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Linkin Park

Influenced by the likes of NINE INCH NAILS, LIMP BIZKIT and The ROOTS, the Southern Californian sextet of LINKIN PARK were yet another act to muscle in on the heavily-saturated, post-millennium, industrial rap-metal market. While admittedly pretty fly for white guys, LP, like most bands of their ilk, possessed neither the fluid funk of the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS nor the wiry conviction of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, but yet their mass appeal was probably down to the chemistry and timing of twin-assault frontmen: singer Chester Bennington and MC/rapper Mike Shinoda. Close to the edge, if that edge was on the precipice of the Grand Canyon, LINKIN PARK have never wavered from their convictions, or a top place – several times over now – at the business end of the American album charts.
Formed 1996, in Los Angeles, initially as Xero, high school friends Brad Delson (lead guitar), Rob Bourdon (drums) and the aforementioned Mike Shinoda (also rhythm guitar/keyboards), got together with singer Mark Wakefield, bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell and turntable DJ, Joseph Hahn, but little interest was shown for their self-titled demo tape that was sent to various imprints. When singer Bennington took over vocals in March ’99 (Wakefield became manager of TAPROOT), and Farrell dropped out to tour with Tasty Snax and others besides, the group looked to be refreshed with a new moniker: Hybrid Theory. Offered a publishing deal after their very first gig at L.A.’s Whisky, the band – now as LINKIN PARK – duly signed with Warner Bros after recommendations from new Vice President, Jeff Blue; session bassists Scott Koziol and Ian Hornbeck were drafted in on short notice.
In keeping with representing their recent activities (Wakefield and Farrell were credited on a couple of cuts), LINKIN PARK’s debut album, HYBRID THEORY (2000) {*8}, got them off the mark in fine style. Subsequently bolstered by the expressive, `One Step Closer’ and further UK Top 20 successes in `Crawling’, `Papercut’ and `In The End’, readers of Kerrang! were also in awe of the angsty post-grunge rap of `With You’ and `Points Of Authority’. Note too, that Dave “Phoenix” had now reunited with his Linkin buddies.
Remix set, REANIMATION (2002) {*6}, found a posse of rock rappers, electro-producers and dynamic DJs making brave attempts at sprucing up tracks from the set. Makeovers from the likes of PHAROAHE MONCH, The Alchemist and Jonathan Davis (of KORN) certainly distinguished themselves from the originals, although that wasn’t exactly difficult.
In fact, the Linkin lads could’ve done with similar treatment on METEORA (2003) {*6}, where it was back to lumpen nu-metal business for the masses. There was little discernible creative progress from the debut, but it was admittedly slick and professional enough to rely on cruise control, something which couldn’t be said for concert piece, LIVE IN TEXAS (2003) {*4}, which perhaps showed up more of the LP’s non-studio shortcomings than they might’ve liked. Crossing over into the British charts from their sophomore studio set was `Somewhere I Belong’, `Faint’, `Numb’ and `Breaking The Habit’.
In an age of collaborative madness (officially sanctioned or otherwise), LINKIN PARK became the latest metal rappers to splice their songs with a hip-hop luminary, JAY-Z. 2004’s mini-set, “Collision Course”, mashed its way to the top of the charts (Top 20 UK), while the `Numb’ & `Encore’ double-header hybridised a path into the hearts of both the hip hop and nu metal fraternity.
Dusting themselves from the JAY-Z rap/rock union, and on the back of Shinoda’s FORT MINOR hip-hop effort, THE RISING TIED (2005) {*6} – highlighting Top 5 pop cut `Where’d You Go’ – LINKIN PARK struck gold again with their “comeback”, Rick Rubin-produced set, MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (2007) {*5}. With Shinoda relegated to just two rapping ventures (`Bleed It Out’ and `Hands Held High’), it was down to the harrowing howling of Bennington to hook listeners via `What I’ve Done’, `Shadow Of The Day’ and `Given Up’. ROAD TO REVOLUTION: LIVE AT MILTON KEYNES (2008) {*5} was – if one needed telling – an obligatory CD/DVD package to rinse extra coins from their mass supporters.
