Linkin Park: Every album ranked from worst to best
Across seven albums, Linkin Park’s seismic impact on modern rock has been utterly undeniable. From their explosive entry into – and reinvention of – the nu-metal scene via mainstream-straddling crossover success, to their unabashed willingness to experiment and reinvent themselves, they were both the gateway act that brought so many bands and fans into the current scene and trailblazers in bulldozing the boundaries of what rock could be. Many snobbishly high-minded critics dismissed them as a guitar-wielding ‘pop’ band manufacturing music for the masses. They missed not only the burning spirit within these songs, but the sheer brilliance of that machine-tooled consistency and accessibility, too.
Although the tragic passing of Chester Bennington has – perhaps permanently – stemmed their output, the years since have allowed us to revisit that existing legacy and (re)consider the deeper meaning and value of these songs with greater perspective. Although each LP rightfully holds its place in fans’ hearts, it’s a fascinating exercise in charting their place – and importance – in one of music’s most compelling tales…
7. Living Things (2012)
In 2012, it felt like Linkin Park had entered something of a holding pattern. The experimental audacity of 2010’s A Thousand Suns had won critical plaudits, but left many fans cold. Living Things felt like a patent effort to recapture the slick bombast of their trademark sound without altogether jettisoning the electronic experimentation they had been riding the years previously. There are standout tracks here – the bombastically angsty Lost In The Echo, shimmering alt. pop lead single Burn It Down, powerfully emotional crystalline ballad Castle Of Glass – but the album lacks the adventure and forward-thrust of others. Listening back, you get the sense that these songs were written with a deliberately low-key approach. Although that shouldn’t mean you overlook the numerous flashes of brilliance on Living Things, it has ensured they’ve been the fastest of LP’s career to fade in the memory.
6. One More Light (2017)
It’s impossible to view the band’s final release with Chester without the benefit of hindsight. Objectively, the unheralded swing into pure pop territory made for some of their least compelling sounds (indeed, the decision to title one of their softest-ever composition Heavy felt like borderline trolling on release), but in the light of events that transpired in the album’s immediate wake, whole other emotional dimensions open up. We challenge any listener to hear Chester’s plea of ‘I’m dancing with my demons, I’m hanging off the edge,’ on opener Nobody Can Save Me without feeling the chill of poignancy and an immediate pang of sadness, while the title-track became a powerfully eulogical statement. Elsewhere, the intoxicating tech-noir of Stormzy/Pusha T collaboration Good Goodbye and the playfully melancholic electropop of Sorry For Now feel far more substantial further down the line.
5. Minutes To Midnight (2007)
After the all-conquering success of their first two releases, Minutes To Midnight felt like Linkin Park hitting some sort of cruise control. That’s not to knock it in the least. The sheer level of consistency is jaw-dropping. Given Up. What I’ve Done. Bleed It Out. Leave Out All The Rest. At the same time, there was the inescapable feeling that that consistency came at the price of invention. Infectious as these songs were, it felt like they’d had their rougher edges – and with them, much personality – buffed away. Was this the sound of Linkin Park being drawn towards the mega-selling mainstream homogeny of thin-air-breathing peers like Red Hot Chili Peppers and (whisper it) U2? While raging interludes like No More Sorrow fought off such accusations, the relatively sterile likes of Hands Held High, Shadow Of The Day and Valentine’s Day were less convincing.
4. The Hunting Party (2014)
An honest effort to bring the spirit and energy of real rock back to the mainstream – and perhaps an attempt to reconcile the rawer-edged inclinations Chester had been exploring with Dead By Sunrise and Mike Shinoda’s increasingly polished sensibilities – The Hunting Party felt, somewhat contrarily, like the band’s most daring statement to date. There aren’t many mainstream hits on show here, as Linkin Park let themselves off the leash. The opening wail of Keys To The Kingdom might feel a little disjointed, but fucking hell did it feel exciting! When Helmet’s Page Hamilton turned up on All For Nothing, System Of A Down’s Daron Malakian dropped into Rebellion and rap icon Rakim buoyed already-grandstanding lead single Guilty All The Same, it was clear that they’d steered into wholly different territory. Thrillingly so.
3. A Thousand Suns (2010)
Still arguably the band’s most divisive record (albeit run close by One More Light), A Thousand Suns felt like an enormous departure back 2010. A daring concept album grappling with the anxiety of a society piling into the unknown – technology, nuclear power, the tensions around political and sociological progress – this was a different band to the one who’d dropped the simple, crowd-pleasing Minutes To Midnight only three years previously. Hell, the fact the title is a reference to Hindu sacred text the Bhagavad-Gita (as quoted by nuclear innovator Robert Oppenheimer) signalled that before a note even dropped. Scaling back the rock instrumentation, ramping up the politics and allowing Mike to come to the fore, there were justified comparisons with Public Enemy’s 1990 masterpiece Fear Of A Black Planet on release. With almost a decade’s retrospect, such comparisons feel unnecessary. Tracks like When They Come For Me, Waiting For The End and Wretches And Kings were simply the sound of a band coming to terms – however momentarily – with the understanding that with great power comes great responsibility.
2. Meteora (2003)
Difficult second album syndrome? Not an issue for Linkin Park. Fans couldn’t get enough of what they were already mainlining so, understandably, simply adding additional layers of sheen and picking up right where Hybrid Theory left off, Meteora became an absolute monster. Firing out of the blocks with colossal single Somewhere I Belong (those old enough will remember its utter ubiquity for months on Kerrang! TV), things only ramped up from there with trademark tunes Faint and Breaking The Habit before the heartbreaking Numb would go on to become LP’s biggest song outright. Tellingly, although singles were still a crucial metric for the success of artists like Linkin Park at the start of the 21st century, the album tracks were every bit as memorable. Who can for get the shattering breakthrough from Foreword to Don’t Stay? The Growling heaviosity of Hit The Floor? The high drama of From The Inside? Meteora remains one of the greatest rock records of the past two decades in its own right…
1. Hybrid Theory (2000)
What more needs to be said? This is the awesome opening statement that – long after the nu-metal bubble has burst and faded from memory – looms heavily over every aspect of mainstream metal. On one level, it’s the introduction to each of the constituent elements of that titular Hybrid Theory that would carry its authors to superstardom: Chester and Mike’s vocal interplay; nu-metal riffage sharpened to an incredible cutting-edge; the fine-tuned balance of punch and melody, of rap and metal. On the other, it’s just an absolutely untouchable banger. In rock clubs around the world, One Step Closer, Papercut and Points Of Authority still see floors stomped on a nightly basis, while Crawling and In The End send throats home raw. Elsewhere, even relatively-overlooked cuts like the slamming Forgotten and By Myself still feel incredibly adrenalised. An irresistible mix of angst and innovation, this still feels as exciting today as it did the first time, standing as the ultimate monument to one of rock’s greatest-ever acts.
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