OAAR: Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)

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Hybrid Theory, the very first album from new band (in 2000), Linkin Park. It was back in the era of music videos on MTV (believe it or not) which I'm pretty sure is how I discovered Linkin Park back then. I remember them coming on the scene with their first single, "One Step Closer," which is still one of the most popular Linkin Park songs. I also remember thinking, after picking up the album, how short the CD is, coming in right around 35min. The album is so good that I always wanted to have more which made both listening to this album and waiting for Meteora that much more of a pain.

Hybrid Theory definitely comes on with a strong beginning, opening with "Papercut" and introducing us to the heavy riffs, Mr. Hahn's samples, Mike Shinoda's relatively simple rhymes and Chester Bennington's sometimes clean/sometimes gravely voice. Moving right along to the head nod worthy "One Step Closer," Linkin Park gives us a clearer view of Chester's singing and screaming abilities while piling on the heavy riffage. Continuing on through the first third of Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park's sole purpose is to convince you that their equation for music is one you want to subscribe to with more great examples of how both Chester and Mike can work together to give something more than what you might have been used to at that time.   This brings us to the next third of the album kicking off with one of my personal favorites, "Crawling." In high school, most of the excitement came around new music video releases, and the music video for "Crawling" was no different. Of course at a time like High School where you're trying to establish an identity, the video can speak to you, but really, it was the combination of the smoking hot chick plus the subtle blue hair that Shinoda was sporting at the time that stuck out to me (I never actually got around to dying my hair the same color unfortunately).

It's funny, actually, listening to this album again 12 years later (christ, it's been that long already?) because much like Meteora, I never realized how much Shinoda is the lead. It was always billed as being Chester's deal and Mike is just the backup/guitars, but after looking at this and all the other Linkin Park albums, I've realized how important Mike Shinoda is to the whole thing.  After "Crawling," the rest of Hybrid Theory is very good, but nothing ever quite gets back to that 5 level. What was interesting was Mr. Hahn's feature track, "Cure for the Itch" which is a fun track but is just a bit out of place here. The last track, "Pushing Me Away" pulls this whole crazy first outing together with the guitar riff made of the muted harmonics which, at the time, I learned how to play. It's close to perfect but just doesn't quite get to as good as it could so it'll have to settle for a 4. Overall, I think this is still one of the best Linkin Park albums of all time and still is a cohesive album so it's one of the higher scores on OAAR to date.

Author: Jake

About the turn of the century, as I was entering high school, there were four* rock/metal albums that came out that significantly shaped my musical appreciation and dreams of rock stardom.  Linkin Park's debut, Hybrid Theory, was one of them.  Easily the most original take on the rap-metal hybrid that would eventually become part of the nu-metal sonic spectrum, Linkin Park's sound was catchy, aggressive, and radio-friendly (in a way that say, Disturbed, was not), but never bowed too far in the sappy/plastic direction (I'm looking at you, Staind).

The true strength of Hybrid Theory is how many sides of the same sound the band is able to present, coherently, in just around three minutes a pop.  Take "A Place For My Head" for example.  A staccato and simple opening guitar riff is built on with some complementary sampling by Mr. Hahn before the vocals kick in, and once they do the complex rap Mike Shinoda delivers is the closest thing I've ever heard to rap poetry.  The song is a three minute intensity plateau (hence its 3 rating) but is also a hint at how good Linkin Park could – and can – be when it comes to song composition.

The uniqueness of Linkin Park's sound is obvious on the first three tracks ("Papercut", "One Step Closer", "With You") as the send and receive between the sung vocals and rapped phrases is presented so seamlessly you would believe it occurred in every song in history that has at least three chords.  The highlight of the band's musical gamesmanship, however, is the Hahn showpiece "Cure For The Itch", which illustrates how to use a DJ in a way that is more than just sound effects and samples.  The angry edge that is present on so much of this album – even the heavily melodic tracks like "Crawling" and "In The End" – is probably responsible in some pseudo-psychological way for how much I enjoy this album.  Even though the more raw aspects of Hybrid Theory appear in decreased amounts (if at all) on the band's subsequent albums, the hook was essentially set the first time I heard "One Step Closer" driving around in my cousin's car one Friday night looking for something fun to do.  Music history is littered with debut albums that were followed up by disappearing acts, but this is most definitely not one of those cases.  Hybrid Theory remains Linkin Park's most compelling album to date, and if you don't believe me cue up iTunes and give yourself over to 38 minutes of nu-metal nostalgia.  You can thank me later.
Author: Pete

(*) The four were:
Disturbed - The Sickness

Godsmack - Godsmack
Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory
Staind - Dysfunction

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