Album in Depth: Meteora by Linkin Park

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Ahh… Linkin Park. It’s one of those moments when I can say stuff about the band with little to no research at all, since, afterall, there are recent to my standards and I can say that I remember them, when they started with Hybrid Theory (the name of the band before the album Hybrid Theory), when they released the album in question, when they threw shit on the fan with that fucked up think with Jay-Z (whom I love, by the way, he just suits my style of music perfectly) and some minor stuff beyond, really. So… what the hell means Linkin Park? Beats me. A little background is required:

The year is 2003. The Wachowski brothers continued and destroyed what could’ve been one of the best sci-fi stories ever and the last one of the Lord of the Ring movies goes and wins the Academy Award. Slow year for music in general, with few headlines that matter: 50 cent releases “Get Rich or Die Trying” to very good critics and Barry White falls victim to his obesity, more specifically a total renal failure. N-Gage is released (much to gamers laughter), as well as Clamp’s manga XXXHolic, one of my favorites.

With the mix between Nu Metal and Hip Hop, mostly rapping, already proven right with the release of Hybrid Theory and its consequent ovation and critical acclaim, it was left to them to keep the bar up. After a turbulent start with lots of changes in the personnel, the guys that formed Linkin Park were Chester Bennington on the vocals, Mike Shinoda on the keyboard and vocals, Rob Bourdon on the drums, Brad Delson on the lead guitars, Phoenix on the bass and Mr. Hahn on… he’s the DJ of the group, for whatever reason you need one. After spending one year releasing single after single of this album, the album comes with generally great critics and is considered a staple of Nu Metal. So, right now, the problem is clear.

What the hell is Nu Metal? Well, apparently, it is a kind of metal that has all metal elements and some elements of other genres. Like hip hop and techno, in the case of Linkin Park. It is also syncopated (like most rock songs) and based on riffs (like most rock songs). Well, I won’t go in there because I’ve already covered that before and I don’t think it should be addressed again. Bands that started the movement include, not exclusively, Faith No More, Red Hot Chilli Peppers (both good examples of funk metal), Nirvana (grunge), Jane’s Addiction and Rage Against the Machine (which are two actual examples). To be fair, I don’t even get the concept, if it’s metal with something new, it is still metal. Anyway…

The cover is actually good with the theme, although Meteora reminds me of Meteor, and to be honest, I was expecting something more like the rock bands of the seventies, with something drawn on it. The cover is still good, despite that, with some hip hop elements, however, I find the lower part of it… kind of lazy. I know, I like covers like Back in Black, but this time around, I just don’t see the appeal to the whole black area. The entire album runs for about 36:34 with the longest song being Somewhere I Belong with 3:33 and the shortest song being Foreword with only seventeen seconds. Really, it’s kind of offbeat to see an album with the longest song being shorter than shortest songs on some albums I enjoy.

The album was really well received, with 4 multi-platinum on the US and overall first places around the globe. The 12th song Session ran for Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, but ultimately lost to Jeff Beck. So, with all that being said, let’s get this over with: Meteora by Linkin Park.

1st track: “Foreword” – This song can’t even be considered actually a song and I don’t even know why it is separated from the next one. It serves more as an intro to Don’t Stay, the second song, with sounds of water and a beat, but come on, that only works with concepts albums; and I know this one isn’t one. So, we have a 17 second piece that could serve, perfectly, as an intro instead as a whole song… great fucking start.

2nd track: “Don’t Stay” – After a painful intro (literally, with the headphones, it fucking made me have a terrible headache) with something that should be completely dismissed: almost interference noise and scratching, which I think at times are cool, but not with metal of this deepness. After the intro, the song goes a little milder, becoming a regular Linkin Park song, with Chester singing and screaming (by the way, I do not support Chester’s screaming in any sense of the word, I hate most of it, it isn’t well done, it seems like screeching at the microphone) with some electronic effect and a heavy guitar riff. I think this song sins with wearing her welcome: after the ass intro, it actually evolves into something that could be appreciated, but repeats itself a lot before ending, when the song doesn’t have anything else to offer. It isn’t unredeemable, it’s just repetitive.

