slow and fast, and where the humans making the music can be heard in the background. A nice follow up to “Rebellion,” again with a good political message. An experimental style that should be explored in the future.
Drawbar (feat. Tom Morello) – 5 / 10
I have no opinion of this piano interlude. It’s pretty nice for a palate cleanser track, even though the songs on either end are both slow. Tom Morello is fucking wasted here though, as you can barely hear him. This is just Owen Pallet all over again. If Morello’s name wasn’t on this, I would have never known he was there at all. And while I can appreciate that the song’s inception was a random jam session that Linkin Park and Morello had, this might be one of the wastes of talent I’ve ever seen on an album.
Final Masquerade – 10 / 10
If “All for Nothing” was the album’s best fast song, “Final Masquerade” is the album’s best slow song. Other reviewers have claimed it to be inspired by 80’s power ballads, and while I can’t speak to that, it’s definitely a song that I can get behind. There’s something incredibly minimalistic about “Final Masquerade,” where Bennington lets us hear his real voice, one that is meant for extended melodies and not needlessly screaming. More of this, please.
A Line in the Sand – 6 / 10
I seriously do not get what everyone is hyped about when it comes to “A Line in the Sand.” Yes, the song uses elements of the previous tracks to create some sort of climax to the loose “story” of The Hunting Party, but yet again, it’s a political song that carries no weight. In fact, everything that “A Line in the Sand” does, “The Catalyst” does better. Points for length, and for experimenting with song structure, but otherwise it’s a pretty bland closer.
Total Album Score: 6 / 10
Current Linkin Park album ranking:
1. A Thousand Suns
2. Minutes to Midnight (including bonus songs)
4. The Hunting Party
5. Hybrid Theory
6. Living Things