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Music

Revisiting Chester Bennington's masterpiece 'Hybrid Theory'

When the news broke of Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington’s death in 2017, the world was left reeling. Revealed to have been a suicide, it left a hole that has never been and will never be healed. Bennington was a great man, following in the same footsteps of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who always espoused a kind nature and a perceptive take on the world. This only heightened the sense of loss. This was one of the most iconic musicians of all time and a perpetual force for good. 

Bennington’s long battle with his personal demons is well known, and ultimately, it is this that has been attributed to him feeling that there was no other way out. 

Giving us a concise account of the Linkin Park frontman was Fred Drust of Limp Bizkit, who told Billboard that Bennington “had a way of making anyone he spoke to feel heard, understood and significant. His aura and spirit were contagious and empowering. Often those types of people have so much pain and torture inside that the last thing they want is to contaminate or break the spirit of others… As real and transparent as our conversations would be, he was always the one projecting light on the shadows”.

It would be unfair to the legacy of Bennington if we concentrated on the darkness in his life. Despite the many trials and tribulations he overcame, he managed to leave us with a stellar back catalogue. Regardless of what you think of their later output, you cannot doubt that at the start of the new millennium, Linkin Park were the best band on the planet. Their first two records, 2000’s Hybrid Theory and 2003’s Meteora, are classics and will remain so. 

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The California band are often and wrongly regarded as a nu-metal band, which they are not. Their first two records are alternative metal masterpieces, and what they did with the blueprint set out by the likes of Faith No More and Deftones is remarkable. The way the sextet managed to fuse metal with the electronic was nothing short of groundbreaking.

Undoubtedly, Bennington’s magnum opus is Hybrid Theory, and his character colours the record. Augmenting the incredible musicianship was the power of Bennington’s vocal delivery. Duly, one would argue that he makes a strong claim for being the best rock vocalist of modern times, tussling with his late friend Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.

Bennington is consistently brilliant across Hybrid Theory. A smash-hit, his dark Generation X-style lyrics dealt with a whole host of dark themes and were a means of the frontman coping with the hardships he’d faced in his life. Whether it be his parents’ constant fighting and divorce, drug use or sinister internal thoughts, Hybrid Theory is the best reflection of the complex inner-workings of Bennington’s mind. 

Indicating the self-awareness that we all loved Bennington for, he explained the angle he wrote Hybrid Theory from in a Rolling Stone interview in 2002: “It’s easy to fall into that thing — ‘poor, poor me’, that’s where songs like ‘Crawling’ come from: I can’t take myself. But that song is about taking responsibility for your actions. I don’t say ‘you’ at any point. It’s about how I’m the reason that I feel this way. There’s something inside me that pulls me down.”

A truly cerebral album, reading the lyrics to the songs are akin to reading Bennington’s diary. The opening verse of the album opener ‘Papercut’ clearly delineate the kind of themes that comprise the album clearly: “Why does it feel like night today? / Somethin’ in here’s not right today / Why am I so uptight today? / Paranoia’s all I got left / I don’t know what stressed me first / Or how the pressure was fed / But I know just what it feels like / To have a voice in the back of my head”.

There’s much to love about Hybrid Theory. It’s a flawless album. Although the music and production is absolutely astounding, Bennington’s vocal performance and the challenging themes he presents us with have to assume the top spot. Filling the void left by Nirvana, this was music for the future, and in terms of lyricism, it was way ahead of its time. 

It’s a testament to him that you hear many crucial aspects of his poetry reflected across the charts today with the likes of Billie Eilish, Machine Gun Kelly, Yungblud and Bring Me The Horizon all taking many of their cues from the man who wore his heart on his sleeve in such a defiant manner. 

So on what would have been his 46th birthday, why not jump back into the world of Chester Bennington and remember his talent? His story remains a pertinent one. It’s never wrong to speak up when you’re struggling. No matter where you are, it’s always better to discuss the machinations of your brain than to keep them bottled up. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

For anybody who might be struggling to deal with mental health issues, here are some helpline numbers for you to talk to: 

Mind

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)

Website: www.mind.org.uk

Anxiety UK

Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.

Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)

Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk

No Panic

Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and OCD. Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.

Phone: 0844 967 4848 (Daily, 10am-10pm)

Website: www.nopanic.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness

Support and advice for people living with mental illness.

Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)

Website: www.rethink.org

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

America’s largest grassroots mental health organisation dedicated to building better lives for the millions affected by mental illness.

Phone: 800-950-NAMI (Mon-Fri, 10am-10pm)

Website: https://nami.org/home

The Jed Foundation

Nonprofit organisation committed to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide for America’s teens and young adults.

Phone: 1-800-273-TALK (Daily, 24 hours)

Website: https://jedfoundation.org