Music

Linkin Park: True Artists and Risk-Takers


Meteora, I thought that album was the last to represent the true talent, potential and passion of Linkin Park. The lyrics were personal, the music in your face and it was when they tried new methods, instruments and sounds without alienating what they built with Hybrid Theory. I thought Minutes to Midnight was the wrong move, and perhaps could’ve been avoided by going the direction of What I’ve Done instead of at least a third of the songs angering the fans, who accused them of selling out to a softer sound.

They never rebounded after that. A Thousand Suns deviated even more from their established sound, even when you take into account Minutes to Midnight. This was a concept album, more of an experiment, each song an eclectic mix of genres, from the obscure to the unthinkable for the Hybrid Theory/Meteora diehards. Living Things took some elements of those two albums but was more of a combination of all four previous ones, ending up with a futuristic-sounding record that honestly did sound like the modernized equivalent or at least a natural evolution from the two fan-favorites.

Then the epiphany came. The Hunting Party landed with a thud for many. Sales decreased, the singles weren’t popular, and there was a clear population that had a negative response to this attempt at making a Hybrid Theory prequel (one that played with the music that influenced that album). I tried to forget about it, and stopped listening to Guilty All the Same, Until It’s Gone and Final Masquerade. But somewhere along the path where Linkin Park switched to self-management, their albums were uploaded in complete form on their YouTube channel. The Hunting Party was too unique an album for an aging band to pass off another chance at redemption.

I gave it a try. And something mind-boggling happened: it grew on me. The songs I hated, I started appreciating from the perspective that this was the closest we might ever get to a true Meteora successor, and that this risky move to go back to a raw, stripped sound might have been possible only by their choice to self-manage.

I saw the poetic lyrics from the perspective of their backward recording process where they fill in the lyrics only after the song’s been made. It was only natural for them to be poetic, evolving into relevant topics like war and not teenage angst anymore. They’ve graduated from brooding rockstars to fathers that just happen to be artists that have no choice but to reinvent themselves to stay satisfied.

Going back to other underappreciated albums like Living Things, I noticed this trend that started in Meteora where a song or two provides contrast or a unique sound opposite the rest. Nobody’s Listening had these flutes (I guess) and also a hint of what’s to come with Fort Minor. Numb had a poppier sound that retained the NU metal feel that everyone loved. The Messenger was shocking in the way it was just an acoustic guitar and Chester’s moving voice giving you goosebumps. Roads Untravelled is another standout, a song I’ve never heard any other Linkin Park song be similar to.

Yet, none of these individual qualities can make a full album unique on its own. And that’s where the subject of being underrated artists comes in. It all started with Minutes to Midnight, where the softer songs were actually good, even great if they didn’t have the name Linkin Park attached to them. This Rap-Metal/NU Metal band can actually do alternative and soft music quite good (remember their top 10 hit, What I’ve Done?).

“But those aren’t even unique genres!” I know my high school self would’ve told me that. But few bands have the guts to do a 180 on half the successor to a career-defining album and have the talent to make hits out of it. You’d also think the new sound would be the new template for A Thousand Suns, but here’s when they threw everything away after a predecessor with a perfect, modern sound to riff on, just like The Hunting Party.

If you doubt Linkin Park’s artistry after the “emo” lyrics of yesteryear, I highly suggest you listen to A Thousand Suns. It’s free on YouTube along with their other albums. I remember one critic saying they might’ve invented a new genre with it. A concept album further deviating from the sound everyone wants them to adopt, I appreciate them doing that and following their gut.

You might have noticed by now that since Meteora every album they’ve churned out has had a different sound, even doing a 180 twice. And you know what? It’s not just the product of recording music where they seem underrated as artists, but in recent news Mike and Brad revealed they also did a 180 on their creative process, away from the backward one they’re used to.

I know, I just switched from being a hater of The Hunting Party to a diehard Linkin Park fan again, but sometimes it only takes an open mind and acceptance of the reality that bands are made of people too, and people change. It’s safe to expect every single one of them who follow their artistic desires to change at one point or the other, no matter how much money they want to earn from fans that want one, and only one sound. I hope you give Linkin Park another chance too, especially now that the next album is being worked on. It’s free and complete and contains some special content too, all on YouTube.

