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Some bands have trouble modernizing their sound. Such is the problem of Helmet, who's eighth record Dead To The World has exactly that problem.
Helmet were the biggest force in noise rock and punk rock in the 1990s, and that influence even carried forward into the 2000s. Something happened since then, though. Perhaps it was a conscious awakening or a unanimous vote for change, but Helmet isn't the same band they once were. They've become a distorted shadow of the threat they once were, their original power replaced by something strange.
There are still traces of what they once were, though. Songs like 'Expect The World' have gritty vocals and big riffs reminiscent of their old track. The vocals do fall to a disgustingly slobbery level by the end of the song, though. The start of the album is much better, 'Life Or Death' having an old fashioned sound with some soft moments mixed in. 'I Heart My Guru' is pure rock n' roll, the electrifying guitar wails sounding confidently in the intro. If the ending wasn't so grossly throaty, it would be on of only tracks worth revisiting on the record. 'Red Scare' has a giant riff and dramatic chorus that feels a bit like Metallica, giving the song some atmosphere and some space.
It's all downhill from there. It feels like the band had only heard the poppiest tracks on the radio in the last five years and tried to emulate that while attempting to mix it with their own. Really, what is this Weezer shit going on in 'Green Shirt'? How is this a Helmet song? 'Bad News' has a big riff, but the melodies are far too poppy and weird in context of the instrumental for it to make sense. Let alone the terrible lines "All news is bad news" that is the subject of every chorus.
The album gets progressively more boring as it goes on, and the band makes some pretty bad mixing decisions. Who on Earth edited the fade in part at the end of 'Drunk In The Afternoon'? It feels like a legitimate mistake. They decided the end the record with a slow version of the intro track, which really isn't that much slower or different from the original - it's basically the same song at a slower tempo. Was it that hard to write another song that they just slowed down the first one assuming we had already forgotten about it? Fair play.
Helmet may have lost their punch. Their eighth album Dead To The World is in shambles. It's full of cringey attempts at modernizing their sound and genuinely bad production choices. Where did it go wrong? The band used to have so much power, and now they feel like an old horse. It's a shame, really. Maybe they'll find something new to hone in on by the next album, if that ever comes around. If it's following the sound of this record, though, perhaps it's best for them to hang up the coat.
Favorite Track: Red Scare
Least Favorite Tracks: Green Shirt, Drunk In The Afternoon, Life and Death (Slow), Look Alive, Die Alone
Rating: 45 / 100
Just over a year ago, Linkin Park released their sixth album, The Hunting Party. Coming fresh off of LIVING THINGS and collaborations with Steve Aoki, it was an expected move for the band to continue in their electronic rock-based direction. Then they dropped ‘Guilty All The Same’ in March, and everyone was shocked. Bordering thrash metal, the six minute long riot featured hip-hop legend Rakim and Linkin Park merging their electronica influences with their old, raw sound. And so, The Hunting Party was born and the band yet again changed their game.
For it’s one-year anniversary, here’s a track-by-track review of my opinions on the album. Spoiler: it’s my favorite album of 2014.
1) Keys To The Kingdom: Right from the get-go, you know what you’re in for. Chester screams madly with a distortion effect over another distorted sound. Then that disjointed riff kicks in, and the drums go wild. The verse is a throwback to their electronic influences... There’s just a lot going with this song sonically straight from the beginning. Shinoda’s rap in the second verse brings us back to the aggression of Meteora and Hybrid Theory. Perhaps the best moment of this song is the bridge, a huge buildup to a massive solo and final chorus. While the solo is somewhat wonky (a portion of it questions itself on whether or not it’s in key or not). Some people aren’t very fond of Chester’s voice breaking in the choruses, but I feel like it adds a sense of intensity and danger, as if he’s battling something. If anything, this song proves Linkin Park’s evolution. They’re not the same band writing ‘Burn It Down’ and ‘New Divide’. They’re out on a mission to be visceral and heavy, and they’ve proven themselves right off the bat. 9/10
2) All For Nothing (ft. Page Hamilton): Continuing on with the rebellious riffs is ‘All For Nothing’, featuring Page Hamilton from Helmet. Shinoda delivers some of his best verses since A Thousand Suns, bringing some heavy-hitting lines into the mix. The only real complaint I have with this song is that Hamilton’s voice feels very processed and refined, not akin to his Helmet work where his voice is raw and powerful. It still works in the song, but it could have been better. The solo in this song is one of the only solos on the album that isn’t just “RANDOM-TREMOLO-PICKING” but actually thought out. A great song, all-in-all, but there could have been improvements in the chours (the “You say!” parts do get a bit repetitive at some point). 8.5/10
3) Guilty All The Same (ft. Rakim): Oh boy, this song. From the instant I heard this one, I was in love. It’s almost as if this song is quintessential Linkin Park. It has everything the band embodies: emotionally-packed lyrics, heavy riffs, soaring electronics, a killer verse, and a huge jamming bridge. Rob Bourdon truly shines here, showing his improvements as a drummer since LIVING THINGS - in fact, this album contains his best drumming since ‘The Little Things Give You Away’ and ‘When They Come For Me’! Rakim delivers a massive verse, shredding the record-label industry. I love every part of this song, the long buildup intro, the electronics in the verses and behind the guitars, the HUGE riffs in the bridge. There’s nothing more I can say - Linkin Park truly shines at every element they’ve honed until this point in this song. 10/10
4) The Summoning: A filler track to relax the listener from the mindfuck of the first quarter of the album. Was that really Linkin Park? A disjointed, minute long track that prepares you for the rest of the onslaught that is The Hunting Party. 6/10
