What is a “Hunting Party?” On the most basic level, it is, quite literally, a group of dudes getting together to kill shit. Fittingly, it is the title of Linkin Park’s sixth studio album, due out June 17th on Machine Shop Recordings / Warner Bros Records.
The sum of a career dedicated to brain-melting innovation and expert craftsmanship, The Hunting Party finds Linkin Park reaching into their childhoods in order to realize their future. After setting the template for rock that incorporated hip-hop influences with Hybrid Theory and Meteora, LP shifted gears completely with the polychromatic Minutes to Midnight, only to subvert expectations again by releasing the largely electronic, apocalyptic A Thousand Suns and 2012’s Living Things, which melded songwriting structures of folk with the harder edges of electronica and rock and roll. The direction the band was trending towards suggested that The Hunting Party would follow in this electronic-tinged vein. But then again, Linkin Park has always loved a good surprise.
Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mike Shinoda explains the origin of the album, “I made some ‘alternative pop’ demos that sounded like they would fit in with what radio is currently playing. But then I came across a blog piece entitled “Rock Sucks Right Now and its Really Depressing.” It got me thinking…I ended up writing a response to it, and realized that what I had been working on wasn’t really what I wanted to be making.” Frustrated by the over-abundance of soft indie and pop on “rock” radio, Shinoda decided to lead the band in a harder-edged direction, innovating by reverting to the ethos of music that inspired them to become a band in the first place.
“When I think of myself at 15,” Shinoda says, “I think of emotions being so raw and illogical. It hadn’t been watered down by experience. I liked music that was lyrically or sonically offensive—whatever would piss my parents off. We had to get back in touch with that in order to make this record.” As such, elements of hardcore punk, thrash metal, and the hip-hop pioneers like Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane were incorporated as influences on the record. “War” is perhaps the hardest-edged song Linkin Park has ever set to tape, while “Rebellion,” featuring a guest appearance by System of a Down’s Daron Malakian, ricochets from vocal interplay from Shinoda and lead singer Chester Bennington to a martial stomp and vocal freak out from Bennington.
“We had to figure out how to reimagine that in a postmodern way,” says guitarist Brad Delson. “We had a punk rock attitude of, ‘I don’t give a fuck, this is what I want to make.’” Essentially, he says, “we wanted to do something progressive and that only we could do,” continuing, “I think one of the successes of the record is that those attitudes congealed.” Indeed, the album is the sound of trained professionals performing an armed assault on their material, featuring the type of performances that seem like they require technical acumen as well as sheer aggression and physical stamina. The best of both worlds, indeed.
While Linkin Park has never been afraid to explore their influences, on The Hunting Party they actively engage in conversation with them—hip-hop legend Rakim lends a searing 24-bar verse to “Guilty All the Same,” while Helmet’s Page Hamilton carries the chorus of “All for Nothing.” Rage Against the Machine guitar virtuoso Tom Morello helps sculpt the amorphous “Drawbar,” in addition to the aforementioned guest spot by Malakian on “Rebellion.” Working with legends such as these is the physical manifestation of the band’s manifesto, as if the band’s inner 15-year-olds wrote the wish list of collaborators.
Being a band with a united sonic vision on its sixth album has its advantages. “There’s an intimacy and an energy when we play together that I think this record captures,” says Shinoda of the album. Indeed, the album’s approach helped sculpt its sound: the album is the band’s first self-produced endeavor, and their first to rely heavily on analog tape recording, minimally altered. It’s the sound of old comrades making music together in a room. Notes Shinoda, “The process of recording to tape and preserving the best performances was definitely one of the things that gives The Hunting Party its sound.”
By combining obsessive craftsmanship with a willingness to let go of the steering wheel, Linkin Park manage to capture their ever-innovative spirit and imbue it with a defiance and hunger seldom seen in bands working on their sixth album. Though some fans believe The Hunting Party to be something of a “prequel” to their debut Hybrid Theory, Delson explains, “It’s not a return to a style or sound; it’s a return to an ethos and inspiration—one that predates us coming together as a band. It’s the result of a hunger for music that we’re not hearing anyone doing.”