In its infancy, the punchy new Linkin Park album The Hunting Party – which will enter this week's Billboard album chart in the top three with sales of more than 100,000 copies – wasn't especially loud or aggressive. A year ago, when main songwriter and vocalist Mike Shinoda started writing demos for the record, they were very much in line with the commercial alt-rock of 2010's A Thousand Suns and 2012's Living Things.
At the time, Shinoda was listening to the popular indie rock of Phoenix, M83, Arcade Fire, and Mumford & Sons, and vibing with the musical flow of today's popular jams. That's when he realized that if he kept going in the direction he was headed, the new Linkin Park record likely would be predictable and possibly derivative.
"That kind of music is everywhere now," Shinoda told Yahoo Music while driving his car on an L.A. highway to the video shoot for "Until It's Gone."
He added, "If you throw a rock you'll hit a band that plays that kind of stuff. It’s everywhere. If I didn't throw away those songs they would have fit very comfortably on the radio, but I wanted something else. I was looking for something and it wasn't Warped Tour music, emo, or metal. There was this other aggressive kind of thing I wanted to hear, but I couldn't really find. So I made some demos that sounded louder and addressed the sound I was looking for; and the guys loved it, and we took it from there."
The Hunting Party is easily the most aggressive and multifaceted album Linkin Park have released since their second disc, 2003’s Meteora. There are rapid-fire beats, screamed vocals, confrontational raps, industrial effects, and blaring guitars. At the same time, there’s an abundance of melodic singing and harmonized hooks that should prevent the album from alienating old fans. For Shinoda, much of the speed and volume stems from excitement, not rage.
"The music felt new and inspiring to us," he said. "It reminded me of the first time I first heard some of the first bands I really loved. I mean, there wouldn't be a Linkin Park without the influence of bands like Strife, Helmet, and Refused. What those guys did back then predated what we were known for. Our stuff wasn't a copy of their thing, it was just influenced by their thing. So we decided to build this record upon a very specific assortment of influences through the lens of a very specific aesthetic because right now I'm having trouble finding high-energy rock music that I want to listen to and I wish there was more of it."
To augment the authentically visceral tone of The Hunting Party, Linkin Park invited Helmet frontman Page Hamilton to add guitars to "All For Nothing," System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian to contribute to "Rebellion," and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello to add parts to "Drawbar." In addition, the single "Guilty All the Same" features rapping by Rakim.
"We knew we wanted to collaborate with different people," Shinoda said. "As we were working, there were times when it seemed like another talent, whether it be another vocalist or a musician, just felt appropriate. It went back to that idea I started from when I was writing those more indie/alternative demos I ended up scrapping. I like to listen to Arcade Fire and Phoenix, but I don't want to make a song that sounds like those bands. So our idea was if a song needs a thing, let’s not estimate it, let’s go to the person that does the thing and ask the person if they'll do it for our song."