5) War: Did Linkin Park just go punk rock? Yes, yes they did. One of the simpler songs on the album in regards to vocals and guitar, but it’s a punk rock song. Can you really ask for anything more? Bennington belts out screams against war and its effects with his self-written lyrics on top of a fast-paced instrumental. The guitar solo in this one is one of those solos that sound impressive, but it’s really just tremolo picking and hoping for the best. It still sounds awesome, though. Another testament to Linkin Park being able to smash and genre they choose to. 8.5/10
6) Wastelands: Hello there, Meteora. While ‘Wastelands’ may be one of the more underwhelming songs on the album in terms of lyrics, what it does it does well. Shinoda delivers more brutal verses and Chester delivers another big chorus - the classic Linkin Park formula. One of my guilty pleasures in this song are the synths from the second verse onwards. I feel they add a lot of color, especially in the second verse and bridge. Other than that, Bourdon delivers another foot-stomping, awesome drum line as the rest of the band storms in with the big riffs. 8.5/10
7) Until It’s Gone: This song means a lot to me. Around the time the album was released, my grandfather had just passed. It was the first major family loss for me. All his life (and throughout my life), my family saw him as evil and abusive. While it’s not truly a lie, we never saw him for who he was until he was gone. This song really clicked with me around that time. Personal connection aside, this song is beautiful. Melodically and instrumentally it’s one of the best songs on the album. The part that throws me off about it are the lyrics. There was so much opportunity for it to be amazing. With better lyrics, it might have been one of the best songs on the album. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. It’s a beautiful song sonically, and a song I’ll hold close to me for a long time. 9/10
8) Rebellion (ft. Daron Malakian): Let’s get this straight: we went from thrash-esque riffs, to a Helmet song, to punk rock, took a trip to Meteora, and now we’re listening to System Of A Down?! This album really has it all! Another amazing song from this album, I have the same ideas about as I did with ‘Guilty All The Same’. It’s less quintessentially Linkin Park, though. Rather, it’s quintessentially The Hunting Party. It’s everything the album embodies: heavy, visceral, in-your-face, amazing drumming, electronically subtle, and so much more. Daron Malakian brings the SOAD influence in strong, his signature Drop C and hammering techniques shine bright on this track. Chester’s brutal screaming in the bridge shows that he still has it - he may even better than he ever was! Mike does a great song singing the song, and all in all ends up to an epic track. 10/10
9) Mark The Graves: Now, we delve into some progressive rock. What’s going on, Porcupine Tree? When listening to this song, you don’t know what to expect. It’s all over the place. The intro is just massive, huge and in your face. Shinoda’s countdown is an epic moment. The verses bring in atmospheric guitars that surround the listener, then the guitars kick back in for the huge choruses, which have Chester and Mike singing pretty high - Mike’s backing vocals are some of his best! The best part of this song may not even be the structure or the vocals, but the fact that you can actually hear the bass - something unheard of (pun intended) in a Linkin Park song! This song embodies Linkin Park’s evolution - to think how much an album difference can make. If this were their previous effort, you’d be listening to the synth-packed ‘Skin To Bone’. Instead, you’re listening to a progressive rock epic, intense and atmospheric. Quite a change, if you ask me. 9.5/10
10) Drawbar (ft. Tom Morello): When you think of a Tom Morello collaboration, this is probably the opposite of what you expect. It’s not a heavy, disjointed wall of guitars. Rather, it’s an atmospheric, almost creepy journey through a dream. Mike on piano, Tom doing his thing with a weird effected guitar, and Rob jamming away with a march-inspired drums. The outro of the song, the piano instrumental, might be the most beautiful moment on the album. The ‘Final Masquerade’ progression chokes me up sometimes. It’s a perfect way to start the final quarter of the album - perhaps the best run of consecutive Linkin Park songs in their entire discography. 9/10
11) Final Masquerade: I’d be lying if I said this song doesn’t make me emotional. It’s a beautiful, emotional journey through a love story. Is it a good bye? Is it a “see you soon?” It embodies so many perspectives and emotions - it’s more of a love song than Taylor Swift has ever mustered up. The solo is another BEAUTIFUL moment - another reprise of the song’s chorus. Nothing about this song is not perfect. Perhaps Linkin Park’s most emotional song in their discography. 10/10
12) A Line In The Sand: There’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for this. This is Linkin Park’s The Odyssey (not only because the working title was ‘Odyssey’). It begins like we’re back on A Thousand Suns. Then the drums kick in, and instantly we’re back on The Hunting Party. Everything about this song is perfect, just like ‘Final Masquerade’. The pounding drums, the callback to ‘Guilty All The Same’ in the choruses, the atmosphere of the intro and outro, the energy of the guitars... I can go on and on. The breakdown - oh, the breakdown - has Linkin Park fully delve into Metallica and trash metal territory. The tapping solo in the outro is something else Linkin Park has never done, but execute perfectly. What you’ve done with this song is taken their two best albums, A Thousand Suns and The Hunting Party and created their love child. This is what the next album needs to be. A colossal, epic journey of visceral energy and atmospheres. If this isn’t one of Linkin Park’s best songs, I’ll be damned. You’ll need to sit down and reconsider what you just listened to after this one. It’s that huge. 10/10
The Hunting Party is more than just an album; it’s a statement. It is pure visceral energy and emotion packed into twelve songs. It is a long journey and an experience that you can’t get from anything else. It makes you feel alive and makes you question what you are. It’s really a cruel reality. While it’s not the best Linkin Park album (that honor still goes to A Thousand Suns), it’s a close second. Linkin Park does what they do best - change and evolve. There’s no predicting where they’ll go next - if it’s in this direction, only good things lie ahead.
Favorite Tracks: Guilty All The Same, A Line In The Sand, Final Masquerade, Rebellion
Least Favorite Tracks: The Summoning, War, Wastelands
Overall Rating: 9.5/10