photo & text by nacrowe
it is not hyperbole to state matter-of-factly that LINKIN PARK's debut album HYBRID THEORY (WARNER BROS, 2000) is one of the more culturally CONSEQUENTIAL releases of the new millennium. and that judgement is separate from the album having gone 27 times platinum worldwide since its unveiling more than two decades ago, making it the most SUCCESSFUL debut release of the 21st century. the album itself represents the COHERENT and SEAMLESS integration of HIP HOP PRODUCTION and SONIC AESTHETICS with the INTESITY and AGGRESSION and TRADITIONAL SONGWRITING STRUCTURES of ALTERNATIVE ROCK / METAL.
what is interesting is that LINKIN PARK was not the first out of the gate with this HYBRID sound, arguably KORN, INCUBUS, LIMP BIZKIT, DEFTONES, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and several other acts of the period associated (FAIRLY or UNFAIRLY) with the NU METAL tag predated them at times by several years. but whereas those bands to a certain extent experimented with CHOPPED BEATS, RAPPED VOCALS and SCRATCHED VINYL TEXTURING as a means of expanding their SOUND, such dalliances didnt necessarily constitute a SOUND centered around such. in LINKIN PARK and especially on HYBRID THEORY, said SCRATCHED TEXTURES, BEAT-MAKING and RAPPED VOCALS inverted such AURAL EXPECTATIONS. those ELEMENTS were the main focus of their SONGWRITING, with METAL tropes like DETUNED, DISSONANT guitars and THUNDEROUS drumming a more secondary compositional element. LINKIN PARK very clearly represented a clean break from the pack and 2.0 version of the NU METAL genre to the music-buying public, which was trending towards becoming GENRE-LESS. id go so far as to say that the current DIGITAL MUSICAL ENVIRONMENT, where TRIBALISM has wained significantly as the new generation (POST MALONE, LIL UZI VERT, MACHINE GUN KELLY) makes music that is DIVERSE, IMAGINATIVE and ICONOCLASTIC as they defy staid genre prescriptions of the past. along with BECK, WEEN, MIKE PATTON and countless other artists, this new musical reality is a world that LINKIN PARK introduced the greater world community to with such a COHESIVE statement as HYBRID THEORY.
which is FUNNY, because people at the time thought LINKIN PARK were an INDUSTRY PLANT. literally every song on that album could have been marketed as a single. it was such a STRONG release that TASTEMAKERS and some IRRESPONSIBLE MUSIC CRITICS were immediately convinced that there was no possible way this band wrote their own material. the truth was the band (formerly XERO) had been struggling and turned down by literally every major label (some multiple times) repeatedly for years, some multiple times. they ended up on the ARTIST-FRIENDLY WARNER BROS label due to a previous relationship with their new A&R director at the time, otherwise theyd probably still be looking. the core of the SONGWRITING PARTNERSHIP was rapper MIKE SHINODA and vocalist CHESTER BENNINGTON, the former often providing FORM and CONTEXT to riffs and ideas provided by the rest of the group. producer DON GILMORE (GOOD CHARLOTTE, EVE6, DURAN DURAN, LIT) was an INDISPENSIBLE resource assisting SHINODA with SONG ARRANGEMENTS and navigating him through the process of manipulating the studio to your creative will. this instuction would reap substantial benefits on subsequent releases as SHINODA took on more PRODUCTION duties for the group. this is all to say that the band quite literally was a SELF-CONTAINED PRODUCTION entity in and of themselves, far more AUTONOMOUS then their ALTERNATIVE ROCK / METAL peer group and far more in keeping structurally and organizationally with HIP HOP PRODUCTION teams of the period (i.e. TIMBALAND, THE NEPTUNES and ORGANIZED NOIZE).
i first heard LINKIN PARK during my junior year of high school. my family had moved to KUWAIT and i learned of HYBRID THEORY through an AMERICAN classmate there. i just remember being taken away by how strong the SONGWRITING and PRODUCTION was, which is not necessarily something you associated with an ALTERNATIVE ROCK / METAL album. if anything, bands like PANTERA, TOOL, SLIPKNOT and SYSTEM OF A DOWN traded not on their POLISH, but on how RAW and BRUTAL the music was while still maintaining a recognizable STRUCTURE. like a caged rat or something. HYBRID THEORY was more like a PRISTINE, highly STYLIZED art piece were everything was seamlessly INTEGRATED and thoroughly CONCEIVED and thought out compositionally for MAXIMUM AURAL IMPACT. it was a departure from what i expected yet fit in with SONIC EXPECTATIONS of MODERN POP and HIP HOP PRODUCTIONS of the period.
i also remember the apparent VAGUENESS of the LYRICAL CONTENT, with BENNINGTON repeatedly opining and referencing how he wanted to remain himself and be less effected by another NAMELESS third entity. there was a lot of SECOND-PERSON PERSPECTIVE being thrown around which was a SONGWRITING quirk that was addressed on subsequent releases. there was also a STRIKING lack of CURSING, which seemed ODD at the time yet UNREMARKABLE in retrospect. in that regard they were much like 311 with such being a CONSCIOUS DECISION. the effect at the time was that BENNINGTON came off as slightly INAUTHENTIC. his vocals were so POWERFUL and strangely PROFESSIONAL that not CURSING while emoting ANGER seemed oddly RESTRAINED, especially when compared to his immediate peer group in MAX CAVALERA, JONATHAN DAVIS or even (sadly, yes) FRED DURST, he came off as a bit of a lightweight. a METAL singer for the POP audience. his untimely TRAGIC passing brought to bear in a very public way how deeply TROUBLED, TRAUMATIZED and emotionally affected he had been throughout his adult existence by lingering consequences of surviving SEXUAL ABUSE and severe BULLYING throughout his childhood. i'll speak for myself, but i hear his lyrics very differently now in light of such then i did as a seventeen year-old when HYBRID THEORY was released. i now am of the opinion that BENNINGTON was such a COURAGEOUS dude, bearing his heart in hopes of allowing others to suffer less. i just hate the fact that it took his death for people, including myself, to open up and pay attention to his message.
HYBRID THEORY still holds up. again, literally ever song could have been a single, but to me the STANDOUT tracks include "IN THE END," "WITH YOU," "A PLACE FOR MY HEAD," "ONE STEP CLOSER," "POINTS OF AUTHORITY," and my FAVORITE song, "PAPERCUT." more than any other record from this era, i hear the reverberations of the massive CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT that was HYBRID THEORY down the line in HIP HOP and ALTERNATIVE ROCK / METAL music from the past two decades. like NIRVANA before them, what came in their wake were lots of TERRIBLE copycats (i.e. EVANESCENCE, BREAKING BENJAMIN, CRAZY TOWN) as well as some very INSPIRED and CONSEQUENTIAL adherents (i.e. A DAY TO REMEMBER and BRING ME THE HORIZON), but throughout such the ORIGINALITY and CONSISTENCY of HYBRID THEORY and the LINKIN PARK SOUND remains. definitely worth checking out.