The late 90's to the early 2000's saw the emergence of a new genre of music, more specifically, an unlikely hybrid between two popular genres of that era: metal and rap. This ended up being nu-metal: sampled sounds, screaming, piercing guitars, and a hip-hop vibe. What's not to like? This new genre of music was most evident in California band Linkin Park's debut album, Hybrid Theory, released October 24th 2000. The album was massively successful and one of the best-selling debut albums of all time; it has sold nearly 30 million copies worldwide and made Linkin Park one of the most successful bands of the 2000's. But time trundles on, so I will be doing a brief track-by-track review of the album to see if it's songs still hold up today.
The album starts out on a strong note with this 3-minute single that doesn't hesitate getting to the core of what Linkin Park is all about. The scratching and eerie electronic wails by Joe Hahn give the song an unsettling edge, whilst Mike Shinoda's fast yet precise rapping adds a sinister quality to the song, with lyrics like "I know just what it feels like to have a voice in the back of my head." setting the mood. The chorus of the song is nothing special, with Shinoda and Chester Bennington yelling over each other as Brad Delson plays some simple riffs. The song doesn't really pick up much after that until it climaxes, in which Bennington and Shinoda beautifully and harmoniously sing, "The sun goes down.", whilst Hahn goes crazy on his set. It's atmospheric, eerie, and well-structured, making Papercut a solid and suitable opening to this album.
One Step Closer
Moving to a more emotion-driven song, One Step Closer features Bennington's iconic raspy screaming and growling vocals. The guitar work by Delson is improved, loud, and piercing, yet Rob Bourdon's drumming leaves a lot to be desired, as it's simple and dull, a shame considering this is one of the heaviest songs on the album. The lyrics are very simple ("I cannot take this any more. Saying everything I've said before.") and bland but Bennington's sheer and raw emotion makes them work much better. This is probably a song that's much better experienced live but that doesn't stop it from being a memorable track nonetheless.
Hahn's scratching is much more noticeable in this song as high-pitched squeals fill the song. Bennington's vocals are more diverse as he belts out certain words to great effect. Shinoda's rapping is slow and simple, but flows well with the rhythm, whilst Delson and Bourdon don't bring much new to the table. Nothing special other than a good addition to the general feel of the album.
Points Of Authority
One of the strongest songs on the album, this track has Bennington at his best as he goes from singing softly to screaming in an instant, whilst Mike's lyrics ("Forfeit the game before somebody else takes you outta the frame and puts your name to shame...") prove to be some of his best work. Delson's guitar work is jarring yet memorable, whilst Hahn shines with glitchy sounds and and unsettling electronic keyboard notes.
In this Grammy-winning single, Shinoda's rapping is mostly absent, but that is replaced by Bennington's hard-hitting screams during the choruses and melodic vocals during the verses. The lack of a bridge makes the song feel a little lacking, but the iconic synths and tin-like notes make this song a strong contender for best on the album, even if the lyrics are simple, and somewhat laughable.
Bennington is fantastic during the verses, but Runaway is a mostly forgettable song that sounds like a combination of a lot of previous songs on the album. Delson seems to have gone back to simpler riffs, whilst Hahn's mixing is poor compared to previous songs.
Lyrically, this is probably one of the strongest on the album. Bennington's screaming is a welcome, yet somewhat jarring, element whilst Shinoda raps some of his best lyrics on the album ("I put on my daily façade but then I just end up getting hurt again by myself.) Delson's riffs are shorter and sweeter than Runaway's, but this doesn't save the song from being one of the more forgettable of the album.
In The End
This song solidifies everything Linkin Park is about. Being their most popular song, it features Shinoda's gorgeous rapping and Bennington's stunning vocals whilst the iconic piano plays in the background. It's lyrics are very simple, but memorable and fun to listen to. Delson and Bourdon also step up their game with better riffs, melodies, and fills.
A Place For My Head
A auditory joy, A Place For My Head features Delson's strongest work yet, with fast plucking and sharp notes making the song an enjoyable one. Bourdon shows much improvement too, with less repetitive beats. There's even a few strings thrown in for dramatic effect, and it's wonderful.
Delson's simplistic riffs are back but an acoustic guitar during the verses adds great depth. Bennington provides nothing special until the bridge when he screams over Shinoda's rapping, an iconic staple of Linkin Park songs.
Cure For The Itch
The only instrumental track on the album, it starts off with fast scratching and sampled speech that works but is nothing special. The song really picks up when the strings and piano accompany the scratching, making the song beautifully atmospheric and a stand-out track. It's a shame it's probably the least popular track on the album, as the effort put into is incredible.
Pushing Me Away
Bennington's vocals are wonderful yet again, and interplay well with Shinoda's brief rapping. The whole song itself, however, is quite similar to In The End, making it feel all too familiar and less interesting compared to previous tracks. Unfortunately, the addition of this song doesn't end the album as well as it started.
Overall, Hybrid Theory has many memorable and well-structured tracks, but the few simple tunes drag it down quite a bit as they're spread out across the whole album. Lyrically, the album is very simple and repetitive, but the great melodies make the songs more bearable.