Shepherded once again by producer nobility Rick Rubin, A THOUSAND SUNS (2010) {*5}, axed the guitar barrage for an electro-synth approach. Segue’d by a few archive spoken-word/noise passages (Martin Luther King was paid homage on `Wisdom, Justice And Love’), the monochromatic moods of their most metallic meanderings were buried underneath an earth of industrial dirge. A brave concept if it had worked, LINKIN PARK were at least breaking from the claustrophobic confines of their rusty cages.
A sequel to their previous effort, the transatlantic numero uno, LIVING THINGS (2012) {*6}, was a marked improvement, reinstating visceral guitar parts for Delson to sink his teeth into. While `Iridescent’ and `Burning In The Skies’ held together their “1000 Suns” set, the structure here was of a force that gelled between the likes of `Lost In The Echo’, `In My Remains’ and `Burn It Down’. One criticism among many was the BUGGLES-meets-KORGIS-esque vox of Bennington, a vox that was hardly RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE – more rage against the dandelion.
The man had showed he could do the odd growling, when his splinter outfit, DEAD BY SUNRISE (a joint effort with Julien-K leader/ORGY alumni Anthony “Fu” Valcic, Amir Derahk, Ryan Shuck, Brandon Belsky and Elias Andra) delivered the mixed and moody set, OUT OF ASHES (2009) {*6}. Top 30 in their homeland (bettering FORT MINOR’s lowly peak of 51 a few years back), Bennington swayed from the nu-metal to that of just simple hard rock-pop, evidenced on the VELVET REVOLVER-esque sounds of `Fire’, `Inside Of Me’ and `Let Down’. And then he moonlighted with STONE TEMPLE PILOTS; the replacement for in 2013 for the departing SCOTT WEILAND; he kept this on-going for a few years.
Dispensing with workaholic Rick Rubin, LINKIN PARK searched out their own souls on the Shinoda/Delson co-produced THE HUNTING PARTY (2014) {*8}. Featuring an eclectic array of rock and rap artists such as Page Hamilton (of HELMET), RAKIM, Daron Malakian (SYSTEM OF A DOWN) and TOM MORELLO (ex-RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE), respective collaborative tracks such as `All For Nothing’, the excellent `Guilty All The Same’, `Rebellion’ and `Drawbar’, had added impetus and value. Star of the show undoubtedly stemmed from the thrash-punk of `War’, a 2-minute track that could stand proudly between MOTORHEAD and The UNWANTED (whom, you may ask?). Back to the MARILYN MANSON-esque grind ’n’ growl-meets-power-pop, `Wastelands’ and `Keys To The Kingdom’ excavate soil from the soul, while `Until It’s Gone’ takes its sap from the Earth’s core.
The ill-advised curveball pitch from punk/rap-rock to placid pop had critics reeling from the aftermath when ONE MORE LIGHT {*4} was dispatched on May 19, 2017; curious fans (or abecedarians) still purchased the No.1 record. Catalysts among the pigeon-holers were dance-pop producers/songwriters Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, who took their thirty pieces of silver in one of rock music’s weirdest OMGs. From the opening lines of `Nobody Can Save Me’, one’s first thoughts was: who was gonna save LINKIN PARK? Only `Talking To Myself’ had its feet in the rock pool; marching onwards to a canny collaboration, `Good Goodbye’, with PUSHA T and man-of-the-moment STORMZY. Contradictory in terms, `Heavy’, was neither hard nor heavy, just a non-hit single showcasing another up-and-coming pop star, Kiiara.
A brave decision for any so-called “rock” outfit to take, one had to put one’s bad-album disappointment to one side, when news filtered through, on July 20, 2017, of Chester’s death. Whether the criticism from the media or the world of metal had got to him, who knew for certain, but the facts were he hung himself; another case of a tragic suicide; he was only 41.
The decision to release – only five months on – Bennington’s curtain call, ONE MORE LIGHT: LIVE (2017) {*6}, was a deliberate cash-in, though it served as a worthy document to where best place recent studio tracks, and that was in a packed-out arena full of emotion; golden nuggets `In The End’ and show-stopper `Bleed It Out’ brought the house down.
© MC Strong 2002-2006/GRD-MCS // rev-up MCS Sep2013-Dec2017

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