Unfortunately I didn’t make it to this year’s Download Festival. Had I done, the undoubted highlight would have been Chester Bennington and his buds playing their debut album Hybrid Theory, released in October 2000, in its entirety.
Sadly, a lot of people scoff at the mention of Linkin Park. Wallet chains and black hoodies, a band manufactured to capture the affections and the dollars of the disaffected youth that aspired to be Limp Bizkit fans but whose parents heeded the Bizkit’s Parental Advisory stickers. At least that’s the opinion that most people seem to give. Record sales suggest that at least some of those who look down their nose at the Californian six-piece may well have picked up, at the very least, the band’s seminal debut Hybrid Theory.
Wait a minute, I hear you say, seminal?? Successful, yes – 10 million sales certifying it diamond in the US alone – but not groundbreaking. We’re not talking Thriller or Revolver here. Well, no, we’re not. But what we are talking about is an album that took the fusion of rock and rap, hip-hop beats and metal guitars and made it mainstream. In 2000 and into 2001 you couldn’t drink in a rock club or pub without hearing the riff from ‘One Step Closer’. The album quickly gained momentum and just kept selling. In 2001 it was the biggest selling album in the US. It made Linkin Park not just rock stars, but bona fide superstars.
As I alluded to, this didn’t necessarily sit well with the metal community. It’s a sad fact that when one of “ours” makes that breakthrough into the mainstream, noses are turned up and backs are turned. Metallica, with their eponymous Black Album, can testify to this. But what both the Black Album and Hybrid Theory have in common, other than dividing heavy metal fan base, is tunes. Big, fat tunes. And that, more than the mega-sales, is what Hybrid Theory should be judged on.
Take ‘In The End’, the power ballad of the album. It showcases perfectly the beats alongside Mike Shinoda’s raps and then bursts with guitars and Chester’s powerful vocal. The rapport between the vocal styles of Shinoda and Bennington works brilliantly throughout the album, notably on the edgy ‘With You’. ‘Points of Authority’ is big on beats and brings the hip-hop influence to the fore, particularly in the verses.The album is packed with tracks like these. Slick and well-produced, yes, but with an abrasive edge. From the head-bobbing of ‘Papercut’ through the mosh pit inducing ‘Forgotten’ ultimately to the arms aloft epic of ‘Pushing Me Away’ this is genuinely a masterpiece of modern rock. And I didn’t mention Nu-Metal once.