I’ve never been the type of person to be star-struck. If I’m being honest, it’s only happened once. Her name was Juile Streble and she’s a local actress here in Louisville. I knew a local filmmaker and to support him, I purchased a promo poster. On this poster, the main cast sat on this bed surrounded by beautiful women in lingerie. Out of maybe 12 women, only one woman stood out to me. Juile Streble. By absolute coincidence, we were at the same local event and a friend of mine introduced us and I was a bit stunned. I’m sure I looked like a complete idiot, but we talked and became friends. I’m proud to have seen her in a couple movies like “Girl Number Three” and “One Must Fall”.
If this series is about music, why are you talking about a crush on an actress?
I tell that story to say that while I’ve never really been one to be star-struck by famous people, that doesn’t mean that famous people don’t still have a great impact on my life. Movies are important to me. Music is even more important. Sometimes a song or an artist can become the soundtrack to your life, even if it’s just a period.
One such band is Linkin Park. The band consisted of Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, Joe Hahn, and vocalists Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, the latter tragically committed suicide on July 20, 2017. I’ve heard of famous people dying before; it happens all the time. We’ve lost musical icons like Michael Jackson and Prince, but none of them had the impact as the loss of Chester. It’s been nearly five years and even as I’m writing this right now, I can feel the sadness and feeling of loss washing over me.
And while this entry isn’t about the artists, Chester’s unique voice carried a lot of their debut studio album, “Hybrid Theory”. The album was written by both Shinoda and Bennington and with the hindsight of Bennington’s suicide, I feel and hear the songs on “Hybrid Theory” a bit differently.
…or maybe the same way, just stronger.
Again, I’m not going to go track by track. And again, I’m going to discuss the introduction to the band and come back to the introduction to the album itself.
Before the year 2000, I’d never seen a rock band advertise their album on TV with a commercial. Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” was the very first one for me, showing bits and clips of their music video for the song “One Step Closer”.
The song starts with an electric guitar climbing up four notes and back down four notes before the band joins in full.
“I cannot take this anymore. Saying everything I said before. All these words, they make no sense. I find bliss in ignorance. Less I hear the less you say. You’ll find that out anyway” and later, “Everything you say to me (takes me one step closer to the edge. And I’m about to break). I need a little room to breathe (‘cause I’m one step closer to the edge. And I’m about to break)”
In October of 2000, I was just turning 17. Teenager Moon in high school dealing with all the things that teenagers dealt with at the turn of the millenium. Friends, foes, how I felt about girls, how those girls didn’t feel about me. “I find the answers aren’t so clear. Wish I could find a way to disappear.” - this spoke to me, as it surely did to many teens. “One Step Closer” was an anthem. To all the teens trying to navigate and deal with all the thoughts and emotions that seemed to conflict, this was an anthem. To any teen that was battling depression and struggling with mental health, to hear someone else who sounded just as angry out loud as we were inside say they were one step closer to the edge and they were about to break, we related to that; this was their anthem.
This was my anthem.
(Not to be confused with my theme. That comes later.)
With this album in hand, I was ready for whatever this Nu-metal/Alternative Rock album had in store for me.
You pop the album in and the first song is “Papercut”. This is exactly what you wanted from the beginning of Nu-Metal. If you didn’t listen to the words, it was still a head-banger of a song. You weren’t likely to start a mosh pit, but you were invigorated with energy once it all kicked off. If you did listen to the words, the song spoke to you.
“Why does it feel like night today? Something in the air’s not right today. Why am I so uptight today? Paranoia’s all I got left.” and later “ I know I’ve got a face in me, points out all my mistakes to me. You’ve got a face on the inside too. Your paranoia’s probably worse.” - Who doesn’t relate to that as a “troubled teen”? Going through your adolescence being paranoid about bullies, unimpressed parents, bossy-ass teachers, and the worst critic, ourselves. Looking at everything that we did and feeling like just absolute shit. Then someone tells you it isn’t, but you don’t trust people so it falls on deaf ears. Hell, in your mind, that person is lying to you anyway. Someone might call that a form of imposter syndrome, but it applied to life entirely.
