Throughout the annals of music history, there are just some artists or even pieces of individual music which you can’t help but think of when a specific genre is bought into question. If someone asks “What comes to mind first when you think about Pop music?” There’s a good chance you’ll think about the opening snare drum to Michael Jackson‘s ‘Billie Jean’, similarly for Rock music; the gang vocals of “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Opening up Queen‘s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ could be your go to.
By the turn of the century, Nu Metal had become a genre of increasingly growing credibility – with a backbone steadied by the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, and System Of A Down while the supporting cast featured bands such as Deftones, Godsmack, and Disturbed etc. Up to this point, the genre of Nu Metal could most closely be related to the grit of Korn, the attitude of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, and the political correctness of System Of A Down – but this was about to change.
In October of 2000, Linkin Park; a quintet from the sunshine of California released their debut studio album titled Hybrid Theory. It would leave an impact on not just Nu Metal, but on the music industry as a whole that no one could have foreseen.
To get some stats out of the way, Hybrid Theory would go on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it not just the greatest selling debut album of the 21st Century, but also one of the best selling records since the turn of the century in general. This is not to mention that the record is also the most commercially successful album of any kind of rock/metal genre of the century by quite a considerable distance.
There’s something ingenious that sits within the layers of Hybrid Theory which made the record catch fire in the way it did. You may hear the album referred to as one that “defined Nu Metal”, but did it? There’s certainly an argument to be made against that theory (no pun intended). Linkin Park certainly weren’t the first Nu Metal band to be using the now infamous disc scratches in the background of their songs, nor were they the first to implement lengthy rap sequences. Both Korn and Limp Bizkit to name a few, had been using these elements well before the inception of Hybrid Theory.
It’s fair to say then, that perhaps the Korn’s debut self titled record or possibly even Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other could be labelled as albums that truly set the stage for, and defined what Nu Metal could become. However, despite both of these efforts being majorly successful and works of art in their own right – neither of these have come within sniffing distance of what Hybrid Theory achieved, to tell the truth – nothing in the world of metal within the last 17 years has.
The answer becomes relatively simple when the choruses of the opening one-two punch of ‘Papercut‘ and ‘One Step Closer‘ hit, with the revelation being; no one could pull off a hard hitting chorus with a tint of melody like Linkin Park or more so Chester Bennington could. Not to make the suggestion that Linkin Park were ever a one man band, quite the contrary, in fact the ingenuity of Mike Shinoda‘s synthetics and coarse rapping style has added shimmering licks of paint to an incredibly accomplished, credible band since their conception.
But Chester’s brilliance and frankly bizarre vocal range when frankensteined together with the vociferous metal tones that surround him create for an atmosphere on the album which cannot be found anywhere else in Nu Metal. The opening screams of ‘Crawling’ set it up to be a three and a half minute punch to the face before Chester takes a diversion into a truly mellow verse, before the build up to the chorus screams again. It’s a level of vocal dexterity that had been done before, yes, but to this quality? Probably not.
With added melody can sometimes come added scepticism, and the Californian Nu Metallers were no strangers to this from certain crowds despite their rapidly growing popularity. Disturbed vocalist David Draiman recently admitted that the band had received some jeers and boos from Ozzfest crowds before ultimately, and expectedly, winning them over.
Hybrid Theory in short – became a phenomenon. ‘In The End’ was a Nu Metal anthem with a music video that seemed to flood every music TV channel, and Linkin Park had seemingly become poster boys of a genre overnight. The fact is, Hybrid Theory managed to drag in more casual fans than any other record of its type since its release, countries were enamoured with it, it was true domination.
While the record took a genre of already sizeable popularity and made it one of the biggest genres in music, it was here that potentially Hybrid Theory did damage. Seemingly every label wanted a Nu Metal band to come and make an album of similar style, they couldn’t stop thinking about the dollar sings. As a result – several bands started making their way onto the airwaves which probably shouldn’t have, and the high levels of quantity and much lower quality damaged Nu Metal severely, so much so that by 2003 the genre was pretty much dead in the water.
To put this into perspective – Limp Bizkit’s fourth record ‘Results May Vary’ was pretty much a complete departure from the genre, despite their most successful effort ‘Chocolate Starfish And The Hotdog Flavoured Water’ coming just three years prior and being as Nu Metal an album as you’re likely to find.
That’s what Hybrid Theory did, it took a genre to unforeseen heights and unintentionally almost single handedly destroyed it. Because of its brilliance, because of its ability to draw several new audiences in, because of its charm, and because of its bounce.
Whether or not you find Hybrid Theory to be Nu Metal’s defining album is irrelevant, the album was a gateway into new bands, new styles of music for so many, due to its ability to bridge musical gaps and twinkle the eyes of almost any age range, any demographic. Its importance cannot be simply tied down to is behemoth like sales, Hybrid Theory is an album the likes of which we will probably never see again, the epitome of breaking down barriers, Chester Bennington’s finest 40 minutes.