When Chris Cornell died earlier this year I wrote that many journalists overstated the importance of Grunge as a genre. The opposite is true of Nu-Metal. Often derided- sometimes unfairly, sometimes not so much – what is forgotten was the impact it made when it first came out. Genuinely heavy music seemed to be in decline, popularity wise at least, killed off by Grunge, Punk and Hip-Hop. Then along came a genre that threw them all together and wrapped it all in big, fat guitars and shouty choruses. For those who were getting into music around that time here was a scene that was just for them, one that adults – even metal loving adults – just didn’t get. And isn’t that what getting into music as a kid is all about?
Linkin Park weren’t originators of the scene, Korn, Deftones and even Coal Chamber had laid the groundwork but Linkin Park were the band that took the formula and ran with it. They were possibly the last metal band to transcend the genre and hit the mainstream. Even your mum’s heard of Linkin Park. For 90s kids LP were their Metallica.
Chester Bennington was the figurehead for the band, possessing a truly phenomenal rock voice, regardless of whether you like them or not when you think about their songs you can hear him in your head, piercing through the electronic beats and staccato riffing. It is a voice that bursts out of the speakers. It is a voice we will never hear again.
Despite, or perhaps because of, their success there has always been a somewhat sneery attitude to Linkin Park, not quite metal enough, not proper rap, a lingering suspicion that they were manufactured but they built up a huge and loyal fanbase and released some truly iconic songs. It is difficult to imagine they’ll continue without Chester, and it’s perhaps a shame that their last album was so far removed from their rock roots that the lasting memory of the singer could be his rant at the fans of their earlier material, it diminishes what was a remarkable career by any band’s standards.
In the end the band couldn’t really claim to be metal any more, but for the generation that they introduced to heavy music perhaps it doesn’t even matter.
RIP Chester Bennington.