Like a lot of people my age, alternative music was something I found as a result of nu-metal bands like Linkin Park or Papa Roach, and whilst many people viewed them as the musical equivalent of cannabis (gateway bands that inevitably lead to a life of livestock slaughter and Slayer), I quickly found the warmer climes of pop-punk to be far more to my liking, and Slipknot to be well, a bit scary. That didn't stop the likes of Hybrid Theory or Infest finding a special place in my heart however, and once again I find myself drawn, not by better judgement, but by a nostalgic curiosity, the kind of curiosity that more often than not, leaves you with the bitter taste of disappointment and an inevitable feeling of I Told You So.
Or it does most of the time. Truth be told I haven't paid attention to anything Linkin Park have done since Meteora in 2003, and with the exception of occasional drunken Spotify binges, haven't listened to them since then either. That all changed when they announced they were going to be playing their 2000 debut, in full, at Download, and Hybrid Theory once again found it's way back in to my life and on to my Ipod, and as such, I made the unconscious decision that I would also end up reviewing The Hunting Party a few weeks later.
And I'm glad I did. Though they've always had prominent production within their music, like a lot of bands Linkin Park seemed to lean on it a lot more heavily in recent years but The Hunting Party sees the band almost revert back to their nu-metal roots; blending elements of post-hardcore instrumentation with old skool hip-hop flows and beats, wrapped up with their quintessential anthemic choruses. Opener 'Keys to the Kingdom' proves the band haven't mellowed with age, if anything, they've become heavier, more aggressive, and, much like the album it opens, there's little relent.
Linkin Park have always been known for their mixing of rapped vocals and paint-stripping screams, and rarely have they ever been as prominent as they seem on The Hunting Party. Indeed, whilst the hip-hop may well have taken a slight backseat in favour of a more traditional metal delivery, there are still more than a couple of times in which Mike Shinoda's proves that he's still one of the best and most prominent MCs in rap-metal, and guest appearances by the likes of Rakim suggest that whilst straightforward rock and post-hardcore might be the name of the game on (studio) album number six, hip-hop is still a big part of what Linkin Park are about.
Other notable inclusions on the album understandably lean far more towards the band's metal side of things, and guests such as Helmet's Page Hamilton or SOAD's Daron Malakian offer their respective talents on some of the heaviest tracks featured on The Hunting Party. Malakian's contribution, 'Rebellion', in particular finds itself the strongest collaboration; frenetic rhythm guitars and percussion working in tandem whilst lead guitars and synth shred through their hooks.
I went in to this review trying desperately hard to put any preconceptions about it's quality to the back of my mind. I never would have thought, that 14 years on from their debut Linkin Park would still be releasing records, and what's even more surprising, is that they're still releasing records of this calibre. Okay so the whole nu-metal/rap-metal ship sailed a long time ago, and arguably for a good reason. But with The Hunting Party, Linkin Park have crafted an album that builds on every foundation they've ever laid, improving on them exponentially. It might not uphold the same nostalgic attraction as their first two records, but musically this a far more ambitious, more well rounded record that will only serve to boost the band's reputation in the eyes of their fans. A classic album, it isn't. A great album, it definitely is.