Every once in a while, that band comes along that changes all perceptions of a genre to the mainstream. Whether the band is truly that original or not depends, but for the most part there were other bands that never made the mainstream that produced the same exact ideas, if not better, than said groundbreaking band. Due to the band’s incredible “originality”, the mainstream greets them with unprecedented success and acclaim. Back track to the year 2000. While mathematically, the year 2000 was not the new millennium, many considered it to be anyway. Grunge, rap, and boy band pop dominated the airwaves of the 90s and the time had come for something new. Linkin Park decided to come just at the perfect time. The band blurred the lines of rap and rock, taking guitars and mixing them with a DJ and electronic drum beats. Their breakout LP, Hybrid Theory, skyrocketed off the charts, winning the hearts of preteen rockers nationwide. The album is the top-selling debut album by a band in the 21st century, going Diamond (or 10 times platinum).
Linkin Park is:
Chester Bennington- Vocals
Mike Shinoda- Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Keyboard, Samples
Brad Delson- Guitar
Dave “Phoenix” Farrell- Bass
Joseph Hahn- DJ/Samples
Rob Bourdon- Drums
Lucky for all you readers, I was one of those preteen rockers. My CD certainly received its fair share of wear and tear over those years, covered in scratches. Amazingly, the CD still works albeit a few skips here and there. Linkin Park broke onto the scene with their lead single One Step Closer
. What made Linkin Park so great in my mind back then? Well, for one thing, the band is incredibly accessible. My mother attempted to shadow me from as much profanity as possible. Unlike most contemporaries of the nu-metal scene, the most offensive words on this album are “Shut up.” With the lack of profanity, kids all around the nation acquired the album with no trouble. Once acquiring the album, the catchy guitar riffs mixed with the surprisingly good DJ sampling of Joseph Hahn created an irresistible catchy blend of hip-hop and metal. Sure, the guitar riffs are simple and somewhat bland, the drum beats never step out as being groundbreaking or incredible, and Phoenix is a god-awful bassist, but altogether the music just sticks in the mind. Chester Bennington brings a bit of angst and anger to the mix with his screaming. However, also adding to the accessibility, his screaming still has clarity to it. He also moves to clean vocals, which hold a tune well enough. Mike Shinoda fills in all the holes, usually rapping and adding his hip-hop tinge to the Linkin Park sound.
As stated, One Step Closer
led Linkin Park into the mainstream. The song shows off the metal side of Linkin Park, opening with that unmistakable guitar riff. The song builds, throwing in electronic drums until the climax where the band pretty much jams out like a typical rock outfit. The verse comes back down and builds again, all the way through before exploding into the screamed chorus. The chord progression in the chorus is surprisingly ok, descending down akin to a Muse chord progression but taking a much more metal tone. This segues into the breakdown accented by Bennington’s most profane lyric of the album, “Shut up when I’m talking to you.” The song was the perfect choice for a lead single, showcasing the catchy guitar riffs, the screamed yet clear vocals of Bennington, and a hint of the hip-hop influence in the band. Despite the angry screamed lyrics being a fan favorite aspect of the band, In the End
, one of the slower songs if Linkin Park can even garner a song of that title, stands out as one of the better songs on the album. Starting with a haunting yet simple piano line, the sparse electronic drums make this sound very much like a hip-hop or pop song rather than a rock song. Shinoda raps the verse while electronic drums drive the song forward. Then the song changes character to a more rock-oriented feel with live drums and guitars in the chorus. The ability to switch between these two feels may be, as far as talent goes, the best aspect of Linkin Park. In the End
, in essence, shows both sides of Linkin Park in timid forms.
However, despite the album being catchy and listenable, Hybrid Theory has its obvious drawbacks. The most obvious comes out through the guitarists. The guitar riffs are often bland and unoriginal, especially in Forgotten
sounds much like a clean Limp Bizkit song. The only difference comes in Shinoda’s rapping in the verse, as Shinoda is a much better rapper than Fred Durst. Also, the variety lacks incredibly. Bennington’s vocals get extremely stale throughout the album. His typical clean verse, screamed chorus, and uber-screamed bridge happen in almost every song where he is featured. His lyrics, as with most nu-metal artists, are nothing too spectacular. He draws away from many clichés, but still nothing amazing comes out of his mouth. Phoenix lets down the band numerous times, especially in the verses where the guitars drop out like in Pushing Me Away
. He has the chance to stand out and sticks to just playing roots forever. Once the heavier sections appear, the mix pretty much makes him non-existent.
All in all, no member of the band is incredibly talented at all. Joseph Hahn is certainly the most talented member, getting a chance to shine on Cure for the Itch
. Cure for the Itch
is an entirely sampled track put together by him entirely. The samples work extremely well, while not at the level of a DJ Shadow or Massive Attack. Despite the individual lack of talent, together, Linkin Park makes a sound that puts this rating just above an average album. It’s incredibly catchy at times. It certainly made a few radio songs enjoyable back in the day, although they received a bit too much airtime and the sound became stale, especially when nothing changed on their next album, Meteora. Hybrid Theory stands as a defining mainstream album at the turn of the century, and for good reason.
One Step Closer
In the End
Place for my Head
Cure for the Itch