Linkin Park has always carved their own path in music. Ever since their debut release about 15 years ago, the band championed nu-metal while simultaneously burning it to the ground. Those albums still somehow sound non-dated, a testament to their craft of universal appeal and brilliantly approachable songwriting.
The Hunting Party finds this band seemingly reinvigorated with a heavier release than anything they have done since their mainstream opus, Meteora. But there are a lot of issues with The Hunting Party that makes it little more than a good intention going moderately wrong. One of the main strengths with Linkin Park has always been their collective ability to write these big sweeping hooks propelled by a wonderful balance of rapping, screaming, and direct singing from the two frontman. This is still present in their sound, but these hooks lack the weight of the past. All For Nothing has a hook from Page Hamilton of criminally overlooked metal group, Helmet. But it is uninteresting and stale, burned to the ground with its overt repetition.
Until it’s Gone has a lot of the same issues. The song tries to be larger than it really is, a self-built pretension in its scale that ultimately just ends up leaning on a big keyboard hook that doesn’t work. Album opener Keys to the Kingdom tries to sound bigger than life. But after breaking it down, it hits every major Linkin park trope, simply removing the keyboard melodies with a guitar line and Chester Bennington screaming an octave higher. Whoopdee doo.
The guitar plays a major part in the Hunting Party, but in very weird ways. Specifically, LinkinParkguitarist Brad Delson is actually somewhat relevant on this release. He brings out a few guitar solos which is a refreshing change of pace, for the band rarely ever leaning into intricate pattern-play. The bizarre thing is that Brad Delson, despite his long-standing presence in the band, is not a good guitar player. He is ashamedly outshined from System of a Down alum Daron Malakian in Rebellion, for example. It is so transparent that Malakian is a vastly superior guitar player on almost every level. Considering the tonal style of the tune, he probably had a solid hand in the writing as well. In other words, Rebellion is the album highlight partly BECAUSE of Delson’s presence.
The presence of a guitar is a major element here in more surprising ways. Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave veteran Tom Morello is on the record in Drawbar. Yet instead of the song being a rap-rock oriented jam or a big metal throwback, it is a two minute instrumental. This is not to say that the track is not quaint and pretty in its own right- it is just that I should never have to resort to words like quaint and pretty to explain a Morello feature. It is a shockingly wasted opportunity.
I appreciated the bombastic size of album closer A Line in the Sand, and the back to back set-up of War and Wastelands is the best moment of the record, but the Hunting Party is a lot of boasting with little substance. Its pretense of being a return to rock/metal form is a lot of calculated marketing. The Hunting Party is a competent release from a perfectly acceptable band. But Linkin Park continues floundering down their own rabbit hole, juggling what should be solid rock with ideas of grandiosity that are forced and untrue.