In 2000, I felt exactly like that. I was “paranoid, looking over my back, like a whirlwind inside of my head; like I can’t stop what I’m hearing within.”
In 2022, at the age of 38, I feel the exact same way.
I listened to all kinds of music, as I hope this series will reflect, but none understood me like Linkin Park and there were no albums that made me feel more seen than “Hybrid Theory”.
“Crawling in my skin. These wounds, they will not heal! Fear is how I fall. Confusing what is real!”
The song, “Crawling” doesn’t start with yelling, per se, but an emotionally charged scream from within the soul of the tormented and while that may seem dramatic, it’s never really about how the outside world saw you. It was all about how we saw ourselves and what the view was like from the inside. Chester could have sung the opening the way he sings the lyrics of this song, but there is something about yelling through your pain.
The wounds that won’t heal are the results of trauma. The emotional and mental wounds that will not heal. Chester spends nearly the entire album speaking about pain. Personally, I spend so much time relating to the lyrics, it never occurred to me that I was related to the pain of the ones performing the music. Again, it was in the hindsight of Chester’s suicide that I realized how much pain the man was truly in.
“There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface. Consuming. Confusing. This lack of self-control I fear is never ending. Controlling. I can’t seem to find myself again. My walls are closing in. (Without a sense of confidence, I’m convinced that there’s just too much pressure to take). I’ve felt this way before; so insecure.”
Looking outside of the emotional connection, I was in my junior year of high school, with one year left after this and had no clue about my future. I had no confidence in anything I wanted to do. I still feel this pain and anxiety today. I felt every bit of this song. No matter what, this album delivered.
“It starts with one.”
“I tried so hard and got so far. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter. I had to fall to lose it all, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter.”
“In The End” was a song of hopelessness to me. How, no matter what you do, it doesn’t even matter in the end. Attempts were pointless; worthless. I was worthless.
I should clarify that the song did not make me feel this way, but on the contrary, helped my mind put words to the emotions I was dealing with. I was able to finally articulate the chaos I kept contained.
So, as some of you may know, I’m a huge wrestling fan. I used to wrestle in my buddy’s backyard and of course, every wrestler needs an entrance theme. Originally, I came out to “To the Moon and Back” by Savage Garden. (Look, I wrestled as a good guy and with a nickname like Moon in 1998-1999, it was an appropriate song. Don’t judge me!) In art class, a classmate who was also a wrestling fan, suggested “Place for My Head” by Linkin Park. At the time, I hadn’t listened to the album in as much detail as I would eventually, but once I went home and listened to that track specifically, with an entrance theme in mind, it was perfect!
“I watch how the Moon sits in the sky in the dark night, shining with the light from the Sun and the sun doesn’t give the light to the moon assuming the Moon’s going to owe it one”
With a 27 second intro, it gave me plenty of time to sike myself up for my entrance.
A break in the middle filled with, at first, a whispering Chester saying, “You try to take the best of me. Go away!” only to round out that break with the same words but louder, a scream. I felt all the energy. If I was to ever have an entrance, I’d come out to this song…
… and in fact I did! I managed to convince my wife to let me come to the altar to “Place for My Head” at my wedding. No wrestling theatrics though.
If you missed it, this was the aforementioned “theme”.
The entire album is a piece of musical art. I’m not the biggest fan of track 11, “Cure for the Itch” but it’s only because there is so much in the lyrics of the rest of the album that a DJ track feels… off. It’s not bad by any means, but when you have such a connection for the music/lyric combo, when you lack a piece of that, it just … feels off.
All in all, “Hybrid Theory” was the album for me at the time I needed it the most. It will always have that special place in my soul because of the way I connected to it and for that reason, Chester Bennington will have a special place in my soul. His loss was a powerful one. I’m blessed that I got to see Linkin Park live before his passing. It was the most emotional set I’ve ever set through.
Thank you, Linkin Park. Rest in Power Chester Bennington. May your spirit live through your fans forever.
- The Moon
And if you’re ever feeling suicidal and you’re needing to reach out for help, please do not hesitate. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.