Review Summary: A strong EP, defining Linkin Park's sound and energy.
Linkin Park is:
Chester Bennington – Lead Vocals
Mike Shinoda – MC
Rob Bourdon – Drums
David “Phoenix” Pharrell – Bass
Brad Delson – Guitars
Joe Hahn – DJ/Turntablist
How far would we go to impress everyone? Perhaps buy flowers for your girlfriend, only to find out she’s not into guys. Or maybe build a rocking chair for your grandfather, only to find out he died last week. What was all your effort for in the first place? That, I ask myself every night on why I got into Linkin Park at all. While their music seems 2-dimensional, almost to the point of irritation, we still are drawn into a rollercoaster of melodramatic lyrics, underground hip-hop beats and heavy guitar riffs. Back before the strong release of their debut album, “Hybrid Theory”, Linkin Park hid in the shadows under the alias of the same name. Back before there was almost crucial success, glittering fame and front-cover worthy status, they were the underground sounds of Hybrid Theory EP.
I remember a friend recommended this album to me, but I rejected it politely. West Coast hip-hop was very popular in the days, and all Hybrid Theory did to the situation was further prove that Limp Bizkit still had a kicking chance of survival in the industry. At least that was what I thought, until I managed to get my hands on a copy of the CD. What surprised me even more, I later found out only 1000 copies had been made in the world, and for me to possess such an item I couldn’t help but like it. Unfortunately, I did not go that far, but certain moments on the album really caught my attention. Firstly, the combination of rap and rock was still calming down after the days of Rage Against The Machine. Mike Shinoda, a seemingly talented rapper from California, managed to have his share of success alongside younger lead vocalist Chester Bennington.
Only consisting of six tracks and two bonus features, the hip-hop influence of Hybrid Theory balanced out rock with little to no effort. Three of these hip-hop tracks are “Technique”, “High Voltage” and “Step Up”. While sounding very amateur for the time it was made, the lyrics (apart from thoughts of suicide and emotional feelings) really did impress me. “High Voltage” sounded like something straight out of an 8 Mile freestyle, with Shinoda delivering his best performance to date. The beat is less impressive than that of some of the older hip-hop workings, preferably “Dedicated”, but keeps the flow all the more interesting. The chorus is built of a vocoder voice of Shinoda repeating the rhythmic and catchy “Its High Voltage/You can’t shake the shock, because nobody wants it to stop, check it out”. A definite must listen, although I cannot guarantee all will be drawn into Mike’s first-time almost tiresome and mellow rapping. On that note, the remix version is worth listening to. Mike adds lot more hype to his flow.
“Technique” is a short but sweet scratch session from the groups background DJ, Joe Hahn. The beat consists of ambient floating violins and an old-skool beat to accompany it. “Step Up”, a similar track to “High Voltage”, further showcases Shinoda’s rapping talent. He speaks of there being a time when rock and hip-hop could collaborate without being stomped by the media, but since then the whole genre would later lose its touch, in which he boldly states “You wanna be an MC, you gotta study the skill”. The production work is not exactly your morning lemon. While Rob Bourdon presents a much more detailed and clean drum roll than before, the guitars that introduce the song are slow, and doesn’t fit the tempo of the track at all. However, the piano theme that plays during Mike’s verses makes up for it. Apart from the half of the album that throws out hip-hop beats and constipated scratches, it has its fair share of rock as well.
Chester Bennington has incredible talent. His vocals (while not screaming guts and aggravation) are calming, and almost in balance. “And One” is a song that shows his vocal work. While it feels dated and out-of-tune, it defines their style that would eventually become Linkin Park. “Carousel” features both vocalists presenting a much more edgier approach to their music. The intro consists of a middle-eastern flute and chant, before bursting into the diabolical MC’s clever rhyme pattern. Bennington does the chorus and bridge, but all to little interest.
The last track, and a personal favorite of mine, is “Part Of Me” (which would later become a piece taken from “Figure.09”). The whole band plays a role this time, seeing as how almost the latter of the EP only consists of the two front men. The lyrics tell stories of failure in hope, before Mike ironically bursts out in the hook “Cut myself free! Willingly! Stop just what’s killing me!”, strangely giving the command of someone to grab a knife and slit their wrists. Or at least how he defines it. The chorus is sung by Bennington as usual, and changes tone into a rough example of Brian Johnson. The song really breaks out of mediocrity once the 10-minute silence mark is reached of this 12-minute piece, breaking into a Session-styled drum loop, including ambient flutes filling the track with a saddening atmosphere. A definite high-point of Hybrid Theory.
Hybrid Theory EP is Linkin Park’s finest work, before they broke out into the mainstream scene. Their music could be appreciated and related to, even though at times felt repetitive and misheard. Any fan would pick up this now for a reasonably good price on eBay, and is worth the buy. While they never really hit their stride until the actual “Hybrid Theory” album was released, the EP did more than just build hype, but also defined their sound.