3rd track: “Somewhere I Belong” – This is one of their most famous singles, so I won’t dwell on it for long. The lyrics are clever and easily understandable, since the title almost gave it away. This time around, Chester screams, but screams… well, so I don’t have anything to complain about the vocals, and I like the duality between his more tenor vocal mixed with Mike’s sort of rapping. The bass line is pretty strong, but again, I complain about the whole arrangement. There is a lot going on the background and the song doesn’t let you pay attention to it. There is, actually, sampling and you don’t get to listen to very well, since even when the song goes to an end, it goes in looping. So, even though I hate sampling, I could’ve said that there is an interesting strings on the background, that unfortunately, are eclipsed by the foreground of the song. However, I have to say that the song should at least be listened to, since it is good, at least far from the chorus. By the way, this is the longest song, but even though it loops, it doesn’t feel to be the longest… maybe because it’s only 3:33.

4th track: “Lying from You” – Lyrically, awesome. Musically, strange. They try to dual it out as they did in Somewhere I Belong, however, Mike’s rapping feels like Eminem, and I don’t know why. It starts with a strange sample and a syncopated beat, until it devolves into the overdriven heavy guitar and singing of your ordinary LP song. It is a kind of hidden good song, since it didn’t achieve the fame of their most famous tunes. It has way more use of the DJ aspect of it and less of the metal, however, it still is good, if you try to ignore the screaming… I don’t know, I just don’t like it… really don’t like it. Overall, good song with some strange, strange ideas. The lyrics are great, though.

5th track: “Hit the Floor” – Okay, this song wasn’t intended for the fan like me: it has a lot of rapping, a lot of screaming and, even though I think Chester vocals when he sings normally to be average, this time it sounds mellow and shitty. The song has a lot of samples and keyboards and a lot overdriven guitar, so… if you enjoy metal or rapping, or maybe the both mixed, you will really enjoy this song. If you like Linkin Park when they are more true to the spirit of rock and roll, you will hate it, pure and simple. So far, after Foreword, this was the worst song to listen to.

6th track: “Easier to Run” – This song is what I was looking for. Sure, I can spend hours saying how awesome the songs that people know are awesome are, but what about those songs that were kept hidden by more famous songs? This one is definitely a hidden gem. It has a kind of emo tone, sure, but it is great. The singing is actually on the edge of becoming screeching horridness but, as it keeps itself on the limit of that, it is exactly the level that is pleasing to hear. As a more sad ballad, I don’t think Mike’s rapping suited the song at all (in fact, I was thinking that maybe the song would be a mikeless, but I was mistaken), but the song has its highlights, definitely. The whole electronic area keeps the idea of strings, but it’s actually listenable, and judging by the intro, I was going to bash the song, as it sounds as a lazy start, but as the singing enters, you can see that the song has a differential. A must hear.

7th track: “Faint” – Another well-known song of the fans, however, this song for me never made the cut. Since the song is a really agitated one, it leans itself over a strong beat, a strong sample and a heavy guitar… and believe me, I think those three aspects works. However, the song is a bit too heavy for me. Although this song is an average to good song, I never saw its appeal as a single, since it’s mostly a shallow angst song with lots and lots and lots of screaming. The rapping, without lyrics at hand, sounds nonsensical, and the screaming reeks of “I’m angry and I don’t like it”. Maybe for the more aggressive fans, this song is a must, for me it isn’t. Even more right after the milder Easier to Run.

8th track: “Figure.09” – I think that this is the more metal song, as it reminds me of the little stuff I’ve heard of KoRn. With that being said, the lyrics seem intelligent, and that’s most of what I can say. It is heavily based on Mike’s rapping, however, Chester’s screeching is still present. The good news is that even though it still has its electronic shtick, it’s really downplayed and although the song is a bore, with the song repeating itself with some incredibly similar verses that give the impression the song is running in circles forever with 3:17 that seem to be 5 or 6 minutes… it becomes so average that it is bad type of song.

