This article won’t speculate on Bennington’s death – two months after the death of close friend Chris Cornell – but celebrate Bennington and Linkin Park.
Bennington was lead singer (and screamer) for the band who transcended their nu metal roots to become one of the most diverse bands in the world.
LP exploded in 2000 with their debut album Hybrid Theory. The title said it all; while they were ostensibly a metal band, they refused to be pigeonholed.
Hybrid Theory melded Bennington’s aggressive scream and soulful voice with rapper Mike Shinoda to create a sound that stood out from the overused nu metal template. While the short-lived genre is derided by most metal fans, HT is still regarded as a brilliant album 20 years later, with live favourites “One Step Closer”, “Papercut”, “Points of Authority”, “Crawling”, mega hit “In The End” and “A Place For My Head”. For many fans, it was their fondly-remembered gateway into metal. The band’s affection for HT was shown in 2014, playing the album in full at the UK’s Download Festival.
Two years later, Linkin Park released Reanimation, basically a remixed Hybrid Theory with guest artists, including Korn’s Jonathan Davis. It was a risky move so early in their career, but it worked.
Linkin Park followed HT with Meteora (2004), sticking to the nu metal template and producing hit songs “Somewhere I Belong”, “Breaking the Habit”, “Faint” and “Numb”.
They released their first live CD/DVD Live in Texas, capturing the band’s live energy, with Chester screaming himself into a sweaty puddle.
After a short break (Chester worked with rock band Dead by Sunrise and Mike Shinoda helmed hip hop project Fort Minor), Linkin Park continued pushing the boundaries, working with rapper Jay-Z. The album (and accompanying live show) Collision Course featured six tracks of mashed up Linkin Park and Jay-Z songs: “Dirt off Your Shoulder/Lying from You”, “Big Pimpin’/Papercut”, “Jigga What/Faint”, “Numb/Encore”, “Izzo/In the End” and “Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer”. Again, what could have been a risky gimmick worked.
It was 2007’s Minutes to Midnight that signalled Linkin Park’s departure from nu metal. There were some heavy songs (“Given Up”, with Chester’s 17-second scream, live favourite “Bleed it Out” and “No More Sorrow”) but the ballads “Shadow of the Day”, “Valentine’s Day” and “The Little Things Give You Away” demonstrated a maturity from the agressive early days. This was followed by a second live album in 2008, Projekt Revolution, featuring Jay-Z. During a 2007 tour to Australia (with Cornell) Bennington broke his wrist during a Melbourne show and kept on playing.
From 2010-14, Linkin Park turned away from metal, with mainstream pop/electronica albums A Thousand Suns (2010), Living Things (2012) and another remix album Recharged (2013). With this direction, many fans of the “old” Linkin Park lost interest and started criticising their new sound, though the band were unaffected.
In 2013, Bennington briefly joined Stone Temple Pilots, releasing the EP High Rise.
Linkin Park seemed to win back old fans with 2014’s The Hunting Party, which returned to the band’s heavier sound.
Linkin Park’s latest album One More Light, released in May this year, reverted to the mainstream sound post-MTM. The first single “Heavy” wasn’t well received and Bennington was vocal about the criticism (WARNING: coarse language). Linkin Park were about to start touring for OML before Bennington’s death.
So what’s the future for Linkin Park? Many bands have recovered from deaths, so Linkin Park will too. For now, fans need to mourn Bennington before anything else.