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Hit Parader Natural Born Rockers

Friday, February 11, 2005

Linkin Park: Natural Born Rockers

As a generation of musical listeners, fans of New Millenium metal are being forced to grow accustomed to the amazing rate of change that currently exists within the medium. Seemingly every day new bands spring forth, each of whom incorporate radically different concepts into their musical presentations-each adding valuable substance to the foundations their predecessors had helped construct. While at one time in rock history such an evolutionary process could take years - if not decades- to reach full fruition, thanks to such forces as the internet, and even MTV, such radical changes now seem to occur on a day-to-day basis. Quite simply, what was yesterday's "cutting edge" has now mutated into today's "mainstream."

Linkin Park is a band that perfectly reflects this amazing trend in musical transition. As shown throughout their debut disc, "Hybrid Theory," this is a group that has grown up in an environment where melding rap with metal, hip-hop with hardcore is no longer some grand "experiment." For vocalist Mike Shinoda, vocalist Chester Bennington, guitarist Brad Delson, drummer Rob Bourdon and turntable wiz Joe Hahn, melding such diverse musical reactants is the way music is supposed to be played. For these guys such diversity simply reflects the music they grew up listening to, and when added to the strong melodic sensibilities that this LA-based unit shows throughout their album, you end up with what may very well be hard rock's next evolutionary step.

"Nothing is contrived with us, it's all natural," Shinoda said. "Our goal has been to bring together a lot of really different and distant musical elements. Nothing is set and nothing is safe. This is a continually evolving experiment that sometimes surprises us as much as it does the fans."

Originally formed by these five high school friends under the name of Hybrid Theory back in 1996, Linkin Park started life the hard was. Despite having few industry contacts and only minimal musical background, they set to work building up a grass roots following that would come from both near and far in order to hear the band play at various small shows throughout the Southern California area. Soon these loyal followers had been recruited as "foot soldiers" in the groups's fast-growing musical army, passing out flyers and generally getting the message out about this exciting young band. The word-of-mouth obviously did its job. After two years of perfecting their complex sound and honing their songwriting edge, the band decided to cut a self-financed, three song EP. That effort eventually landed on the desk of a major label executive, who upon hearing the band's hook-laden metal-meets-rap sound quickly moved in to sign the band to a record deal.

"We've been lucky in that we've been able to really take time to work on our music and get it just the way we wanted it to be," Shinoda explained. "There wasn't pressure to compete with other bands on some 'scene' and we didn't feel the need to fit in. We were off doing our own thing, drawing on all our inspirations and interests."

Linkin Park's "own thing" dynamics have certainly paid dividends on their debut disc. Throughout 'Hybrid Theory' the band's often starting ability to shift gears from plaintive, compelling musical interlude to full-throttle metallic roar (often within the matter of seconds) marks them as a band in full control of their rock and roll ingredients. On such songs as 'Crawling,' 'Points of Authority,' and their debut single, 'One Step Closer,' these guys manage to rock, rap and rant with an ease and power that is almost alarming. We all had better watch out for Linkin Park because they may very well represent the sound of hard rock's future. We better grab hold of it before it passes us by.

"We want to shake things up and shake people up," Shinoda said. "But not in a shocking way. We want them to hear our music and go, 'Wow.' Some bands seem like all they want to do is get attention through their look of their attitude. We want the focus to be on what we create."