At the time that I'm writing this, it's coming up to 11 months since the frontman of the American genre-bending band Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, tragically took his own life. Shock and disbelief were cast the world over, with millions of fans and even casual listeners having lost a part of their life that they grew up listening to. But no one, arguably besides Bennington's family, felt that shockwave more brutally than co-frontman of the band, Mike Shinoda. Words cannot describe how much pain and heartbreak the man must have gone through after hearing the news that his bandmate and close friend with whom he had been creating music and touring with for 17 years had died. Many wondered, and still wonder, if the future of the band is certain, but one thing that is certain is that Shinoda himself is still continuing to create music. In order to find a way to channel his pain and grief into something, Shinoda made three songs and released them on his Post Traumatic EP back in January. These three songs saw Shinoda at his rawest and most emotional. Inevitably, Shinoda's passion for music continued to bond with his grief, leading to his first completely solo album Post Traumatic, released on the 15th June 2018. As usual, I shall be reviewing the album in a track-by-track fashion.
01. PLACE TO START - the album kicks off with this subtle yet emotional piece. The song slowly builds on itself as a grief-stricken Shinoda contemplates how to continue life without Chester. This beautiful, melancholic song is made even better by Shinoda's singing. I find Shinoda's singing voice in general to be very warm and his delivery genuine. This song proves that but in a rather unconventional way; as Shinoda sings, "I don't want to know the end, all I want is a place to start", he doesn't sustain the note and his voice cracks. This works in the song's favour as it truly conveys the feeling of being broken after a tragic loss. The song ends with some voicemails of Mike's friends sending him their condolences. It's a shame the song is rather short, but it manages to pack a strong emotional punch nonetheless.
02. OVER AGAIN - this is a fan-favourite track and for good reason. Possibly the rawest song on the album, Shinoda discusses Chester's passing and the effect it left on his family and friends in painstaking detail. He discusses the fears running through his mind about playing another show, that show being the wonderful Celebrate Life tribute concert which was held in October 2017. The song closes out with Shinoda wondering what will come of his career as he constantly reminds the listener that saying goodbye to a loved one is does not happen at one moment in time, but happens over and over again. Whilst one cannot deny the weight that the lyrics in the song hold, I don't find the instrumental and hook to be anything that special, so sonically alone, I don't find this song to be one of the more memorable ones on the album.
03. WATCHING AS I FALL - a punch bass synth and extreme energy makes this song stand out from the other so far. Shinoda seamlessly transitions between rapping and singing. The chorus is like a battle cry, as Shinoda declares how this tragedy has forced him to fall to a place where he can't rise. The song ends with a fantastic guitar solo and truly encapsulates the sense of emotional chaos that comes with grief.
04. NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE - the muffled keys and piano make this song almost sound like something out of a Wild West film. It feels ominous and looming, like a slow build-up to a battle. The scratchy effect on Shinoda's voice is a little grating to the ears on first listen, but it becomes more bearable as the song continues. The song overall would have really benefited from some percussion. Nothing heavy or fancy, but a simple beat would have really made it stand out. As it is, though, the song does feel slightly unfinished because of this.
05. ABOUT YOU (feat. BLACKBEAR) - we arrive at the first track to contain a featured artist, though Shinoda still gets most of the limelight. A siren-like sound backs up Shinoda's visceral lyrics on how even when he tries to write something unrelated to Chester, it still ends up sounding like a song dedicated to Chester. Blackbear's feature, while certainly not bad, doesn't really stand out as anything special and sounds rather lacklustre and simple. The final breakdown is where the song really goes downhill. The hook is repeated again and again with a distorted vocal effect that is very jarring to the ears and brings a song with great potential down to a rather sour experience
06. BROODING - the only instrumental/ interlude track on the album is a haunting one. It starts out with the howl of a scratchy synth and some peaceful guitar strings before an explosive beat and bass enter the frame. The track ends with some ghost-like vocals, truly marking this song as a haunting yet strangely calming one.
07. PROMISES I CAN'T KEEP - Mike sings again on this one, and though the versed and chorus are nothing special, the breakdown is tremendous. Scratching is heard beneath a beautiful piano hook as Shinoda discusses how he can't see some of the promises he made to his friends and his family through. I feel like this song could have benefited from a more varied array of instruments used, but the wonderful breakdown more than makes up for this.