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Music

The Hunting Party Album Review

THe Hunting Party Album Cover

Linkin Park is as likeable a band as they come. They’re not afraid of going the opposite direction of where they’re expected to go, as proven by the experimental A Thousand Suns and this album, The Hunting Party, where they go back to basics. Not to the sound they originated from, but the ones that inspired them to make music, music that has captivated a global fanbase of 60 million. They are pioneers and innovators in the presentation of their work, collaborating with video game studios for music videos and even their own games. The interactive part of music is a forte of Linkin Park it seems, and I expect that maybe, just maybe, they’ll make a Virtual Reality project someday. Not everyone likes their music, but if this is a sign of things to come, then what a positive step forward it is, even though as an album it fails to soar to the same heights of their previous ones.

The problem lies with the back to basics philosophy in that it veers from the established and honestly superior cinematic, effects-laden sound that makes up the majority of their album lineup. What you’ll get is less innovation and more revisiting a much-loved but dated-feeling sound. If you like the first third of The Hunting Party, then it’s likely that you’ll love the rest of the album. But if you’re used to Linkin Park’s usual epic feel, then everything will feel like a step back, a failure to iterate on the tried and true formula.

Setting aside how good the overall album is reveals the delightful progress Brad Delson has made in his craft. He is no longer just part of the background, doing the expected things from his guitar. He and bandmate Rob make for half the face of The Hunting Party, the other consisting the ever-effective duo of Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda. Mike and Chester haven’t changed a bit compared to their recent albums, which isn’t a bad thing. But the most noteworthy aspect of this album’s production must be the prominent use of guitars and drums. Things feel heavy and condensed as a result, the drum part already expected from Rob. Brad is the surprise here, really showing off that he has what it takes to lead an album. Again, he’s used to fading to the background, so more time in the limelight will improve his craft. There’s nothing particularly superior to the crowd of similar guitarists to note.

The negative aspect of refusing to innovate is it tends to not stand out as much. Linkin Park thankfully enlisted the help of several noteworthy figures in present-day rock, although I’m having a hard time seeing what help Tom Morello gave for “Drawbar”. Iconic rapper Rakim lent his hand to the debut single “Guilty All the Same”. The best collaboration and without a doubt the best track of them all is the scintillating “Rebellion” featuring Daron Malakian. There, Mike Shinoda also raps with wisdom even beyond his current level of experience, refusing to go over the top while being steady in his delivery. It’s moments like this that the album soars back to the heights of Hybrid Theory or Meteora. But they don’t happen that often, unfortunately, even when sections of tracks are counted. “All for Nothing” recalls the earlier days of Mike’s rapping, until the bland chorus ruins it all, while “Guilty All the Same” would have been closer to average if it didn’t have the magic of Rakim.

It is the one-step-back mentality that might entice fans weary of the band’s recently softening sound back to the game. This is in fact their heaviest album since the Hybrid Theory/Meteora days and while there is nothing unique about it, The Hunting Party represents a quantum leap in ability for the underappreciated Brad Delson and another welcome showcase for powerhouse drummer Rob Bourdon. From the unrelenting majority of the songs to the little breaks in between and the setting of the sun at the end with softer tracks like “Final Masquerade” and “Until It’s Gone”, Linkin Park only treads territory other bands have for ages, and in a much superior manner.

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Music

A Downward Spiral

  

Few bands have ever captivated me all these years like Linkin Park. To this day I remember the first time I was instantly hooked to In The End when I was a kid. I marched on, discovering new music from them through YouTube when I was in high school. Then starting with A Thousand Suns, I collected as many of their albums as I could (I still regret having my stone age laptop prevent me from unlocking the Burn It Down teaser), the others being: Meteora (Special Edition), Minutes to Midnight and Living Things. I would’ve bought the Collision Course and Songs From The Underground EPs if they weren’t so pricey, and also Hybrid Theory if it wasn’t so rare these days and The Hunting Party if it didn’t come out so damn late in the Philippines.

After that adolescence stage though, my relationship with Linkin Park all went downhill. Music didn’t influence my emotions as much, and that passion for the medium faded into obscurity. Now I only listen to music occasionally, much less Linkin Park, which accounts for a fraction of that time. In this perspective though, I can see why there were many haters (even if the fans far outnumber them). The quality of music went on a downward spiral since bursting with all guns blazing with the fantastic Hybrid Theory. Meteora was a small step backward, Minutes to Midnight a bigger one, then came A Thousand Suns which was the first time my beloved band underwhelmed for me. Living Things was a similar downgrade between the first two, and The Hunting Party was the final nail in the coffin.

I wish I could care more, but no matter how hard I try, I’ve just…moved on. Maybe it’s true that for every Points of Authority, there’s a Burning in the Skies. Chester, Mike and the rest, get your act together. You were all a great part of my life in my formative years, and I don’t want it to end this way. Find your identity, your true genre. Your 60+ million fans deserve it.

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