By MIKE CHAIKEN
The opening moments of Linkin Park’s latest album, “The Hunting Party” leaves no doubt that the veteran act was setting out to do a different kind of record.
With the harsh scream and abrasive guitars, you do a double take. Is this really Linkin Park or did you download the wrong group?
After a couple of albums that weren’t out of place on a pop radio station playlist, the tracks on the new album place the band squarely back in the realm of metal. The redirection also was made clear in the now-cancelled tour in which Linkin Park reached out to Rise Against and Of Mice and Men, two bands with a definitely harder edge, to open for the headliners.
Prior to the tour’s cancellation due to his own leg injury, Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington held a teleconference with the press. And in that call, he spoke about the new album and the harder edged sound within.
Chester said, “I remember sitting in Mike’s (multi-instrumentalist/ vocalist Mike Shinoda) studio and all the songs were pretty pop-heavy… We were, like, all kind of, like, leading towards… making more pop-heavy stuff because it’s fun and we’re really good at that.”
“At some point,” explained Chester, “it was like five songs deep and we … were making headway on a lot of tracks and they were really good. And Mike kind of looked at me and he was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to make these songs. I kind of hate these songs.’”
“I was, like, ‘All right,’” said Chester, explaining, “My approach creatively with anything any more is… I’m not married to anything. I don’t really care. If we can try to make something better, let’s do it.”
“And so, if all of a sudden you say you hate something and we’ve been working on it for a year, then you hate it,” said Chester. “Let’s do something new.”
“‘All right. Well, cool. What are we going to do?’” Chester said he told said to Mike.
And Mike told him, “I want to do something like this,’ and he plays ‘Guilty All the Same.’”
“The 14-year-old punk rock, hip hop kid in me went bonkers, and, I was like, ‘I want to do this all day every day.’ And so, that’s what we did and, you know,… literally, the direction of the album changed at that point and went from being like a really pop-heavy record to… being arguably… just a straight hard rock heavy metal record.”
The move met the band’s needs and it turned out it met the needs of those who heard it, said Chester. “We feel really good about it, you know? I think critically it’s one of the most acclaimed records that we’ve had out….”
“We did have conversations with our manager and our label about releasing such a heavy record and how that would affect our… standings in terms of where the record will come out; how many albums it would sell? And how many times it would get played on the radio and whether or not that would affect our whole thing?” said Chester.
“Everyone said, ‘Yeah, you’re pretty much not going to get played on the radio and you probably won’t be number one,’” said Chester. But the band was fine with that outcome.
“I think our fans want to hear us kind of kick ass right now,” said Chester. “There’s not really a lot of bands making a lot of really heavy records right now; it’s a pretty pop-heavy world and…I’m a firm believer in a balanced diet….”
“The Hunting Party” found the band pulling in several guests as well. For instance, Rakim from the hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim on “Guilty All the Same,” Page Hamilton from Helmet “All for Nothing,” Daron Malakian from System of a Down for the song “Rebellion,” and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.
“We were talking about… people and bands that inspired us and guys who were great and would be fun to work,” said Chester of the guest spots.
Speaking of the arrival of Rakim on the record, Chester said, “It was pretty organic and it was kind of trippy how it all happened actually.”
“I was in the studio and… I was saying to Mike, ‘You need to rap; like, have you got any ideas?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, you know, I’ve been doing it… I’m just not kind of feeling like it’s me. The voice I keep hearing is like Rakim.’”
Chester said one of the band’s recording engineers than chimed in that he actually had connections to Rakim. “Do you want me to reach out and see if he would be interested in… maybe listening to this track and… doing something?”
And things fell into place.
As for Page Hamilton, Chester said, “We had been working on that track for awhile and the song came together really well in terms of the verses and the rest of the song. We were struggling with the chorus, and finally Mike came in with this chorus and he was singing it… I go, ‘This chorus is bad ass…. but is that you?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, it is trippy how much you sound like Hamilton on it.’ …He’s like, ‘Yeah. I was kind of thinking the same thing.’”
“Somehow there was a connection there and Mike reached out to Page… And so, Page came down and decided that he thought it would be cool to work with us and threw down a great vocal and added some great guitar and some great input on the track,” said Chester.
Linkin Park’s tour with Rise Against and Of Mice and Men was supposed to stop in Connecticut on Jan. 30. However, an injury to Pennington forced the cancellation of the entire tour and the tour is not being rescheduled. For more information about Linkin Park and “The Hunting Party,” go to LinkinPark.com
By MIKE CHAIKEN