It’s hard to remember now, but there once was a time when Linkin Park was the top dog in the hardcore rock category. Between Chester Bennington’s unpredictable balancing act between sweet coos and piercing screams, Mike Shinoda’s deceptively complex rap verses and Mr. Hahn stylistic beats and musical tweaks on the turntables, Linkin Park was a pioneering force of nu metal, an ingenious and creatively hard-hitting blend of heavy rock and rap. After taking the world by storm with their gritty and raw debut album Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park returned with the same aggression and energy but a more refined sound and better studio production for their groundbreaking sophomore followup, Meteora. Linkin Park fans sit in two camps: those who hail Hybrid Theory as the band’s defining work, and those who cite the musical and lyrical progression of Meteora as a significant step forward. In reality, Linkin Park’s first two albums are remarkably similar, making it a bit of a toss-up choosing between the two. Meteora sounds more polished, but the band’s style hasn’t budged from their first outing; in fact, many songs feature parallel structure and themes, such as including another instrumental session or “Easier To Run,” a poor man’s version of “Crawling” from Hybrid Theory. When all is said and done, these two records are neck-and-neck, but Meteora pulls away to win the race by a nose as Linkin Park’s best album.
“Faint” features some of Mr. Hahn’s best turntable work on the entire album, while Bennington delivers the screams of each ferocious chorus with power and anger. Rob Bourdon’s lively drum beat and Brad Delson’s resonant guitar riffs give this song an incredibly electric atmosphere, especially as Shinoda’s verses build up momentum into Bennington’s brutal choruses. Although it doesn’t even last for three minutes, “Faint” is an incredible pump-up song and memorable addition to Meteora.
“Breaking The Habit” deviates from the in-your-face guitar riffs and over-the-top screeching a little bit for one of the lighter tracks of Meteora, but the passion and energy remains firmly intact as Bennington wishes for more in a brooding and darkly introspective pseudo-ballad. The slightly upbeat drumming mixes well with the repetitively pensive riffs, lending to the song’s dramatic nature as Bennington declares “I don’t know what’s worth fighting for, or why I have to scream / I don’t know why I instigate and say what I don’t mean / I don’t know how I got this way, I know it’s not all right / So I’m breaking the habit, I’m breaking the habit tonight.”
Saving the best for last, Linkin Park delivers the iconic “Numb” to close out Meteora in epic fashion. The memorable keyboard notes, Bennington’s hoarse vocals and Shinoda’s background emphasis combine with heavy guitar hooks and Dave Farrell’s resonant bass to give the song its kick, making it the best song of the album.
Hybrid Theory was a phenomenal debut, with a number of wonderfully wicked standout tracks. But for all of the power and angst within those shining stars, a few songs fell short in comparison. That being said, Meteora is a more composed and consistent entry throughout, with plenty of hit singles to make it a better all-around album. The compositional progression is undeniable, and although that very progress ultimately led to Minutes To Midnight and the dismally experimental travesties that followed, Meteora marks the pinnacle of Linkin Park’s balance between hardcore, rap, and experimental elements on the turntables. Despite leaving the unrefined sound of Hybrid Theory behind, the band’s sophomore followup retains all the angst and staying power of their debut, packing the same dynamic and unique punch that fans craved. From the orient-influenced “Nobody’s Listening” to the explosive leadoff “Don’t Stay,” Linkin Park explores the unanswered questions of strained relationships and life in general with heavy and awesome dose of nu metal. Fans of Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Rise Against and Atreyu will thoroughly enjoy Linkin Park’s Meteora, not only for its hard-hitting sound, but for the refined artistic touches that make this intriguing blend of musical genres work.
Final Score: 9.8/10
Rank: 1st (five total albums)
- Don’t Stay
- Somewhere I Belong
- Lying From You
- Hit The Floor
- Easier To Run
- Breaking The Habit
- From The Inside
- Nobody’s Listening