Updated: Dec 16, 2019
When Nu-Metal is discussed, it is often done so with a rather condescending, can-you-believe-people-actually-liked-this tone. Whether it's Limp Bizkit, Evanescence, or Korn, people ridicule it like it's a politician who hid in a fridge.
One band, however, tends to avoid the ridicule and onslaught of elitism that their compatriots receive: Linkin Park. Though the easy way to reason this is that Chester Bennington's tragic death makes people uncomfortable to criticise his band, the truth is that very few people did so even before that. Hybrid Theory and Meteora, the band's only two truly Nu-Metal releases, are both still held in high regard to this day, with 'In The End' and 'Numb' continuing to remain on playlists everywhere. It's a testament to the quality of the music that not even Nu-Metal's biggest detractors come anywhere near these albums with their criticisms.
Hybrid Theory, the band's debut, is a powerful record in more ways than one. Sonically, it mixed up the formula, using turntables, electronic elements and various production tricks in a far more prominent way than the majority of metal bands before them. They took the combination of metal and rap onto another level, mixing the rap style with Bennington's singing and creating a double-vocalist act, something that made them pretty unique. Despite the comparisons to Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park were clearly more advanced in their craft.
Then we come to the lyrics. Various themes include drug and alcohol abuse (Crawling), paranoia (Papercut), and other painful experiences that Bennington in particular had gone through (songs like Points of Authority and Runaway). Angsty and troubled teens at the time related to the hard and personal nature of these songs, and in Linkin Park, they found a way to release their feelings of pain and frustration. Perhaps this is the biggest reason why it received a platinum certfication in 22 countries, reaching that threshold 5x over in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK respectively - and 11x over in their homeland.
The critical reception at the time was mixed, but how often is that the case when a new band comes along with a fresh sound that some don't see the value of? This wasn't music for the critics, but for the people, and boy did it resonate with them. Hybrid Theory broke new ground and found a way to bring metal music into the mainstream - without having to compromise on the aggression to do so.
It also revitalised the metal genre as a whole, which, apart from a few good bands such as Pantera and RATM, had struggled throughout the 1990s. Linkin Park made the general public aware of metal again, reminding everyone that this a genre that will evolve, that will change, but will never die. It'll always find a way back and the success of Hybrid Theory proved this. It was a damn important album for the genre and that shouldn't be forgotten.
It should also be remembered that Linkin Park recorded a demo version of this album and sent it to plenty of record companies, only to get rejected time and time again. Mike Shinoda was told to rap more in the style of Fred Durst. Mike Shinoda said f*** you. The band's resilience and determination to stick to their guns and stay true to themselves is a lesson for anyone who is struggling in their walk of life. Linkin Park played over forty showcases and got a ton of rejections before they were finally signed. The album that stemmed from it became the biggest-selling rock album of the 21st century. That's a lot of eggs on the faces of a lot of record companies.
And if I could just get personal for a second, this album is possibly the most important one I've ever listened to. When I was about 7, in 2003, my brother copied this and Meteora onto either side of a cassette tape and handed it to me. I listened to it again and again, I had it on repeat for hours. This was the true beginning of my love affair with music and with heavy rock. So perhaps I'm biased when writing this review - but the truth is that I wouldn't be without Hybrid Theory.
So, to put it simply: it's a fucking great album.