I had the amazing opportunity of attending today’s listening party for Linkin Park’s upcoming album The Hunting Party.
Unlike my early arrivals for concerts and past listening events for the albums, I was cutting it pretty close arriving about fifteen minutes before noon, coming into the line as they were announcing bags and all electronic devices will be held, and we needed our IDs at hand.
Wristband fitted on and our names checked off, we were let in, following stairs up about two floors, the carpet black and the walls completely covered in graffiti-style art as we climbed. Stepping into The Attic, the room was spacious but intimate, leather couches along the sides and on a raised level, a stage and screen at the front. An amazing piece of work painted straight onto the wall by the entrance, one of the back walls covered in small venue posters. Open bar hidden behind the wall directly across that screen where my friends and I decided to sit.
Adam, Lorenzo, Lulu, Kavi and Trish taking care of final bag checks and having everyone sit, they gave us some time to greet friends and try to control our excitement, appetizers and drinks waited out to us.
After much anticipation, lights dimmed, and Adam welcomed us, leading into Mike’s appearance.
He talked about being in the car one day, flicking through every station, even diving into Spotify, Beats, Pandora and Sirius, and just not finding a damn thing to listen to. He knew he wanted something aggressive, but he just wasn’t finding it. Heading into the studio and listening to the demos they had best described as ‘alternative,’ he realized they were just like those on the radio he couldn’t settle on.
They were a mistake, just wasn’t the right time for them.
So he took a plead to the rest of the guys. He explained that, no matter how much he wanted to make that specific aggression he was looking for, it wouldn’t be complete if his bandmates didn’t feel the same; they did, so they took a complete turn-around.
Not wanting to spoil more, as I’ll try my best not to do as well, he left the room to let us truly focus on what we came to hear. Honestly, I don’t think any of us would have noticed him even sitting down on our laps with what came through those speakers.
The album opens distorted, almost- almost– takes you back to A Thousand Suns for a few fleeting seconds; but you’re violently taken back to right then and now. It is damn hard and fast, and for those who have used the lack of “Chester’s Scream” over the last albums as your excuse to bitch and moan over your loss of interest- first song in, you’re already left with no reason.
It’s followed by what I only scribbled on my napkin as “Mike’s hardest” only the second song in before hearing the rest, and for these two songs, I sat in shock, hand over what would have been my gaping mouth.
Maybe I’ve changed my mind now, maybe I haven’t- what hasn’t changed is the fact that this will challenge what you think as his most aggressive the split second you first realize that is indeed Mike fuckin’ Shinoda.
What hasn’t been a secret since the first single has come out was that I wasn’t impressed at all by the now familiar “Guilty All the Same.” I personally thought the beginning riffs were abrupt, didn’t carry me through, and Chester’s voice did not fit his surroundings. However, I can only suppose a full surround fuck-your-ears sound system is all I needed as my friend and I almost didn’t even recognize the single. The abruptness we despised was gone, transitional, and his voice sounded much stronger- can’t be sure since for some reason, the track was cut and suddenly we were on to the next.
A bridge (definitely not weak or unnecessary) lead into one of three songs that stood out in structure and style, dominated- according to my napkins- by Chester, Rob and Brad. The percussion between this and the next song had me confused for some moments whether it was ending or beginning a song, but it becomes pretty certain it’s leading, leading into another I strongly enjoyed from Mike’s element.
There is again a great transition into the next, coming into “Until It’s Gone,” which I personally loved immediately when it was first released unlike its predecessor GATS as fans quickly abbreviated it. Though technically the ‘slow song’ of the album, it’s definitely not easy to call it weak; even though the surrounding drums and guitar were toned down compared to others, Chester’s vocals come out stronger, so it does not easily stand out. I think it can hold its own in the album.
This is still said even with the song following after to pull a hushed “Oh shit!” from me, my scrawls on the napkin showing just “ROB” and “MIKE MIKE MIKE,” Chester brought in to finish it off. It was fuckin’ perfect.
Coming in after was one Brad called a favorite in the studio, my favorite element of this one being the harmonies; as much as I love both Chester and Mike’s separate voices, I will always fall hard time and time again when they lace them together, no matter how subtle. The rhythm is excellent and Chester’s voice truly shows its powerful range.
