Throwing Old School Hip-Hop, Classic Rock and electronic elements into the mix, Linkin Park burst out of the So. Cal music scene. Their debut, "Hybrid Theory" was released in late '00. Interestingly, the CD's title was the group's original name.
The aggressive Rap/Rocker "One Step Closer" led the way with Hahn's scratching and Delson's sledgehammer guitar. No mercy. The break, with Chester Bennington raving "Shut up when I'm talking to you," was brutal. '02 saw the release of their video "Reanimation." A year later "Meteora" (named after six monasteries located on rock pinnacles above the plains of central Greece) with the "spray painter" cover came out.
For a lot of successful groups their third album is tough. All the initial "brilliant" ideas have been done. They either repeat themselves or find something new - which may cause them to lose their audience. Much time is wasted as musicians sit around wracking up studio hours (and costs) staring blankly at each other. And just to break the tedium, there are often spirited and entertaining arguments.
Though Linkin' Park's "Minutes To Midnight" took nearly a year and a half to record it wasn't for lack of material. In a September, '06, interview Mike Shinoda claimed they had over 100 roughs for songs. "When songs are pouring out you don't ever want to stop that," said the vocalist. "We've narrowed it down since but we're not ready to commit to those yet." Delson felt the arduous process was worth it. "Not only is this album incredibly diverse, but the depth of the material is really strong."
"We have put more into the new album than anything we have ever done before," added "Phoenix" Farrell.
They had a point. The album's first single, "What I've Done," was an out-of-the-box #1 on the U.S. Modern Rock chart. A month later, May, '07, Linkin' Park's third studio album was released. "Minutes To Midnight" also made its debut at #1, only this time it was on the more impressive Billboard 200 chart, selling 623,000 copies during its first week. "We're shocked and humbled by this extraordinary show of support," said Delson.
Leave it to Bennington to have the last word. "We've really moved away from anything that sounds like Nu-Metal," went the quote. "I know that we kind of helped create the sound of that genre, but I hate that genre."
Touring in support of a successful album is about as good as it gets in the music business. But there are still challenges. Considering all the bad things that can happen on a world trek, the following was minor but still painful. Bennington broke his arm during the group's October, '07, concert in Melbourne, Australia. "He broke it about four songs (into the show), but didn't let it stop him from playing the rest of the set," wrote Shinoda in an online post. "It was crazy." How did it happen? "I went to do a jump off the top of the stairs and . . . fell straight back and landed right on my wrist," explained Bennington. "It f**king hurts, dude." No doubt. File that one under "the show must go on."
Also in '07, Linkin Park's Music For Relief and Unite The United launched an eBay auction of music memorabilia to raise money for victims of California wildfires. On the block were autographed items from the group, Aerosmith, Green Day, My Chemical Romance and the Smashing Pumpkins.
Bennington proved again to be an injury prone frontman. Linkin Park had to cancel a planned '08 tour of China and Taiwan because of Bennington's hurt back. Doctors ordered him not to travel or exert himself. The tour was to raise funds for China's earthquake ravaged Sichuan Province. The band still donated money to the cause via Music For Relief.
On safer turf, Crank 2: High Voltage opened in '09. Bennington and Tool's Maynard James Keenan appeared in the film. Bennington was a veteran of the first Crank movie. He also spent a part of the year working on "Out Of Ashes," the debut album from his side project Dead By Sunrise. "It's got me all over it," said Bennington. He began composing songs for the album prior to the recording of "Minutes To Midnight." "This is the music I hear in my head."
In another showbiz related note, Delson was the keynote speaker at the UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement ceremony in L.A. Delson was a UCLA grad (class of '99) with a bachelor's degree in communication studies. "Brad Delson is not only an innovative musician, but he is also a social activist who is committed to change through education," said UCLA dean Judith L. Smith. Delson replaced actor James Franco who backed out because of student objections (he lacked life experience and accomplishments) and film commitments.
A couple months down the road, Glorious Excess (Dies), artwork by Shinoda went on display at the Japanese American National Museum in L.A. According to Shinoda, the pieces represent "obsession with celebrity culture, consumer addiction and fascination with excess."
Rick Rubin, who produced "Minutes To Midnight," returned for the '10 release "A Thousand Suns."
"On the last record, Rick's challenge was getting us to open up our perception of what our music could be," Bennington told Rolling Stone. "This time we realized it doesn't matter what the songs sound like. If we like it and it comes from us, it's Linkin Park."
