Jesus, it’s been just two weeks, but I’m still in disbelief that we live in a world without Chester Bennington.
Despite being the beloved frontman of Linkin Park, Chester suffered from serious bouts of depression, and to the dismay of Chester’s family, friends, peers, and fans, he succumbed to his inner demons and took his own life at the criminally young age of 41.
In a world where we are losing beloved celebrities in droves, Chester’s death hit me particularly hard. Sure, the passing of rock idols such as Jeff Hanneman, Lemmy Kilmister, and Chris Cornell were dispiriting, but as much as I loved them, those rock gods were the heroes to a previous generation of headbangers and metal heads who’ve been loyally following the rock/metal scene since before I was even conceived.
As much as I’m ashamed to admit it, I didn’t grow up listening to Slayer, Motorhead, and Soundgarden: I acquired the musical taste for those classic bands once I was an adult.
No. As an impressionable youth, my sonic palette consisted of bands like Slipknot, System of a Down, Disturbed, Korn, and yes, Linkin Park. All while I was being taught the complexities of algebra, the nuances of English literature, and how to casually conceal an erection, my friends and I spent time on the playground passing a discman (remember those?) back and forth as if it were crack cocaine so we could listen to a “new” band called Linkin Park: a band that turned out to be my generation’s gateway drug into heavy metal.
Sure, there were other bands that were influential in developing my musical taste, but Linkin Park was the band that popped my heavy metal cherry and understandably so: Linkin Park is an incredibly unique band that was representative of the (then) popular metal subgenres of nu-metal and rap-rock.
Admittedly yes, most nu-metal bands were awful at best and Limp Bizkit at worst, but Linkin Park were able to elevate their craft beyond their peers whose sound quality was akin to a pen full of pigs wallowing in their own shit.
Linkin Park’s fusion of hard rock and hip-hop elements worked together wondrously and allowed the band to create some truly unique music, and this outstanding level musicianship is encaptured on Linkin Park’s debut (and best) album Hybrid Theory: an accomplished work that is bursting with the conflicting emotional states of rage, angst, melancholy, sadness, and (most importantly) hope.
Songs such as the “Papercut,” “With You,” “Run Away,” and “Place For my head” are quintessential Linkin Park tracks that fully represent all that this great band has to offer. The guitar riffs are simple but powerful, and the electronics and catchy beats complement the heavy riffage effectively.
Yet, the highlight of every Linkin Park track Is the dueling vocals. Despite the contrast between the two disparate vocal styles, Chester’s clean singing and Mike Shinoda’s rhymes are harmonious and never war for your attention.
Just as importantly, the listener gets the impression that Linkin Park is sincere about their music because despite the polished presentation, commercialization, and high production value, Hybrid Theory is an artistic statement. Even on tracks like “Points of Authority,” a song that makes Linkin Park sonically compareable to a heavy metal boy band manufactured for mainstream radio, Hybrid Theory is a quality album through and through.
Of course, there are other tracks on the album that abandon the more marketable hip-hop aspect in favor of pure rage, and the track “One Step Closer” highlights Linkin Park’s more aggressive tendencies perfectly. “One Step Closer” trades the vocal harmonies and catchy beats of other tracks for an infectious chorus line and a head banging worthy breakdown where Chester repeatedly scream/sings, “Shut up when I’m talking to you!”
Sung by almost any other singer, this lyrical line would be cringe inducing in how it reduces a grown ass man into an angsty teenager begging their parents for an early allowance to buy
booze art supplies, but Chester’s screaming sounds sincere to the point that if he were to yell at your face, I would I advise you to shut up when he’s talking to you because that mother fucker is about to break.
Chester’s vocals are unhinged and packed with emotion, and the track “Crawling” brings the lyrical themes of Hybrid Theory into focus. When analyzing the album as a whole, the lyrical content is thematically about how a person’s struggle with mental illness, depression, and insecurity. “Crawling” in particular is about how trauma can destroy a person, and when Chester cries out lyrics such as, “confusing what is real!” or “Crawling in my skin, these wounds will not heal!”, it impacts the listener to their emotional core.
Though as far as tracks that effectively play with your emotions go, “Crawling” is only surpassed by “In the End.” Make no mistake, “In the End” is the highpoint of Hybrid Theory for a multitude of reasons: the piano intro hooks the listener instantly, the beat is infectious, Chester’s voice is emotive and passionate, Shinoda’s raps are on point, and the song perfectly conveys a melancholic and somber tone. Best of all is how this song builds and builds to the point you can feel your insides churning. If my innards could get a boner, they would.
To many youngins at the time (myself included) this was the song that got us on board with hard rock and, eventually, heavy metal. Through “In the End” and Hybrid Theory as a whole, my generation discovered a gateway band into the greatest genre on earth.
For this, I owe my eternal soul to not only Linkin Park, but to Chester Bennington specifically because without metal, I wouldn’t have been able survive my ongoing struggle with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and gender dysphoria. Make no mistake, without heavy metal, I probably wouldn’t have lasted this long.
From the bottom of my heart, Chester, thank you for all the good times and tunes. I’ll remember you forever, and I’m heartbroken that you’re gone.
41 is too damn young.