Music News & Reviews

Carnivores Tour shows a harder-edged Linkin Park

Linkin Park returned to its harder-edged-rock roots with its sixth studio album, 2013’s “The Hunting Party,” while still holding onto its hip-hop influences.

When producing the record, the band worked to create a sound that’s rarely heard on the radio these days, said Mike Shinoda, vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the band.

The opening track starts with lead vocalist Chester Bennington’s effects-laden, ear-bleed scream of “No control! No surprise!” before the onset of a take-no-prisoners drum beat.

Inspiration for the album struck when the group wanted to listen to “something more aggressive and heavy and energetic,” Shinoda said, and realized they couldn’t find anything current to satisfy the craving.

“I think we all found that there was just a style that was kind of being under-served that we wanted to hear, and that’s what we decided to make,” Shinoda said in a recent phone interview.

Formed in 1996 in Agoura Hills, the nu-metal band co-headlines the Carnivores Tour, which makes its Northern California stop Thursday at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Wheatland, with Thirty Seconds to Mars. The tour also features post-hard-core stalwarts AFI, which got its start in Ukiah.

Thirty Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park have a strong connection as well as a shared fan base, Bennington said. The Linkin Park singer has been friends with Thirty Seconds’ frontman Jared Leto for “way more than a few years now,” he said, before expressing admiration his tour-mate’s band, which has a grander, more theatrical and less aggressive sound than Linkin Park.

“Thirty Seconds to Mars has grown tremendously over the last several years into … a great studio band writing great songs,” Bennington said, adding that “they’re amazing live.”

At Thursday’s show, Linkin Park fans, dubbed the “Underground” community, can expect a “healthy dose of the new record,” Bennington said, along with tracks from albums such as “Final Masquerade,” “Rebellion,” “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora.”

The concert will feature 3-D and LED visuals created by Ghost Town media, a group of artists that often designs for Linkin Park, Shinoda said.

“I think it’s gotten really great,“ Shinoda said of the show. “I’m not going to spoil any surprises.”

Shinoda said the Carnivores concert will incorporate interactive visuals from Taiwanese American artist James Jean, who created the cover art and promotional look for “The Hunting Party.” Jean’s imagery features warriors engaging in acts of mythical violence.

“It adapts with the show,” Shinoda said of the art. “I think in the context of a live show, it’s important to have something that lives and breathes with the show.”

In addition to making music and touring, Linkin Park remains active in Music for Relief, which it founded in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Since inception in 2005, the organization has raised more than $6 million for disaster survivors, and is now focusing on the fight against Ebola in West Africa. Linkin Park’s nonprofit is partially funded by its concerts, with $1 of each ticket going toward Music for Relief.

“There are, unfortunately, always disasters … and there are always environmental causes that we can get involved in to help prevent the natural disasters, or at least keep our oceans and our land clean,” Shinoda said.

The band also has teamed up with environmental group Reverb to produce more environmentally aware concerts.

“They look into, for example, how are the groups and the crews traveling?” Shinoda said of Reverb. “What’s their carbon footprint? What are they throwing away? What energy are they using? Are they trying to offset that with anything? They’re an excellent partner, and they do a great job of making sure that the bar is set really high so that we’re not being wasteful when we go out on tour.”

While “The Hunting Party” features a wish list of collaborators – hip-hop artist Rakim, guitarist Tom Morello and multi-instrumentalist Daron Malakia – the album marks the first Linkin Park record that didn’t debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since the release of 2000’s “Hybrid Theory.”

“Although it didn’t debut at No. 1 in the states, it debuted at No. 1 in 67 countries, so I don’t feel like that’s anything near a failure,” Shinoda said. The Billboard chart is largely for “first-week album sales,” he said, “and this is not really a first-week-album-sales kind of album.

“It’s a statement album,” Shinoda said. “It’s an album that should be taken to the stage, and that’s exactly what we’re planning to do right now.”