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Linkin Park: The Hunt Is On

With the impending release of their sixth studio effort, The Hunting Party, Linkin Park are one step closer to returning to their heavy best.

Linkin Park

As it stands, Linkin Park don’t feel comfortable following the current direction of rock music.

“It’s really not necessarily a dislike for the new music that’s being made, it’s more just the overwhelming abundance of pop that is irritating,” frontman Chester Bennington chuckles. “It’s irritating. I search for a rock station everywhere I go and I either get party rock, which is basically heavy, loud guitars with dudes talking about stuff that dudes like to do, like drinking, and fucking, and rocking out – and that sucks – and the other thing you get is pure pop radio and what is being called ‘indie radio’ or ‘alternative radio’, and it’s not that. It’s not that. Half the bands that are out there right now are bands that should be touring with Train.”

We’re not sure who’s to blame for the bastardisation of rock’n’roll in 2014, but given Linkin Park’s substantial presence in the rock world for the past decade and a half – and the influence they had on shaping the alternative music landscape as we entered the ‘00s – the singer is within his rights to feel a little dismayed.

The six-piece may be Bennington’s day job, but 2013 also saw him take the reins from Scott Weiland to put his enviable scream-sung vocals to good use fronting Stone Temple Pilots, who released a five-track EP, High Rise, towards the end of last year. Right now though, Papa Bennington is wearing his metaphorical dad hat and watching his son play a little league game. But we’d be willing to bet more than a bit of coin that he’s the only father in the stands successfully fronting two of the biggest rock bands in the world and with a potential platinum album on the way.

“We actually just finished mastering the record. I got my copy of it last night and I’ve been blasting it in my car,” Bennington says of Linkin Park’s new full-length. “This is my least favourite time of the whole process ‘cos I just want people to hear it so badly and I just want to play it for everyone.”

Given what the band have teased across their social media pages, he has a right to be excited. Throughout Linkin Park’s recording process for their sixth studio album, The Hunting Party, updates have filled the band’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website in the form of video snippets and snapshots of life in the studio, of rap master supreme Mike Shinoda saying, “You’ve got to know which buttons to push” to get Bennington into gear and how he wants lead guitarist Brad Delson to “inspire that 16-year-old in him”. Team it with comments from Bennington suggesting that The Hunting Party is “maybe the loudest record the band’s ever made” and you’d be right to be buzzing.

“We’re so inspired,” the frontman begins. “And what keeps us inspired is the fact that we have continuously allowed ourselves to write whatever we feel inspired to write. Unlike most bands who are really restricted to one specific style, I mean, we kind of do whatever we want. Each record that we make is like being in a new band and this time it was like, ‘You know what Brad, you wanna show the world what you can do and we want you to inspire the teenage version of you to go pick up a guitar and wanna learn how to play.’ And we want a young drummer to go out and pick up the sticks because of the way Rob [Bourdon, drums] is performing on this album. I think that the guitars and the drums are definitely the heart and soul of this record.”

The last time BLUNT spoke to the frontman back in #112, he was very much aware of having “both the privilege and disservice of having a monster first album”. (Seriously, try and assess your life and musical trajectory after having penned and released the one-two punch of albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora at the height of nu metal.) But that’s where age and wisdom come into play and it becomes easier not to get lost down the rabbit hole of fans crying out for ‘Hybrid Theory 2.0’ some 14 years after its release.

“If you get caught up in the web of trying to please the hypothetical generalisations of who your audience are and what they want, you’re in a futile battle I find,” says Bennington. “What we’ve done is gone and made music that we like, that we wanna listen to, and we kinda hope that people come along for the ride. When we made Minutes To Midnight we knew that we were putting our balls on the line by putting out a record that was so vastly different from Hybrid Theory and Meteora, and then when we did A Thousand Suns, we weren’t trying to polarise our audience, but this was a far cry from anything that we did on Hybrid Theory, Meteora, even Minutes To Midnight. I guess we know that there’s a huge section of our fanbase that have been waiting patiently for us to make another guitar-heavy record, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve made the heaviest record we’ve ever made, for sure.”

As a band that probably soundtracked some of your angstier adolescent moments (the “Shut up when I’m talking to you!” bridge in “One Step Closer” nailed how you were feeling, you know it did), Linkin Park have always had a way with words. But as co-frontman Shinoda notes, the members aren’t the same 18-year-old kids making a loud record – they’re 37-year-old adults making a loud record, and what makes a 37-year-old angry is different to what made them angry back in the day. Say goodbye to the softer more radio-friendly sounds of 2012’s Living Things and hello to a band reinvigorated by a lust to fill a void and churn out heavy, straight-up rock.

“It’s interesting because when we’re making albums we really try to push ourselves lyrically and the one thing that’s gonna make the album feel the least sincere and the least believable is if I’m up there talking about the same things I was talking about when I wrote Hybrid Theory,” he explains. “In terms of the aggression, it has to come from a place of honesty, and one of the main driving ideas was, what’s worth fighting for? It can be so many different things. Love is worth fighting for, your art is worth fighting for, your voice, your freedom, your life and the lives of others that can’t stand up for themselves – all these things. Some songs are literally a call out to the state of music that we’re in right now. We want something to have the energy that we’re missing, all the way to more socially driven and more politically driven songs.”

The driving riffs on lead single “Guilty All The Same” make for the guitar-heavy return to form the band have been promising, as does axe extraordinaire Tom Morello’s (Rage Against The Machine) presence on “Drawbar”. The Hunting Party is Linkin Park’s response to the ‘wuss rock’ clogging up the airwaves – and they sound pissed.

“It’s just not rock! It’s a form of it, but it’s a token temporary pop music, it’s very intentionally mass-market-worthy,” the singer says with passion. “The idea of indie music is bands that are doing something different or are out on a ledge or filling a void. Alternative was that a long time ago, it was a new twist on what rock could be and what pop could be but then that became very watered down.
“Right now we’re creating music and we’re creating songs, and we know how to craft a good song, we know how to write good songs. It comes down to – for us – what are we singing about? What do we stand for? We’ve always felt like we were a band that goes out and does things and takes risks and pushes ourselves and challenges our fanbase. We’re making music that we wanna listen to because there’s nothing out there right now that’s for us.”

If the state of modern rock is what it took for Linkin Park to buckle down and deliver The Hunting Party, then here’s to the Coldplays of the music world.

 

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