14
Jun 14

Linkin Park – ‘The Hunting Party’ album review: Pretty good, but unexpected

Here it is. Linkin Park’s sixth studio album. 2012’s ‘Living Things‘ was not half-bad so I was interested to see which direction one of my favourite rock bands was headed with their next outing. When Linkin Park released their collaborative track with Steve Aoki last year, fans were worried if Linkin Park would go all electronic on their new album.

Quite the contrary. ‘The Hunting Party‘ is the most guitar heavy Linkin Park has been since they released 2007’s Minutes to Midnight. That said, when the first single “Guilty All the Same” was released a few months ago, I wouldn’t say I was very pleased upon hearing the track. Anyway, my thoughts on the rest of the tracks on the album are below.

Linkin Park The Hunting Party album cover

That’s the album cover. Pretty neat.

1. “Keys to the Kingdom” – What a way to kick off the album! Chester Bennington screams right off the bat. Ha! Mike Shinoda handles much of the verses, including rapping… before Chester screams the chorus. It’s a weird track no doubt, but this should give you a good indication about what to expect on this album. Some fans labelled it punk, some heavy metal… I wouldn’t say either. Heck, I don’t even know where to place it. It’s rock, that’s for sure. – 3/5

2. “All for Nothing” (featuring Page Hamilton) – Ahh, don’t you just love it when you Mike kicks off a LP song with a kickass rap verse? This is a great track featuring Page Hamilton who sings the chorus, and even features a guitar solo (even though it’s nothing special). Hey, guitar solos are rare on Linkin Park songs. – 4/5

3. “Guilty All the Same” (featuring Rakim) – I didn’t like it much when I first heard this songs and months later, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I’ll appreciate LP  trying out new sounds, but this song feels raw (probably intentional) and it’s really not a track I find myself listening to much. – 2/5

4. “The Summoning” – Just a minute-long interlude. Sounds creepy though.

5. “War” – As soon as the guitar riff hits, I had a smile on my face. Then Chester sings. Wow, what a beast of a song! Absolute screamer of a track. It’s one of those songs that sounds awesome on record but may not make it to their concert set list every night because it’s going ruin Chester’s already abused throat. Great track though. – 4/5

6. “Wastelands” – The beats, the riff and the rap all sounded promising — but when the chorus hit, the song somehow felt generic. That’s all about I can say about the song. – 2.5/5

7. “Until It’s Gone”

If there’s one track on this collection that reminds you of the “old” Linkin Park sound, it would be this song. It’s structured like you would expect from a Linkin Park “signature” song. The backing hook, the guitar riff, the sing-along chorus, atmospheric — all good. That said, on any other prior Linkin Park album, this track wouldn’t have made it as a single. But given how the other tracks on this collectionsound, it’s understandable why the label would have insisted on making this the single. It’s familiar. – 4/5

8. “Rebellion” (featuring Daron Malakian) – Daron is the guitarist from System of a Down, so if this song sounds inspired by SOAD, now you know why. That said, “Rebellion” was one of the few songs on this album I loved instantly upon first listen.A song to get pumped to! – 4/5

9. “Mark the Graves” – The beginning (and bits) of the song does remind you of “Blackout” from A Thousand Suns, but the rest of the song is nothing like it. Just when you think this is another heavy track, Chester’s verses lower the volume… for a bit. The ending is all loud, guitar solo and Chester screams. It’s not a bad song though, just quite a mish-mash. – 3/5

10. “Drawbar” (featuring Tom Morello) – For those who don’t know, Tom Morello is the awesome guitarist from Rage Against the Machine, famous for his playing style and the sounds he comes up with on the electric guitar. “Drawbar” is an instrumental and a rather somber interlude to lead into the next track. – 3/5

11. “Final Masquerade” – If you were seeking a power ballad on this album, this is it. I like it, although it feels a bit dated — in the sense it could have even appeared on MtoM. It’s even got the quintessential “woah oh oh” bit for that concert sing-along moments. -3/5

12. “A Line in the Sand” – The final track is a big one. At 6:35, the song packs in fast-paced guitars, screaming vocals, thumping drums, and towards the end — all three, before closing with Mike Shinoda. A fitting close to the album in my opinion. – 3/5

After three albums produced by Rick Rubin, ‘The Hunting Party’ is an album largely self-produced by Mike Shinoda and guitarist Brad Delson. I’m guessing “hey, let’s make this guitar-heavy” suggestion came from Brad :-) And why not? Rock is dying on mainstream music charts as it is and if a mainstream band can bring back heavy riffs on radio, I’ll take it.

I really liked A Thousand Suns and I don’t mind if Linkin Park does a similar concept album in the same vein with future releases. I’m someone who is quite open-minded with musical tastes. I listen to every possible genre of music out there, from boy band pop, K-pop to heavy metal… and Coldplay. I’m not ashamed about it. I like diversity and I accept the fact professional musicians are no different. I only question Linkin Park’s promotion of this album. I really don’t know why they chose to promote “Guilty All the Same” — quite possibly one of the weakest tracks on the album — as the lead single. It really put me off and lowered my expectations for this album. This is an album quite a departure from their previous releases. While ‘Living Things’ tried to bridge the “old LP sound” with the new, ‘The Hunting Party‘ is throughout a hard rock album with a very organic sound. Poor Joseph Hahn doesn’t have much of a role to play on this one (but will do live in concert, obviously). Sure, many songs end with some kid’s chatter and weird sound bytes but they did the whole interlude thing with the last two albums as well.