9th track: “Breaking the Habit” – This song was what made “oh, that average band that mixes digital with metal” become “Linkin Park” for me. It starts with a digital intro, and overall focus a lot on the electronic aspect, but without Mike’s rapping and a controlled singing from Chester with some intelligent screaming, a cool lyric that have actually some meaning and the outro with the change of tone make this music gold, with a screaming bridge that works the hell out. The only thing I think this song deserves is a solo, maybe even an electronic solo but a solo… solos make songs better. One thing that deserves noticing is that the drums are awesome, showcasing his ability for the first time on the album, at least prominently.

10th track: “From the Inside” – The song starts boringly with whatever you expect from a boring Linkin Park song… haven’t I listened to this song already? I mean… the feeling of déjà vu is ridiculous: is like it’s part of a formula… they definitely done this song before in this album… that bugs me. This one was a single and it’s not horrid, it’s just typical. This is a prime example of Linkin Park not taking any chances… it’s like Easier to Run and Somewhere I belong mixed together, but not exactly that. At first, I thought the lyrics were about depression, but as the song rolls around in itself, it’s just your typical love gone bad song, something that they already done a lot before as well. I’m starting to feel a pattern: a bad one at that.

11th track: “Nobody’s Listening” – This song starts fucked up, gets more fucked up and ends in a horrible, disgusting, complete crap shit hole of a crap fest that bugs the fuck out of me. It starts with some of the worse sampling fucking ever, with the sound of traditional Japanese flute, but then, you discover that it is a fucking rapping song. And since that is almost always the fucking worse part of their songs, is not that surprising to see that by focusing on that, you can really see where this is going. And when you finally get used to it, when you finally think “yeah, I know what they were thinking. They wanted to make a song for Mike”, Chester starts… saying loudly the lyrics during the chorus, sounding as a fucking kindergarten rhyme. And the worst part of it, it’s an angst song about people ignoring them. But here’s the problem: they always talk about how “angry we are because no one cares for us”. Well, maybe if you stopped the fucking emo talk, people would listen to you. Just saying.

12th track: “Session” – Good idea, really, an idea of an instrumental for an album like this one, going as far as saying that linkin park is heavily based on vocals and giving some attention to the instrumentation even sounds kind of weird for the band. However, it is a piss poor song. Dead simple, right? It’s electronic crap, mixed with a good beat and dj scratching and a lo-fi quality to it that makes the whole thing unbearable. I understand that it was needed, but it wasn’t well executed and you just hope that, since it’s 12/13 songs, the album is fading out of ideas. Let’s hope for the best in the outro. To believe that this song almost got a Grammy makes me hesitant about reality.

13th track: “Numb” – As the album ends with a single, it is to expect that it has some quality. It’s one of their most famous songs and was elected best song of the year it was released, however, I call it a bad decision to put a famous song on the end, since you usually put it on front as a visitor card so that people will be more inclined to listen to it all, although that idea also carries on with the best for last. The song is not actually my type, but I think for the first time, Mike sings, instead of raps. However, the premiers ends there, with more lyrics talking about angst love gone bad and a riff that, although catchy, isn’t worth the while of the entire song. It is an average to good and deserves to be listened to, but I think it wore me out because at the time it repeated over and over and over. Good ending to a not so good album.

So, how does it all hold up? Well, you can’t say that it doesn’t have its good times as you can’t deny the completely horrid moments. You have their staple songs (Numb, Breaking the Habit), some really horrid ones (Nobody’s Listening, Session, Hit the Floor) and a surprise hitter amongst the tracks (Easier to Run), so I guess it’s an album you have to listen to get the whole idea, but I wouldn’t suggest it to fans of the oldies like myself and metal fans, since they won’t like the electronic stuff. Maybe listening to only the good tracks will give you a best vision of Linkin Park than the entire album in one go. To be honest, for me it was hard to listen to it all over and over since the first time, so it takes some getting used to.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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