We probably didn’t realise it at the time, but in 2003, metal was about to undergo a change. The “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” and modern metalcore was about 18 months away from inception and arrival onto the alternative zeitgeist; bands like Lamb of God, Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, and Bullet for My Valentine were either working through early releases or still just hopeful teenagers in bedrooms worldwide.
It wouldn’t remain so, but in 2003, Nu Metal was king. Baggy jeans, baseball caps and DJ decks were accompanying harsh, staccato guitar riffs and mechanical drums as the more “traditional” metal fan was somewhat marginalised.
The reign of NM was such that Metallica, so often the standard bearer of heavy music embarked on a tour supporting their much-maligned St Anger record (in itself a tribute to the solo-less, melody-free sound that was permeating the period) with Limp Bizkit, Deftones, Mudvayne and one other: Linkin Park. The latter is the focus of today’s tribute.
I was 10 years old when this album dropped, just dipping my toe in the cesspool of riffs and thinking naïve statements like “Wow! This AC/DC band are really heavy” and “Can he really make that noise over music, this is insane!” (Oh, how little I knew.)
I personally discovered Linkin Park by accident, stumbling across them on a DVD of Live 8: the 2005 rehash of Bob Geldof’s famous poverty drive in 1985. The Californian nu metal stalwarts played in Philadelphia with Jay-Z in tow, I vividly remember being instantly marvelled at Chester Bennington’s angelic voice somehow combining harmoniously with the deep, low-toned guitar. It was an intoxicating sound that I then spent my entire teens and now fledgling adulthood chasing; I suddenly craved the mesh of melody and mayhem that has so often been the blueprint of my music taste.
Upon discovering the band, I found a live album, combining hits from their first two albums that included now-classics such as 'In The End' and 'Numb'. Without the ability or funds to purchase both Hybrid Theory and Meteora yet, I persuaded my Dad to fork over cash for what I saw as a compilation album of sorts, the only conceivable way to invite the band into my bedroom without having to mow my lawn for a £10 loan.
To my pleasure, a DVD of the show came along and I was instantly captured by an intensity I had previously never witnessed: my musical education to that point was punctuated by now suddenly low-key live performances by AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen and Rush that I had stolen from my father’s collection. But this, this was something else.
The opener 'Don’t Stay' manages to condense the pre Minutes to Midnight LinkinPark sound in three minutes; a glass window smashing (which may as well have been my musical pre-conceptions being destroyed and falling into so many fictional pieces) preceding a hip-hop beat and a sinister, flat chorded riff. The sound attacked my senses like a chainsaw (sorry, Fred Durst), as I saw thousands of American teenagers throw themselves into each other, tides of a heavy ocean colliding with the barrier. Chester’s voice cuts through once more, blending seamlessly with Mike Shinoda’s rap; phrases connoting anxiety, rage, insecurity and pain.
In a brief whirlwind, Linkin Park had attached words to explain my teenage angst, the battle of hormones and circumstance that well up inside an adolescent for years before maturity converts the noise and chaos into production and progress. Songs like 'Numb' and 'With You' felt almost married to my soul, a key unlocking previously unspoken frustrations at meeting expectations, disappointment in failed relationships, growing accustomed to change, and hurt. It was a seminal moment for me as I had discovered a genre that I not only enjoyed, but I understood. My consciousness had found a home, and it was this 71 minute show in Texas.
Re-watching now, years removed from teenage troubles and cares, I’m impressed from a more practical standpoint. This was a support slot for Linkin Park, third on the bill behind the then-juggernaut of Limp Bizkit and the immortal Metallica. Despite this, it is incredible to witness a crowd reaction that appears taken directly from a fan-shot – 'Crawling' and 'In The End' being sung furiously and faithfully to such a degree that Bennington’s role is at times, somewhat redundant. To call these songs sing-along crowd pleasers is now an incredible understatement as they’ve transcended the period to become a couple of the genre’s greatest ever songs – but at a time where that was just three years removed from their release, the fan impact is remarkable.
It is, of course, now tinged with sadness to re-watch footage of Chester Bennington at the height of LP’s social impact – witnessing a vocalist of astonishing power and fragility; a dichotomy displayed not only in his oral range but his body language – a quiet, reserved speaker in between songs morphing into a demonic presence during the renditions. Seriously, watch or listen to 'A Place for My Head' and 'One Step Closer' from this show and you’d agree with me that you could substitute Bennington into any deathcore band and be absolutely fine. The guttural cries, eerie screams and whispers are accentuated here live, flipping the studio-led stereotype about Linkin Park on its head as the band tear through a set of refreshingly organic material.
This may not be the most important album of my life, or even my favourite ever (it’s in the top 10-15, I haven’t counted for a while) but it is the first album I fell in love with; an impressionable teen about to be thrown into a churning pit of fury and fire that to this day, hasn’t spat me out. I don’t want it to, either.