By RJ Martin, Music Director
It is difficult to understate the importance of Linkin Park’s body of work. The influence they had on rock music at the turn of the century defined the sound of rap metal as well as nu-metal; in fact, they are probably one of the only groups worth mentioning when discussing the former. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call their first two albums modern classics.
On today’s installment of “Records I’m Not Ashamed To Own,” though, I’ll be talking about their sixth studio album, The Hunting Party. You may be thinking, “RJ, why aren’t you ashamed to own their first two albums? They may be “classics” but for a middle schooler!” I respond to that with: I don’t feel a need to defend those albums. Even the snobbiest of critics realize the importance and sheer quality of Linkin Park’s early discography. The Hunting Party is — in my opinion — one of Linkin Park’s most underrated albums but also one that I’ve actually received questionable looks for enjoying.
I remember hearing the debut single, “Guilty All The Same”, and becoming unreasonably hype for the new record. Linkin Park was back, baby! That is not to say that their previous two albums were bad. I actually think they were some of the band’s best work. However, they had made it clear that their goal with the next record was to bring back their OG heavier sound, stating that much of the material was reminiscent or reworked versions of pre-Hybrid Theory songs.
Unlike previous studio efforts, The Hunting Party was written almost exclusively during studio sessions and was self-produced by the band’s own Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda instead of their usual producer, Rick Rubin. At the time, Scott Weiland had been fired from Stone Temple Pilots, and Chester Bennington had been offered the position of lead singer in the band. Because of this, for the first time in their career, Bennington was not present for most of the writing or recording of the new album, as he was busy recording a new EP with Stone Temple Pilots. The heavier sound of the album was birthed by the off-the-cuff writing during their studio sessions, which included a lot of jamming and raw collaboration between the band members. By the time Bennington got to the studio, most of it was written, and he was quite pleased with how the project ended up sounding.
While the record never completely dives back into the raw and uncut metal sound that the band staked their claim on in the early 2000s, it does take quite a few interesting turns. In addition to bringing back some of the aforementioned sound, the album opens with three of the most unrelenting bangers, “Keys to the Kingdom”, “All for Nothing” and “Guilty All the Same”. These three songs really set the pace and tone for the next 30 minutes of music with their chugging riffs and brutal performances from the band at large. They’re fun, restless and undoubtedly some of the best tunes that Linkin Park has created.
The fourth track on the album is an interlude, and from there we get “War”, which is a by the numbers punk rock song. I mean “by the numbers” in nothing less than a complimentary way here because the band had never ventured into that genre before. It’s a straightforward and energetic punk song, but it really makes you crave more of this sound from the band.
Now, I’m arguing not only for this album’s validity as a comeback project, but as a standalone album that is solid in its own right. That being said, this album isn’t perfect, and it does lose some momentum here and there. I’ll be the first to admit that after the initial burst of energy, this album drags toward the back half. But, in my opinion, it’s interspersed with enough energy between the songs to keep momentum building.
In particular, “Wastelands”, “Rebellion” and the record’s closing track, “A Line in the Sand”, go incredibly hard and feature some of Bennington’s more thoughtful penmanship that fans always loved to hear. The songs between those, such as “Until It’s Gone” and “Mark the Graves”, while still catchy and fun, take the backseat to the record’s real stars.
Despite its lukewarm release, this album deserves a lot more love than it gets. Linkin Park spent a lot of their career being bullied by fans for not “bringing back their old sound,” and then when they did (still innovating quite a bit), it went relatively unnoticed. If you’re a fan of the band and haven’t heard this record, or just happen to be looking for one of the best rock records of the mid-2010s, you should absolutely give this a listen.
Listen to the album here: