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LIИKIИ PARK—Reanimation [Finely Tuned]

When Linkin Park arrived at the scene, the concept of fusing rap with metal had already been done to death. The idea was conceived as a unique way of bringing together styles of music from two completely diverse cultural backgrounds. At this point, however, it was getting increasingly difficult to find a band that had something new to offer.

True to its name, their debut album, Hybrid Theory, breathed life into a music industry that had started to shun its innate instinct for originality. Keen not to let the rhythm sections drown amidst a mire of impassioned rap verses and infuriated screams, it strikes a delicate balance between instruments and vocals.

Guitars do not dominate the overall sound, but have instead carefully been placed into the mix in accordance with the overall direction of the music. Abandoning the standard playbook most metal guitarists seemingly turn to when writing riffs, they ventured out on their own, masterfully devising their own sound. Chester and Mike seamlessly handle vocal duties, drifting in and out of the background without any indications of power struggles for the spotlight.

Linkin Park, circa 2002. L to R: Chester Bennington (vocals), Dave Farrell (bass), Rob Bourdon (percussion), Brad Delson (lead guitar), Mike Shinoda (vocals, rhythm guitar). Mid-air: Joe Hahn (turntables)

It didn’t come as a surprise, then, that Hybrid Theory took off as soon as it was released. Suddenly, this six-piece who had scarcely played outside Los Angeles, had stadiums of people the world over, chanting their names. This frenzy of touring lasted two years, during which Mike Shinoda could not possibly let his creative juices stop flowing. Setting up a ProTools studio in the back of their tour bus, he began tinkering with some tracks while writing material for their next album.

Alongside bandmate Joe Hahn, disc-scratching virtuoso and connoisseur of electronic beats, he set off to remix Hybrid Theory, depicting it in a completely new light. The aim was to showcase the hip-hop side of Linkin Park’s influences—what Mike grew up listening to in the Japanese ghettos of L.A. So he toned down the guitar work, and laid emphasis on the beats and electronica.

Christened Reanimation, this gave hardcore LP fans a chance to hear their music in its rawest form, before it goes through the process of hybridisation with metal. They roped in several guest artists for this record, almost exclusively from the world of underground hip-hop, whom Mike looked up to. Featuring them on this record was his way of helping them gain some well-deserved recognition.

The cover art for ‘Reanimation’, which was designed by Mike Shinoda himself.

The album greets us with a foreboding violin piece. Bow being drawn leisurely across the string, it escalates from a lull that makes the hairs on your neck stand on end, to a squealing high. Without warning, it cuts to the next track, that sounds oddly familiar.

It soon dawns upon you that this is PTS.OF.ATHRTY, with the crunching guitar aggression of its original counterpart being traded in for a more electronic sound. Like a bolt of lightning streaking across the sky, suddenly putting all your senses on high alert, Mike storms onto the scene. Making his presence felt, he grips the microphone with all the ferocity of a huntsman and his rifle. He takes aim, launching a diatribe on defeatists who half-heartedly try their hand at things, only to bemoan their fate when the pieces fail to magically fall in place. 

The dynamic of lyric-writing in Linkin Park has always been that Chester and Mike sit together and deliberate over what they would individually like to convey in the song. They then find a way to express themselves while making sure the message still comes across. 

Our first dose of the Bennington barricade stealthily sneaks in on us. In a soft, daresay angelic tone, he sings about someone who derives pleasure from playing the role of victim. Casting bait with tales of their tragic state, they reel in sympathisers who can be manipulated to do their bidding. Sooner or later, these innocent people realise their feelings are mere strings for this sadistic puppeteer.

At this point, however, they are far too emotionally debilitated to defy his authority. This is when Chester gives voice to the incensed fits of post-traumatic agony as he shouts, “My life, my pride, is broken!” A frantic roll on the electronic drums leads to a jam of heightening pace, as sound effects in the backdrop give one the notion of being on the run. Screams that build up in intensity, reach a higher pitch with each line, as Chester calls out this manipulator for the fraud they are.

It was an absolute pleasure to watch this played live. Mike and Chester would take the stage at opposite ends, splitting the audience between them. Chester joins Mike in rapping the chorus, as the two raise one arm and sweep it from side to side, getting the crowd to join in. During their performance at Road to Revolution in 2007, Mike freestyles at the end as Brad plays a riff specially designed to get the mosh pits going.

The infamous piano melody that always had everyone tapping their fingers, undergoes a complete makeover in Enth E Nd. Broken down at the intro, it plays in loops before the drums kick in, and get the hip-hop groove going. The first of many guest artists on this record, this was the brainchild of the MC for this track, Motion Man.

This time around, Mike offers his perspective in a much less pessimistic, and more philosophical manner. Instead of lamenting about wasted time, he reflects on how needlessly obsessed he was with it. Some of us might bloom later than others in life, but what matters is that we stayed rooted long enough to watch ourselves blossom into something beautiful. Although we might have lost a little more time in getting there, the longer journey only enriched us with boundless wisdom.

As the track heads for its own end, Chester’s chorus vocals are altered to give the impression of a human singing through the voice box of a robot. Motion Man scratches his discs to a medley of rhythms while Chester’s voice continues to trail off beyond lengths humanly possible.

