I, like many people my age, grew up listening to Linkin Park. At this point in life, it is almost impossible to not have heard at least one of their songs (or be unaware of how large a band they’ve become within the music industry). While we continue to see new technical advances and innovative artists/bands, many of us music listeners today are heavily impacted by the art of the 90’s and 2000’s. Our culture at the time was a beautiful ball of oddness that came with new shifts in music. Many of these bands and artists were able to find immense success at the dawn of the internet era, and have in many ways lead the way for new evolutions in music (inspiring many of the bands and artists we love today).
Linkin Park is one of those acts. They burst through the music industry with a sound that captured the youth across the world. Throughout their career the band has released seven studio albums. In honor of Chester Bennington’s life and art, here is a look into Linkin Park’s music and legacy, and how the band sincerely pushed themselves to create their purest work, and change music.
Hybrid Theory (2000)
The album kicked off the nu metal/rap metal sound that Linkin Park would become associated with for years to come. Electric guitar tones that borderline on industrial sounds blended with electronic beats to create instrumentals packed with emotional angst. While Mike Shinoda’s rapping provided a catchy atmosphere to the work, it was Chester Bennington’s singing/screaming that really created such a profound heavy and somber energy to the material. Thinking of the crazy adrenaline and build up in such tracks as “One Step Closer”, “Papercut”, and “A Place for My Head”, really helped to further introduce heavy music into the mainstream. “Crawling”, “Runaway”, and “My December” are key examples of how Bennington was able to capture the emotion and turmoil of life.
Meteora continued with these instrumental sounds, balancing out the use of heavy riff roaring bangers, and stunning songs of rich somber tones. Bennington came out in full force with rage and angst throughout the record, kicking things off right away in “Don’t Stay”. The hyper record scratching and electric vibrant guitar notes presented a pulse-racing intro, packed with vicious screams from Bennington. There’s the ever-popular “Faint”, where Shinoda raps over an electronic infused rock instrumental, the chorus bursting with fiery guitar work and Bennington’s screams. Meteora is also where a lot of fans would discover “Breaking The Habit” and “Numb”. The other side of what makes these records so important, is the fact that they sincerely capture the angst and life of being a teenager. I think the word “angst” gets thrown around a lot in a negative context, but if we look at it as a pure emotion, Linkin Park really grabbed hold of what it was like to be a teenager.
Minutes to Midnight (2007)
Linkin Park took four years in between Meteora to present Minutes to Midnight. Many folks probably remember this record for the one song that made its way into the Transformers movie (“What I’ve Done”). Minutes to Midnight would be the first step that Linkin Park would take to abandoning the nu metal sound. While tracks like “Bleed It Out” had Shinoda spitting to a catchy rock rhythm, the hip hop flow could still be felt throughout the work. The only time there was any semblance of that nu metal-like vibe was in the guitar chugs that came from “No More Sorrow”. Other than that though, Minutes to Midnight was more of a rock record, coming out with upbeat rhythms that could be found in such tracks as “Given Up”.
A Thousand Suns (2010)
A Thousand Suns kept to Shinoda’s hip hop style and the rock sound, but played around with more of an electronic essence. The hip hop energy really came forth in “When They Come for Me” and “Wretches and Kings”, with work such as “Waiting for the End” taking on a very playful pop approach. Then there was “Blackout”, which presented an industrial EDM style instrumental under Bennington’s singing and screaming. It was during these years where some fans began to find themselves torn between the music and the changes that the group was taking on.
Living Things (2012)
The album opened with “Lost in the Echo”, kicking things off with a radiant EDM vibe. This continued in “Burn It Down” and “Lies Greed Misery”. The group even played around with some folk-like vocalization in “Castle of Glass”, distancing themselves more from their supposed trademark sound. The album still included heavy elements, the track “Victimized” coming off with punk adrenaline and flavor. These three albums showed drastically different sides to Linkin Park. The instrumental components were surely the biggest differences, but I would argue that thanks to the vocal styles and lyrical approach of Bennington and Shinoda, all three of these records still felt like Linkin Park.
The Hunting Party (2014)
right away with “Keys to the Kingdom” you got Bennington’s rage-fueled screams with a steady drum beat and rock and roll tone. The track burst with Bennington’s vocals and Shinoda’s fast spitting style, presenting a super catchy song. Whether it is screams or rapping, The Hunting Party kept to a rock foundation with strong drum work and vibrant guitars. “Guilty All the Same” and “Final Masquerade” are terrific examples of this core sound that catered to both vocal styles of Shinoda and Bennington. “War” was a standout track, capturing a sincere and brutal punk viciousness and speed. There are less of those somber and angst-ridden songs found on previous works, and instead more heart-racing adrenaline. For those who had been missing out on a heavier Linkin Park sound, this was a killer record.
One More Light (2017)
It would be three years later when Linkin Park would release One More Light, perhaps the band’s most controversial record. There are light elements of rock felt throughout the work, but for the most part the music builds off of electronic pop. When the band released their first single “Heavy”, there began a flurry of comments ranging from all spectrums of approval to distaste. Other than “Talking to Myself”, this record doesn’t really have too much of that bubbly pop sound. There are traits of it throughout the album, but there is more of that emotional tinge that is reminiscent of the band’s earlier work. The beats dip with shadow and brightness to give off a somber aura, infusing the elements of dark and light emotions.
Many of us grew up with Bennington’s vocals and lyrics, some of us growing up suffering (and still suffering) from the same struggles that plagued his life. Linkin Park will forever be one of the most influential bands of our time. As a band, they committed to their desire in evolving their sound. This act was a lot of people’s first loves when it came to music. It became that band that got people to find a way to let go of anger or pain, and find something that gave their lives hope and inspiration. They are a band that touched the lives of millions of people trying to find themselves and make sense of life. Throughout all their albums, Linkin Park have built a legacy to always be remembered by. We have the music forever in our hearts and bursting through our eardrums, Chester’s voice still singing and screaming away.