Some musicians wilt under intense pressure. Others thrive in that environment.
Arguably the most-hyped rock record of the new millennium (to that point), Linkin Park’s Meteora was the followup to Hybrid Theory – the band’s 2000 debut album that is still one of the highest-selling albums in music history. Almost overnight, the band went from rejections by almost every record label known to man, to being nominated for Grammy awards. In the span of a few years, Linkin Park became the most commercially recognizable face of nu-metal – even as many of their peers declined in popularity.
Eventually selling over 17 million copies worldwide, Meteora carried over much of the same sound as its predecessor – albeit with enough experimentation to keep things interesting. At a runtime of 36 minutes, Linkin Park wisely kept the runtime short and trimmed the fat – a problem which indeed plagued some of the band’s of the era. The choice of Don Gilmore as a producer was wise – as with Hybrid Theory, he was easily the producer who most understood what the band wanted to do. Recorded at NRG Studios, there was an added outlier of expectation given some of the legendary musicians that recorded there.
Tracks like “Breaking The Habit”, which dated back several years, were seriously risky moves. And they were certainly ambitious, too. Chester Bennington’s gift for singing – and screaming – was on full display all over the place. Whether it’s the vulnerability and desperation of “Easier To Run” or the unchecked aggression and rage of “Figure.09” and “Don’t Stay”, Meteora is an album that, while written by young adults, manages to be relatable to anyone who’s ever experienced the deep and confusing emotions of growing up.
Whether it’s the aggressive vocal interplay of Shinoda and Chester Bennington on “Lying From You” or the more nuanced, anthemic, and grandiose modern rock of “From The Inside”, Meteora is never boring. An album fueled by dynamics and contrast, it does bear strong similarities to Hybrid Theory – that much is certain. There’s even the requisite LP instrumental track, “Session”, which serves as a showpiece for DJ Hahn’s musical acumen.
The choruses on Meteora are some of the biggest Linkin Park have ever written. Whether screaming or singing with his trademark emotional tilt, Chester Bennington demands you pay attention the whole way through. Take a track like “Easier To Run”, for instance. A somber, introspective track, the subject matter is despondent and cathartic – anyone who’s suffered and experienced abuse and difficult situations might think this song was written for them.
Strong melodies are also key in Meteora’s accessibility. With Shinoda becoming more confident in his rapping and production skills, Chester Bennington is free to drive key songs like “Somewhere I Belong” and “Numb”, centerpieces that are also signaled by Brad Delson’s signature guitar crunch.
Meteora isn’t just a product of its time, though. Its impact can be felt through the evolution of bands like Of Mice & Men and Bring Me The Horizon, whose biggest commercially successful records oddly came when they both streamlined their sound into something bigger. Of course, it took those bands – and others – multiple tries to get there. It only took Linkin Park their first two times to create a sonic template for modern rock.