08. CROSSING A LINE - another punchy song, but this one is perhaps the most uplifting of the entire record. Shinoda's singing is probably at its best on this track as a synth-pop beat guides the song to a spectacular, dramatic finish. The message is potent as Shinoda discusses how even though he will move on from the tragedy, he still cares and will not forget it or those who helped him along the way.
09. HOLD IT TOGETHER - A quirky hook featuring a vocoder and a catchy chorus quickly put this song near the top of my list. Shinoda sings about how partaking in everyday situations can be a struggle when grieving, and the upbeat tone really helps the song achieve that bizarre tone its going for. I love it when seemingly upbeat songs have a dark subject matter in their lyrics, and this song is no exception.
10. GHOSTS - the autotune on Mike's voice isn't very well-concealed on this track, meaning it's one of the more forgettable and bland songs on the album. The breakdown after the chorus is fairly generic and filled with pop leads and synths. It gets pretty tiresome after the first few listens. The beat itself isn't too bad though and it's a rather catchy tune, but not one to return to that often.
11. MAKE IT UP AS I GO (feat. K FLAY) - though I've never listened to K. Flay before, her presence is a welcome one on this track. She sings the chorus and part of the bridge and she does a great job, though I would have liked to have heard Mike's vocals more prominently on the chorus too. The instrumental is great, with loud, tuned drum beats giving the song a much-needed kick. Some of the samples implemented are little too generic for my liking though, mostly featuring "woah"s and distorted vocals.
12. LIFT OFF (feat. CHINO MORENO and Machine Gun Kelly) - this dreamy track sounds like something from Mike's earlier work as Fort Minor, with lyrics reminiscent of his early work in Linkin Park ("Satellite tracking can't map up my tactics, I spit the same shit they split an atom in half with.") The pads during the chorus are a little too loud for my liking which means Machine Gun Kelly's vocals sound rather muted. He still sounds great though, as does Chino Moreno during his verse. Ironically, the song doesn't really lift off though, instead focusing too much on the dreamy aspect and not allowing many other elements of the song to shine.
13. I.O.U. - similar to the previous song, this track sounds a lot like Mike's earlier work. A machine-gun beat is heard underneath a cocky Shinoda in his element. I didn't think a song like this would be on the album, which is why I think it's probably the weakest song on the album. Shinoda's rapping is great but the song itself feels by-the-books with its simple rap beat.
14. RUNNING FROM MY SHADOW (feat. GRANDSON) - the album suddenly picks up again with this aggressive song. It builds upon itself wonderfully as Shinoda transitions between rapping and singing about constantly being reminded of the dark events that occurred. Grandson has a great voice too, and I would have like to have heard a greater presence by him in the song. Still, the final guitar breakdown is a highlight of the album that is certainly on par with Watching As I Fall and even slightly reminiscent of some of Linkin Park's music.
15. WORLD'S ON FIRE - Shinoda's vocal talents are ever so clear in this track, in which he sings and harmonizes beautifully about finding solace in loved ones when the world feel like it's on fire. An instantly potent and relatable message that is executed brilliantly. The song is very synth-heavy and there are some vocal manipulations which may not be to everyone's fancy, but I think it's a breath of fresh air in the context of the album and showcases Shinoda's vocal and musical talents at their best.
16. CAN'T HEAR YOU NOW - the album ends with this triumphant tune where Shinoda confirms that he is indeed moving beyond the tragedy and is attempting to find his stride again. Lyrically, the song makes for the perfect conclusion to the album, but sonically, it does feel slightly anti-climactic as it just stops rather suddenly. It doesn't SOUND like a closing track. With that being said, there are positives. There's a synth throughout that sounds a lot like the synth-pop sounding one in the pre-chorus of Crossing A Line. Whether or not this was intentional, I don't know, but it works to make the whole album feel connected and allows these songs to intertwine with each other even more with its related themes.
This album isn't perfect. Some songs do feel like filler and some of the featured artists aren't that impressive, however I cannot say that there are any songs that completely ruin the experience either. Mike is an extremely talented singer/songwriter. How he is able to channel his pain into the art of music is inspiring and I think his strengths are very clearly on show on this album. He conveys the plethora of emotions felt whilst grieving very well, and I've no doubt his music will give fans comfort and something to channel their own grief into.
BEST SONGS: "Place To Start", "Watching As I Fall", "Crossing A Line", "Hold It Together", "Running From My Shadow", "World's On Fire"
WORST SONGS: "About You", "Ghosts", "I.O.U."