I’ve never made my respect for Linkin Park a secret. I discovered “In the End” and “Crawling” just as I was on the tender line between childhood wonder and teenage angst. For the better part of two years, the nu-metal titans were all I would listen to. There was just something about the blend of hope and sorrow in their music that struck all the right chords. Even as I delved deeper into the realm of heavy music and discovered the likes of Lamb of God, Children of Bodom and In Flames, I defended Linkin Park against my friends in the metal community who claimed that they were “too soft,” “not riffy enough,” or my personal favourite: “Bro, there aren’t any guitar solos in this music—wtf.”
I’ll admit that they lost me a little bit with the release of Minutes to Midnight. While I was happy enough just to have a new Linkin Park album after the four years since the release of Meteora, the decidedly softer direction did not line up with my even angstier and less commercially-minded 16-year-old self. Looking back, songs like “Given Up” and “Leave Out all The Rest,” possibly their heaviest and most heart-wrenching songs respectively, probably should have served as warning signs that Bennington was going to go out the way he did; hindsight is always twenty-twenty.
The disconnect I had with the newer material continued with A Thousand Suns. While I appreciated the experimental direction, it wasn’t quite scratching the itch that I wanted them to scratch. The songs felt distant and incomplete. To this day, it is still probably my least favourite in their back catalogue, though it has grown on me considerably.
Then they released Living Things, and I was fully on board. Now a full-fledged adult who understood that music didn’t have to be morosely heavy to be good, this was the growth I’d hoped for, the perfect mix of all of their electronic experiments from the previous two records and the sheer heaviness of their first two. “Lost in the Echo” is one of my favourite songs and music videos. By anyone. Ever.
To this day, Linkin Park has always been a mainstay in my listening habits and are always there when I was having a bad day.
I say all this because, to me, Linkin Park is more than Chester Bennington. Sure, he’s a major part of their music, but he is in no way the only part of their music. In fact, because of his commitment to Stone Temple Pilots at the time, he made minimal contributions to the actual song-writing of The Hunting Party, and that album is fucking awesome. I say all this not to detract from Chester Bennington’s importance or influence, but to emphasise my opinion that Linkin Park can, and should, continue to make music.
I say they can continue to make music because not only is it, unfortunately, fairly standard practice for major rock bands to continue after the passing of a frontman, but it often leads to some very successful results. AC/DC’s first album after the death of original singer Bon Scott was Back in Black, and I don’t need to remind you the kind of recognition that it garnered. Likewise, Alice in Chains released Black Gives Way to Blue to universal acclaim over ten years after Layne Staley sang his last note. And that’s not to mention the likes of Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, and countless others who have found their footing after losing not necessarily frontmen, but key members of the band.
Mike Shinoda is one of the most talented songwriters and businessmen in the music industry as a whole. Brad Delson’s guitar-work is simple, tasteful, textured, and inimitable. Joe Hahn is probably the only DJ in a rock band who still matters in 2017. Rob Bourdon is a masterful pop drummer, widely underrated, and a large part of the reason Linkin Park’s music drives the way it does. Dave Farell has a cool nickname. Together, they make something so unique that it would be doing Bennington’s legacy a disservice not to have it continue.
Not only that, but they are the truest and purest collaborators hard rock and metal have ever seen. Sure, other artists within the umbrella have jumped onto other projects and made guest appearances, but Linkin Park as a unit have worked with Jay-Z to Tom Morello and everyone in between. They do it their way, and they do it with heart. The number of charities they continue to fund and the direct love they continue to give back to their fans is unparalleled. If they didn’t want to carry on as a six-piece with a permanent new singer, there is always space in the zeitgeist for them to continue to team up with a rotating door of other vocalists and create music that way.
If they do decide to call it quits, nobody could blame them. The loss of a friend, a band member, a brother to suicide is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And make no mistake, they will be leaving an impressive body of work behind. Call me a fanboy though, but I believe that this band can still do great things, and the channelling of the pain and anguish they no doubt are feeling could lead to one of the most emotional, raw, and important rock albums of the decade.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy