Linkin Park Hunts for a More Expansive Sound

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Upon hearing the first single from Linkin Park’s sixth studio album, I was intrigued by the heavier sound. “Guilty All the Same” teased an album full of heartbeat rhythms, pounding distortion riffs, and the familiar wailing of lead vocalist Chester Bennington that were the early earmarks of the group.

However, this is not the Nu-Metal sound that Linkin Park became known for with 2000’s Hybrid Theory and 2003’s Meteora. The Hunting Party brings to us a heavier, alternative rock sound lacking  some of the hip-hop inspired sound effects and backdrops some LP fans may have expected.

“Every Phrase a Razor Blade”

This sound jumps out of the speakers from the opening tracks. “Keys to the Kingdom” and “All for Nothing” burst forth with an energy that was only seen in snatches in previous albums, when songs like “The Catalyst” and “Victimized” carried the singular alt-rock overtones on otherwise electronically driven albums (2010’s A Thousand Suns and 2012’s Living Things, respectively). Each song also features a marching order cum rap verse from vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist Mike Shinoda.

After the aforementioned radio single and a brief interlude track, the band turns to punk in “War”. Bennington’s half scream — which feels like rusted sheets of aluminum scraping against each other — is backed with high-tempo drums and power chords. This song is desperate, enraged energy.

The heavy guitars continue in “Wastelands,” overlaying an enhanced rhythmic head-banger from drummer Rob Bourdon. Shinoda’s verses and keys also recall the hip-hop infused flavor of older Linkin Park. Shinoda is still the soul of this album, but Brad Delson’s atmospheric guitars and Bourdon’s drums are the adrenaline-pumping veins and heart.

“A Breath to Build a Glow”

The first half of this album is exhausting in the way that a really intense war movie is, but the energy depletion is entirely satisfying.

In what may be my favorite song on the album, “Until It’s Gone” doesn’t slow the pace so much as up the ante. For the first time on The Hunting Party, a harmonized chorus of guitars, combined with undertones of keyboards and synthesizers expands the close, hand-grenade energy of the first half of the album into a supernova.

A punk-thrash vibe returns in “Rebellion”, which features the powerfully methodical strumming of System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian. “Mark the Graves” begins with a drum roll intro, speeds up to a grinding guitar riff, and then levels off at an unexpectedly soft verse from Bennington. His voice is carried into a gut-wrenching cry for help, and the song breaks into a sunrise of a climax.

“The Final Masquerade” — the lone “softer” song on the album — recalls similar penultimate tracks “The Messenger” (Suns) and “Powerless” (Living), featuring Bennington expressing the full range of his voice over an accompaniment of guitars, piano, and drums. The energy here has turned from an explosion into the final wave of the fallout.

The album is masterfully topped with the slow-burning “A Line in the Sand”. Like the charging footfalls of an angry mob, the drums march to a churning guitar chorus, and Bennington’s voice is forced through a vengeful howl.

“They Burn Their Buildings”

Linkin Park’s music has always implied an industrial setting to me. Their early music — particularly Hybrid Theory — felt like the self-imposed isolation of wandering through a city’s warehouse district at night, wind grazing pieces of trash across the dimly lit streets like tumbleweeds.

A Thousand Suns, with its electronic layering and lyrical motifs of class struggle, conjured images of a labor strike boiling into a riot. Living Things lets the class struggle of Suns tear the scene into an urban wasteland.

The Hunting Party grabs the listener with a steam-punk-esque robotic claw and drops you into one of the nameless factories where the class war rages. Here, you are immediately engulfed in the cacophony of heavy machinery clanking and pounding away as sparks fly in every direction and giant furnaces billow you with heat. The industrial setting hasn’t changed; the sound is only more deafening.

“Give Me Back What’s Mine”

The guitars and drums are what drive this album, but they also provide the atmospheric overlay that was so alluring about Suns’ digital, harmonic layering. A Thousand Suns was their foray into progressive electronics, a detour off of their musical journey.

Living Things tried to combine this electronic atmosphere with the familiar, localized hip-hop and rap rock of earlier albums. Things featured several great songs, but they didn’t feel like the cohesive overture that Suns did.

The Hunting Party makes you believe that Shinoda and Co. have mastered the multiple-genre, progressive storytelling album that they uncovered with Suns. Then, as if to reify their alternative rock-rap roots, they sharpened the music’s edge with an anvil and hammer.

Steve D

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