Then we are taken into a drastic change, the beginning an instrument only Linkin Park could bring into such an album so flawlessly. Rob fades in, suddenly striking. A note for this is “breathless.”
Now, with such aggressive attacks of sounds, voices and lyrics, I didn’t expect this album to make me cry. My beloved Soldiers know me well, and they refuse to let go of the fact I cried for A Thousand Suns, and I cried for “Castle of Glass.” Stunning album, stunning song; but for personal reasons, the lyrics struck hard in the second to last song, Rob striking hard, Chester and Mike’s voices- it’s an amazingly crafted piece of art, and easily- a cherished favorite.
I’d like to say Rob and Brad shine in this album, but really, it’s more like they’re ablaze, engulfing the whole band in their energy.
Closing the album was quite possibly Mike’s most stunning work, both lyrically and vocally. A powerful end in many ways you wouldn’t expect. We felt a sense as we listened, that this was it, and indeed it was the end.
I came into this listening party scared- the interviews I was reading, the videos where they talked about it, the reviews from press; I was beginning to grow worried they (especially Mike) were getting full of themselves.
Asking themselves “Is this too hard?” That things weren’t just getting loud, they were getting heavy. The inspiration behind the album title. That it’d be aggressive- which up until today, I did not feel at all from GATS, which they chose to introduce the tone of the album. Many writers have described The Hunting Party as a return to Hybrid Theory and Meteora. Mike mentioned he asked Brad to inspire his fourteen year old self.
The Hunting Party backs every single word they’ve said bringing out this album, and despite Hybrid Theory’s place in our hearts, this album does not circle back to it. It brought the energy and drive from Hybrid Theory– and from those brats picking up a guitar and deciding they were going to make what they weren’t hearing- and injected it into the nerves this band has to push boundaries and keep moving forward.
The album stands completely alone, and strong. Aggressive has a whole new meaning.
The room lightened enough to bring Mike and Brad up front, the guys not too serious as they joked a bit, Brad first sitting completely opposite of Mike on the long couch probably originally meant to hold six.
Q & A, as loosely paraphrased below, started not really with a question, more with me almost pleading to tell us that the set list would be crammed with The Hunting Party.
Basically- “The set list is a beast.” Damn good enough for me.
What influences took you back?
“Are you from Texas?” Brad asked. The pair came from Australia. Sit on that fact for a bit.
Hybrid Theory and Meteora are considered by fans as the albums with heavy guitar, so The Hunting Party is assumed a throwback since it is guitar driven. They don’t see it as such but as a “continuing progression.” They wanted to make something they weren’t hearing, Brad mentioning that Mike was urged to make a statement.
What inspired, then, what you haven’t done before?
Throwback bores the band, and nobody was making the type of aggressive music they were looking for. Certain bands have certain songs, but clearly not enough exists. And they aren’t feeling nostalgic- they don’t want the new Metallica. Instead, tap into the picky, excited fourteen year old barely learning guitar and how far it could take him. During the studio and writing up (Marking the Graves), Brad had Mike loop the track so he could do a solo over it. He didn’t have to do it, it was him having fun, and it was then the album really started to grow into what it is.
What do you sing about? Personal experiences?
Brad was heavily involved more than any other album in writing the lyrics. They are written over a long course of time, sometimes hours, days, weeks in between. So, three different people, each with a different mood any given time all adding and taking away from what was written, it builds many layers.
Are we going to get another album in eighteen months?
They chuckled, since Chester says things one day and forgets the next. So, no definitive answer from either of the guys.
Brad, what is your favorite song on the album?
The album is dynamic, has defiance with dimension, so it changes. It was at one point “Mark the Graves,” at another point it was “Guilty All the Same.” Is proud that not one song is a filler, each had a strive to achieve a layer of storytelling.
Artists you’re listening to currently?
Mike named a few (Gallows) but it wasn’t about the sound, it was the ethos, the energy.
How much creative freedom does Warner Bros. give you?
The ‘You know what you’re doing, go for it’ sort.
Pre-order your copy of The Hunting Party now! Out 6/17/14.