Hybrid Theory is the debut album from Linkin Park, one of the most prolific alternative bands of the 2000s. Released in 2000 to massive success, Hybrid Theory launched the band into superstardom and remains not only the band’s most recognizable work, but one of the most recognizable albums of the 21st century.
There’s something alluring about Hybrid Theory’s blending of genres that instantly had me hooked. Even as someone who’s forever written off Linkin Park as too mainstream of an act, too adolescent-oriented of a band, there’s a certain dynamic in this album that can’t be denied.
The first thirty seconds of the opening track, “Papercut”, are enough to work in electro, rap, rock, and dubstep influences, all of which are handled excellently – fans of any genre would find something to admire in this track. Going past these large-scale factors, little things like the harmonics in the chorus layered under rapper Mike Shinoda’s vocals give depth to the song that set the tone for the album.
Then comes “One Step Closer”, where the intensity dials to the maximum.
“One Step Closer”, opening with a single raw riff, blows up into a sonically heavy barrage of what is easily an album highlight. With vocals that alternate between grit and straight power, and a subtly mixed guitar track that gives way to novel turntable effects, “One Step Closer” flies full in the face of the listener, bursting with lyrics (“Shut up when I’m talking to you!” is a more famous one among the band’s fanbase) that straight-up assault and brim with anger.
The rest of the album follows similar territory, treading unusual ground between soft melodies and biting, raging choruses. While the lulling piano in “In The End” brings much needed calmness throughout the album’s anger, often the calmness is but a red herring; the opening Latin-inspired strings in “A Place for My Head” make way to one of the heaviest mixes of turntables and drum beats on the album.
Perhaps my only criticism of the album are the lyrics. While it’s evident that effort went into writing these songs in the wake of their musical complexity, the lyrics feel as though the band tried a little too hard in relating to its audience.
Take, for example, a lyric from the chorus of “Papercut”: “It's like I'm paranoid lookin' over my back/It's like a whirlwind inside of my head.”
Sure, the lyrics mean something. But even then, it reeks distinctly of teenage “edge” – hell, this is some of the stuff I would’ve thought was deep at age 15. Another lyric from “One Step Closer” illustrates this similarly: “Everything you say to me/Takes me one step closer to the edge/And I'm about to break.” While these lyrics are far from mindless or contrived, they feel constructed to channel a youthful anger that covers nothing more than platitudes of adolescent angst.
Hybrid Theory takes the expertise of multiple genres and truly stands out on its own. If you’re only even a little into rock, rap, nu-metal, or punk, Hybrid Theory has something to offer for fans across the map. For an album that was released close to twenty years ago, Hybrid Theory stands up well as a modern classic.
Upon its release at the turn of the millennium, Hybrid Theory threw the band into ultra-stardom, cementing their status as one of the most recognizable rock groups of this century as the album became 2001’s biggest seller.
The album’s success, however, wouldn’t have come to fruition without the inclusion of frontman Chester Bennington in the band just one year prior to the album’s release.
“He really was kind of the final piece of the puzzle, and he brings vocal talent that, when we were looking for a second vocalist, we didn’t see anything close to his talent in anybody else,” said co-member Brad Delson.
Combine Bennington’s vocal prowess with the newfound style of their music, and their success with Hybrid Theory, and its singles in particular, feels like the perfect storm of all these little things. Hybrid Theory would go on to become Diamond-certified by the RIAA for sales of over ten million copies, a rare feat for an album in the 2000s with the advent of digital file-sharing.
One track in particular, “In The End,” saw stratospheric success when released as a single from the album, and is today considered one of the band’s most recognizable songs.
Bennington, however, wasn’t originally keen on the track.
“I was never a fan of ‘In The End’,” Bennington said, “And I didn’t even want it to be on the record, honestly. How wrong could I have possibly been?”
Hybrid Theory, and by extension Linkin Park as a whole, is often seen for the juvenility hidden under the adult heaviness.
“Hybrid Theory spoke to the teenagers who didn't mind getting sent to their rooms because that's where the cool shit in the house is,” wrote The Diamond in their retrospective on the album. “If a 16-year old half penned the stuff that pops up on Hybrid Theory, he'd kick back and savor the moment, thinking it was the realest shit he ever wrote.”
Yet for its musicality, the album today remains timeless, even if the band would eventually diversify its portfolio away from its nu-metal roots.
“While Linkin Park's evolution away from anything remotely metal-based means many original fans have fallen out of love with them,” wrote Team Rock, “Hybrid Theory remains flawless...its influence runs rampant.”
Linkin Park’s newest single “Heavy” off of their newest album, One More Light, launched last Thursday. The new album is expected to drop on May 19th of this year. Previous to the album’s announcement, the band had posted cryptic messages and image fragments on social media, leading to the reveal of the album’s cover.
“One of the reasons we picked ‘Heavy’ as the first single is because it’s kind of core to the sound of the album,” Shinoda said in regards to the new single. “This isn’t like a polka album with one song that sounds like this. This is how the album sounds.”
The song was performed live via a Facebook livestream on the day of the album’s announcement.
Next week’s album: Megadeth’s “Rust In Peace”