Maybe. Though "A Thousand Suns" was nominated for six Billboard Awards in '11, Linkin Park left empty handed. However, they fared better on the Billboard Year-End charts with a handful on Top 10 placements - #6: Top Rock Artists Chart, #9: Rock Songs Artists Chart, #4: Hard Rock Albums Chart and #7 Alternative Songs Chart.
Then again, maybe not. "A Thousand Suns" alienated a portion of Linkin Park's core audience. So Bennington made a point of highlighting the change in direction for the group's fifth album. "With this album, we've incorporated a lot of guitar work with big choruses and the heavier electronic stuff to give it that really big wall of sound feeling without getting too Metal," Bennington told Kerrang! "This will be more familiar to people than "A Thousand Suns" was, where we were like, 'Fuck it, we're just going to go bonkers'."
The previous album's political slant was markedly absent. "I feel like we've found a place where we've become comfortable in our skin," stated Bennington. "We've been writing a lot about relationships."
"Living Things," so titled because it was "more about people, personal interactions," dropped in '12. With first week sales of 220,000 units the album went to #1 on the Billboard 200.
Leveraging Music for Relief, Linkin Park sold a special bracelet in '13 with all of the proceeds going to victims of Hurricane Sandy (which hit the east coast). The adjustable bracelet had two gold-plated rings engraved with the words, Music for Relief.
"Funds raised for Sandy Recovery help provide families with access to local childcare and other children's service in the U.S. In Haiti, funds support partner organization International Medical Corps' long-term programs including cholera treatment, primary health care, water and sanitation, and disaster preparedness," said a statement on the band's website.
Sometimes a logical act, like dumping a problematic singer, can lead to an unexpected outcome. Having suffered through Scott Weiland's mercurial ways, Stone Temple Pilots sacked their frontman. In his place, STP recruited Bennington who performed with the group at L.A. radio station KROQ's annual Weenie Roast. Their set was dominated by STP favorites plus the Bennington/STP single (released under the STP banner) "Out Of Time."
2000 Hybrid Theory
2007 Minutes To Midnight
2010 A Thousand Suns
2012 Living Things
"Hybrid Theory" is the group's debut. Aside from "One Step Closer," "By Myself" is another riveting track. Overall, the album is a thrasher and was among the year's top sellers. Good works get rewarded.
'03 album "Meteora" hasn't got "Hybrid Theory's" edge but his has a lot going for it including sure-fire pop hits "Somewhere I Belong," "Easier To Run" (using a Japanese flute called a shakuhachi) and Rocker "Don't Stay" which, not surprisingly, is the best of the lot. "Faint" is another kicker.
It's one of the peculiarities of the music business that when a band member publicly talks about the plethora of material available for an upcoming album (the way Shinoda did) and the problem is deciding which tracks to include, the set rarely lives up to expectations. That's the case with "Minutes To Midnight." It's hard to figure how that happened. Linkin Park is one of the best, most popular bands around. Rick Rubin is a top-flight producer, a near legend. But instead of a killer album, "Minutes To Midnight" is largely a synth and guitar, moody, contemplative effort.
Rap-Rock "Bleed It Out" and "What I've Done" got a lot of initial attention for two reasons. They're the best tracks and everything else pales in comparison. "Given Up" tries for hard-edged Rock but just comes across angry. At least it has some force. The tough, melodic ballad "Leave Out All The Rest," "No More Sorrow" with its dark, downward spiraling guitar, and the airy, in a good way, "Valentine's Day" makes an impression which is more than can be said for the rest of the album.
According to reports, the band had to agree on every aspect of each song. Despite the impressive sales figures (see above), "Minutes To Midnight" proves that Rock by committee doesn't work.
"This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love" - a portion of a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. used in "Wisdom, Justice, And Love."
Any band that quotes Dr. King is serious about making a statement. To actually use an audio clip that references the Vietnam War- at a time when the U.S. is involved in Afghanistan and Iraq - doubles down on the commitment.
Messages aside, "A Thousand Suns" is a techno-tribal-worldbeat album that is a trippy link in Linkin Park's musical odyssey.
It's not often a group that helps define a genre is able to survive the style's ultimate decline. Even before Nu Metal lost a step, Linkin Park was working to broaden their scope. It's been a balancing act since. Keeping old fans engaged while attracting new ones.
"Living Things" has Rap ("Lies Greed Misery" and "Until It Breaks"), Nu Metal ("Victimized") and Arena Rock ("In My Remains" and "Burn It Down"). They use the soft verses/loud choruses motif and even lay down dance beats ("Lost In The Echo" and "Skin To Bone"). Sure, it's all been done before but to Linkin Park's credit, they do it very well.