Music, Venue

Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory: Twenty years later

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory. As referenced in its title, the album’s style is a hybridisation of genres, and while not necessarily unique, it helped launch the band into the mainstream with interesting musical combinations (rap, metal, scratching etc.) and Bennington’s distinctive voice and songwriting ability. 

For the anniversary of Hybrid Theory’s release, Linkin Park released a new edition containing eighty songs, totalling over four hours of music: these being previously unreleased B-Sides, remixes, and demos. It is also the band’s first release since the death of Chester Bennington in 2017. 

For me this album brings about strong feelings of nostalgia, and after Bennington’s death, a certain sadness through his introspective lyrics, describing his inner turmoil. This is something that later Linkin Park albums never lacked, despite their sonic divergence from Hybrid Theory. 

The band’s second album, Meteora, shares many similarities with Hybrid Theory, but subsequent entries in the band’s discography were met with increasing backlash from fans, who criticised the move towards electronic and pop music. 

The lyrics for Hybrid Theory are drawn from Bennington’s childhood experiences of his parent’s divorce, drug abuse, and failed relationships. Bennington sings these with a raw but controlled aggression that comes across as genuine, for example on “Crawling.” This is contrasted with the pained calmness that exists in songs like “My December,” with its wistful vocals and instrumentals. 

“In the End” uses piano to elevate the sound and helps build the yearning that the lyrics speak of.  It is also perhaps the best-known example of Mike Shinoda’s rapping, alternating with Bennington’s choruses. The result is a fast-paced song with insightful lyrics that remains one of Linkin Park’s most popular songs. Hybrid Theory is a perfect debut from a band who would go on to embody a hybrid theory in their musical styles in each subsequent album. It’s been two decades now but its position in musical history remains strong, and I’m sure the same will be said in two more.

03/11/2020

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James Ward