A still from the music video for ‘Enth E Nd’. L to R: Kutmasta Kurt, Mike Shinoda, Motion Man

We now plunge into the land of the FRGT/10, the crowning moment of this entire album. A brief interlude reminiscent of a pinball machine succumbs to the might of the thundering bassline that drives this entire song. Mike delivers verse after scalding verse through clenched teeth, without missing a single beat.

Malice in his words drips like poison from the fangs of a rattlesnake. His flow is so smooth, it feels like the front wheels of a car locking in place as it drifts along a curve. Freshly fallen droplets of rain scatter in all sides, as its alloy rims glisten beige under the glow of a streetlamp.

The driver inches the steering wheel to the left, and it responds with due compliance to its master’s wishes. Rear wheels still rev at full speed, as the car sweeps along the turn. The engine lets out a feeble roar under the hood, as he releases his grip from the handbrake and gives life to the accelerator. Like a spirit watching from the distance, Chester sings with a hollow, faint voice in the background about being lost in memories.

There isn’t a seatbelt tight enough to keep your heart strapped in during the emotional rollercoaster that is P5HNG ME A*WY.  Piano keys ring out with the fragility of tip-toeing over a lake of ice that could crumble any minute. One belligerent guitar chord darts in and out, joined in by the trudging of kick drums as if catabolising into something much more potent.

The anguish in Chester’s voice comes out clear as day, as he summons it from a place far more abyssal than first glances can reveal. This song is about his ex-wife, and how deeply he regrets allowing her to treat him the way she did. Wounds left by a person on the soul, bleed more profusely depending on how close they got to you before finally lodging the knife in.

So when he thinks of the torment she inflicted on him—the agony of being ignored by someone he felt so strongly for—his inner demons refused to stay shackled any longer. He parts his lips and they come out in the open, relieving him of this burden weighing down on him like a ton of bricks. Guest singer Stephen Richards descends into the chaos, the bearer of relief. In a nasal-sounding baritone, he serves as the voice of reason.

Playing this game of giving each other the cold shoulder is pointless, he pleads. As if alleviating Chester from his misery and lifting him away from his troubles, the two sing in harmony. The sound of their voices resonating with one another, hitting that common frequency as they collide in mid-air, feels like witnessing a church choir.

Mike and Chester during a live performance of ‘P5HNG ME A*WY’

PLC.4 MIE HEAD lacks the Spanish-style clean electric guitar that gradually gets distorted with every lick, until the whole band implodes when Mike unleashes his verbal assault. Instead, he does it with nothing but a drum beat pounding in the background. This proves that the heaviness in that song does not come from the instruments, but from the weight of his words.

In perhaps one of the most poetic rap verses ever penned down, he stares into the void of night and keenly observes the moon basking in the glow of the sun. The sun, he remarks, does this for the moon out of the goodness of his heart, without expecting anything in return. So why do some people like to keep score of all the times they’ve helped someone? This is the mark of a poetic genius.

This song was a staple at live concerts during the Hybrid Theory/Meteora era. In the mid-section, there is a sinister-sounding bass lick. Dave Farrell plays this repeatedly, creating the atmosphere of treading through a haunted house amidst a forest of dead trees.

The air hangs rife with tension, as Mike whispers, “You, try to take the best of me…”, pointing at the audience, who shout, “GO AWAY”. All the while, Chester presses the mic to his forehead, letting out what can only be called a wheeze. After the fourth time, he grabs the mic and invokes a growl from the depths of his stomach. It was as if he had been absorbing the crowd’s energy this entire time, and was now reflecting the intensity back at them ten-fold.

Of the bonus tracks featured on this album, MY<DSMBR (My December) is the most memorable by far. Opening with an assortment of sounds such as alarm bells ringing and circuits buzzing to life— it truly gives off the futuristic aura of being a reanimated track. A melancholy piano ensemble fades in through the sonic haze, matched by Chester’s meek, saturnine feebleness.

He was never one to fake his emotions when singing. Going through Linkin Park’s discography, you can feel him giving a piece of his heart. With every grief-stricken shriek, every line about holding one’s ground in the midst of this sandstorm called life. This song, in particular, has a stanza by Mike that especially runs deep.

“And I, can’t help but feel like there was something I missed. And I, take back all the things I said to make you feel like that.” In the course of life, people are going to touch us at our very soul, inscribe their names onto a fragment, and walk away with it forever. This could be a friend, family member, even someone you’ve never met. Like Chester Bennington, who parted ways with life on Earth, taking with him countless hearts of those whose lives he’d saved, before he took his own.

After his passing, Mike wrote a song called Looking for an Answer. In it, he asks if he is somehow to blame for what happened. Was there something more he could have done to help his brother? An unfortunate truth about life is that everything comes to an end, even if it once gave us unbounded amounts of joy. It is but human to wonder, like Mike does in both the above songs, if there was anything that could have been done to change the outcome. To wish mistakes could be taken back. But that’s the thing about mistakes. They weren’t intended to happen in the first place.

It is for this reason that Linkin Park was a band that was truly one of its kind. Through their music, some were inspired to follow their examples and keep fighting through life’s hurdles. Others, at the very least, absorbed the positive energy it gave them, and used it as an outlet for all the negativity. Although there can never be another like them, one can only hope that artists follow their example and make music solely for the sake of self-expression.

 

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