With the exception of 2003’s Meteora, which was essentially just Hybrid Theory Volume II, as the band themselves have said, Linkin Park have continued to evolve with the release of each new record. Establishing themselves as the kings of nu-metal in the early 2000s, the band moved away from this sub-genre of rock with 2007’s Minutes to Midnight, and moved away from rock all together, and into electronic territory, with 2010’s A Thousand Suns. In 2012, Living Things saw the band return slightly more to their rock roots, but the album still had a distinct electronic sound.
Judging by the band’s previous two records, then, it seemed that Linkin Park were heading even further into the midst of tamer, electronic rock, and that the aggressive guitars and visceral screams that made Linkin Park one of the most successful bands of the 21st century – with Hybrid Theory and Meteora selling 24 million and 18 million copies respectively – were gone forever. However, with their sixth studio album The Hunting Party, Linkin Park have slammed on the brakes, reversed, floored the gas pedal, and sped off in completely the opposite direction to where they were headed. And thank goodness they did, because the The Hunting Party is one beast of an album.
Firstly, it’s heavy. Really heavy. From the very moment frontman Chester Bennington starts screaming his lungs out on gutsy opener ‘Keys To The Kingdom’, you know that this is going to be an entirely different sort of record from the likes of 2010’s A Thousand Suns. Indeed, a track like ‘War’, a straight up punk song, is a far cry from the most recent Linkin Park material, blasting in and out ferociously in just over two minutes. Current single ‘Until It’s Gone’ is a slow burner, but the track continues to build as it progresses, reaching a climactic ending that sees Bennington’s voice soaring skilfully over the cacophony of noise created behind him.
Whilst Linkin Park have collaborated with other artists before, most notably with Jay-Z on 2004’s Collision Course, collaborating with other artists on a studio release is something new for the band, and it has worked well on The Hunting Party. Rakim’s verse on lead single ‘Guilty All The Same’ is brilliantly slick, and only augments the song’s fierce, powerful choruses. And then there’s ‘Rebellion’, featuring System Of A Down guitarist Daron Malakian, thundering in with forceful, authoritative drumming, and a wonderfully gnarly guitar riff that’s a real highlight of the record.
Although Linkin Park are now well into their career, The Hunting Party is an album so relentless in its energy and bite that you might mistake this for a debut from a sprightly young band in their early twenties, if you weren’t familiar with Linkin Park. Bennington’s voice never falters, and co-vocalist Mike Shinoda is on top of his game throughout, particularly in the effortlessly cool verses of ‘Wastelands’. Unlike on previous albums, guitarist Brad Delson and drummer Rob Bourdon are given the opportunity to demonstrate their talents fully, and they truly excel. Delson’s guitar is continuously impressive, most notably the brutal solo on ‘War’, and Bourdon shines on the explosive ‘Mark The Graves’ and album closer ‘A Line In The Sand’.
They’ve taken their time, but with The Hunting Party, Linkin Park have finally returned. It’s a record that’s bursting at the seams with rage, intensity, and power, and it’s a record that makes Linkin Park a force to be reckoned with. They’re angry. They’re loud. They’re fierce. And they’re very, very good.
The Hunting Party is out now on Warner Bros/Machine Shop