When Linkin Park released their game-changing debut, Hybrid Theory in 2000, they immediately achieved headline status and it was clear we had something special. When they released the follow up, Meteora in 2003, they were catapulted to superstardom as they’d overcome the sophomore slump and lived up to the debut in every way imaginable. Their fanbase was undeniable and stronger than ever and Linkin Park was a force to be reckoned with.
Their third record, Minutes to Midnight was a decent third record but lacked the signature Linkin Park sound and fans were on the fence and split down the middle when it came to a positive or negative reaction to the record- even though there were a few shades of classic Linkin Park but not many. With 2010’s A Thousand Suns– the band’s first concept record– fans didn’t take to it very well as it lacked every bit of the sonically powerful Linkin Park fans had grown to love as it was all synth and no guitars, very little Mike Shinoda rapping and not more alternative than straight rock and the Linkin Park faithful were starting to wonder whether the glory days of the band were done for good.
Then came 2012 and their fifth record, Living Things. A breath of fresh air for many Linkin Park fans, the record wasn’t a complete return to the old days, but was a step in the right direction, featuring some of the heaviest songs we’d heard from the band since Meteora and saw the return of rap-master Mike Shinoda’s presence (he was on A Thousand Suns but not in the same capacity we’d been familiar with) and saw Chester Bennington screaming his heart out as only Bennington can do.
Living Things was a step in the right direction and it was clear Linkin Park were back and just as good as ever. The only question was what fans would get when the band released the follow up in 2014 and we finally have our answer in The Hunting Party.
The Hunting Party opens up with “Keys to the Kingdom,” which will remind fans of “Given Up,” from Minutes to Midnight and features a stripped down, rock-heavy sound that shows Chester Bennington screaming his guts out and starts the record off with a bang.
“All or Nothing” is classic Linkin Park featuring Mike Shinoda’s rapping skills mixed with the melodic Linkin Park rock that made them famous to begin with while lead single “Guilty All the Same” isn’t their strongest single or the strongest song on the album but Brad Delson’s opening guitar riff is addictive and infectious enough to hook you and reel you in.
“War” is a punk homage through and through with some hardcore mixed in and isn’t what you’d expect from Linkin Park but they pull it off well and “Until It’s Gone” is A Thousand Suns-meets-Minutes to Midnight but fans should enjoy this one as it’s catchy enough to be a hit.
“Rebellion” which features System of A Down/Scars on Broadway’s Daron Malakian and is exactly what you’d expect from this collaboration- trippy guitar hooks and riffs mixed with the classic Linkin Park electronic-laced metal. “Rebellion” features some of the most epic breakdowns you’ll find courtesy of Malakian and, with the classic Chester Bennington screams this song this is Linkin Park at their best.
“Mark the Graves” is a more stripped-down rock track while “Drawbar” is a trippy, psychedelic, post-apocalyptic instrumental that features Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and closes with a haunting piano solo while “Final Masquerade” is all Bennington and is one of the more theatrical tracks on the record. This one would fit in well with “Great Divide,” which they wrote for the second Transformers film and may become a quick fan favorite. While a far cry from classic Linkin Park, “Final Masquerade” is pretty catchy and a good segue into the final track, “A Line in the Sand.”
This track starts slow with a bit of electropella courtesy of Shinoda and cuts into a big drum fill with an impressive breakdown. It turns into a fast-paced story, almost like the band is marching into battle and Bennington’s powerful screams take over, leading into Shindoa rapping like its 2000 all over again.
This track is Meteora-meets-Minutes to Midnight and ends with a straight-up metal assault that will make longtime fans very happy. “A Line in the Sand” is a musical rollercoaster as Linkin Park takes you on a journey that ends just as it began.
When it’s all said and done, Linkin Park have created their strongest record since Meterora. With this being the first record since then that Rick Rubin didn’t produce and was instead produced by the band. This could be the reason for the band’s return to the older Linkin Park sounds and it pays off immensely.
For the fans who have stuck with Linkin Park since day one this is a great reward for the loyalty and will silence any doubters that Linkin Park still have what it takes to make a powerful record.
While there are still shades of A Thousand Suns and they aren’t completely back to the knockout punch and kick to the gut they gave us with the first two records, if you combine Living Things and The Hunting Party, the band is making strides to get back to the glory days and they’re moving fast.