Fans have been complaining about Linkin Park “changing” for the worse for quite a few years now, but I guess you can never please some people. For those who appreciate change — and rock music — ‘The Hunting Party‘ is a good album. It may not be the band’s best album till date of whatever, but it’s still a Linkin Park album worth adding to your collection. Only if your collection of music includes varied tastes.

My final rating for ‘The Hunting Party’ – 3.5/5 (Pretty Good)

Also read:

My Linkin Park Live in Concert experiences: Abu Dhabi | Singapore

 


28
Jul 13

Backstreet Boys – ‘In A World Like This’ album review

I’m going to take a break from my usual K-pop reviews to write about the boyband that, in fact, set the modern-day trend for boybands everywhere. Backstreet Boys weren’t the first boyband in showbiz, but they were the world’s biggest as far as success went, and still the best selling boyband of all time!

But first, my history with Backstreet Boys.

The first time I read about the Backstreet Boys was back in the December 1994 issue of Live & Kicking magazine. I now wish I had kept the issue safe, since it was supposedly their first interview to a British magazine. In the issue, L&K were attending one of Backstreet Boys’ showcase performance at some American mall. It was in 1995 I heard their first single on radio, “We’ve Got It Goin’ On” — which only just managed to crack the UK top 40. Followed by “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” which too lurked out around the 30s on the UK charts.

It wasn’t until 1996 when “Get Down” broke in to the UK top 20, and I remember seeing the Backstreet Boys for the first time on Top of The Pops. That was followed by “Anywhere For You” and the group’s breakout hit single, “Quit Playing Games”. After that, Backstreet Boys re-released “We Got It Goin’ On” and “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” in the UK to better success. By now, Backstreet Boys were one of the best boybands in my school-going world.

Then came 1997. Oh-my-god. ‘Backstreet’s Back‘ was released. That summer of 1997 was particularly exciting for me. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “As Long As You Love Me” were unstoppable on radio and the videos were equally popular on Channel [V], which was a music channel worth watching back in the day. I returned after the summer holidays of ’97 to a school where practically everyone had either of two string backpacks: Backstreet Boys or Titanic. It was that year when girls were going gaga over Leonardo DiCaprio and everyone else was dancing or listening to the Backstreet Boys. Practically every friend of mine owned a copy of ‘Backstreet’s Back‘.

Then the boys made it big in their home country and lead the wave of the teen pop craze that followed. Even though I turned into a ‘N Sync fanboy, I never disliked Backstreet Boys. The singles off ‘Millennium‘ were exciting, but I thought the rest of the album was “meh”. I liked ‘Black & Blue‘ more as a album.

Backstreet boys first 4 album covers

The first wave of Backstreet Boys (1995 – 2000)

Continue reading “Backstreet Boys – ‘In A World Like This’ album review” »


11
Jul 13

Jay Park – ‘I Like 2 Party’ mini-album review

I’m not going to begin this review by stating how much of a Jay Park fan I am. I think that’s pretty much given by now. But everytime my favourite solo K-pop artist makes a comeback, I get excited. Usually because the dude rarely disappoints!

We got a tease for “I Like 2 Party” when it was announced the song would feature in the end credits for the Korean release of Will Smith’s flopAfter Earth‘. Even in that tease, I knew the song would be awesome. And now that the song is finally out, I can safely say, “yup, it’s awesome!”.

Jay Park I Like 2 Party mv screencapHere’s a track-by-track review of the mini-album:

01. “I Like 2 Party” – Produced by Jay Park’s close friend and frequent collaborator Cha Cha Malone, “I Like 2 Party” is by far the best song he’s produced for Jay. It’s an absolute dance jam perfect for getting warmed up for a night out with friends. There are times when segments of the song sound as though the mixers tried hard to piece them together, but in the end, it sounds just fine. Watch out for Jay’s inner-Usher with a “yeeaaah manboy” at 1:36 :)

The MV is alright. It’s isn’t well-edited to be frank, because there are a few scenes in which you notice the lips aren’t in-sync with the words. Either that or I have a hunch Jay also recorded a complete English version of “I Like 2 Party”. You also don’t get to see the choreography for the song all too well — but I’m sure there’s going to be a dance version out soon. The women aren’t Korean (for a change) and yeah, they’re sexy — but make for an odd mix with with their fluorescent colours. Then again, why one earth am I deliberating so much over a music video? The song is awesome and that’s all that matters! – 5/5

02. “Hot” – Man, what-a-club stomper! Yeah, yeah… some will say it sounds like G-Dragon’s “Crayon,” but whatever. This another smashing tune and I never expected such a good song on a four-track mini-album. – 4/5

03. “Secret” – A classic R & B track that doesn’t do anything wrong. A bit formulaic, but good enough that it didn’t make me want to skip the song. – 3/5

04. “Let’s Get Back Together” – Inspired by old school, early 1990s pop, this is a sound a I’m hearing from Jay for the first time. A decent attempt though. – 2.5/5

This mini-album is fairly uptempo, so I wonder what Jay Park has up his sleeve for his next release. Jay did reveal at the end of Jay Park TV Ep. 6 that he’s got more singles coming out soon. Since “I Like 2 Party” is just a digital release, I’m hoping for a second full-length album. From the killer “Appetizer,” the lovely “JO-AH” to the impressive “I Like 2 Party,” 2013 seems like it’s going to be another great year for Jay Park and his fans!

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