A Tribute: How Chester Bennington And Linkin Park Led Me To The World Of Metal

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Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park on stage in Montreal 2014

Author’s note: I’ll apologise in advance if this comes off as a bunch of nonsensical ramblings. But this hurts. And the best way I know how to deal with it is to write. So here we are.

It starts with one. Or rather, it started with one.

In this particular case, the first one wasn’t even anything to do with Linkin Park. It was the end of “The Unforgiven II” by Metallica, which I caught the last 30 seconds of late one night on MTV2, back in the days when such TV channels actually a) played music and b) good music at that. That thirty seconds blew my mind, and the first seeds were sewn for a fifteen year plus journey into the world of rock and metal from which I’ve never looked back.

But when it came to the band who first drew me in on a truly regular basis, James Hetfield and co were not the ones to do so. Things like Damage Inc I thought were way too heavy and bands like Machine Head and Slipknot largely undecipherable at the time. Fate, in the shape of my friend Dave, led me initially to Limp Bizkit, who were chart darlings at the time with the likes of Rollin’ and My Way, who I enjoyed but still not at that point on a regular basis. Then, one night, whilst nerding out to the max at a ccg / tabletop gaming evening, one of the guys started playing music from his laptop. It was here I heard In The End for the first time, and I was absolutely hooked. Everything about it just worked; The combination of the vocals (which for me at the time was something completely new, having been largely brought up on a diet of classic pop with the odd bit of Oasis or Blur) blew my mind, as did that ocean sized chorus. I had to have more.

The next day, a trip to MVC happened, and after parting with something like £13.99, I had my first (not my last) copy of Hybrid Theory, and the door to the metal world, which was currently hanging slightly open was blown off its hinges. I listened to the album multiple times, every day, almost continuously throughout the two years of my A Levels. It was the kind of album that spoke to you on multiple, sometimes subconscious levels. It was also the kind of album that a group of sometimes slightly awkward teenagers could happy sit around singing as one and not feel at all weird about it. From THAT scream in One Step Closer to the almost soulful delivery in Pushing Me Away, Chester’s voice was just utterly addictive. From here, I returned to Limp Bizkit, then onto Rob Zombie, back to Metallica, and the rest as they say is history.

Metallica come to the fore in this story once again, as myself, Dave, and another friend decided to celebrate Dave’s 18th birthday in style by going to Dublin for our first ever Metallica show in the Summer of 2003. Who should be supporting, along with The Darkness, none other than Linkin Park. This particular chapter of my Linkin Park story does sadly not cover them in glory, as they were faced with a very hostile crowd, the majority of thinking seemingly thinking that Chester, Mike and co were not fit to be supporting their idols and they were heavily bottled for the first half of the set. A couple of times Chester and Mike disappeared to the side of stage, where I could see them talking to a stage manager or someone like that, clearly deciding whether to give up and call it a day. I was very pleased that they didn’t, and they worked hard the rest of the set to win over the crowd, with some success.

The first time seeing them at their own show, headlining at Wembley Arena later that year was a truly incredible experience. It was my first ever rock or metal arena show, and being able to get so close to the band I held in such high esteem, and especially Mike and Chester, was a night I’ll never forget. Over the years I was lucky enough to have many more amazing experiences thanks to Linkin Park. They were the first festival headliners I ever saw, on the first day of Download 2004, where they blew my mind once again. They were also the first rock band I had the pleasure of taking my wife (then fiance) to see in an arena, when we saw them at The O2 on the Minutes To Midnight tour in 2008, something I was very pleased to be able to share with her. Subsequent live encounters with them at other Downloads, Sonisphere and their own shows were always hugely enjoyable, with Chester’s voice never sounding less than wonderful on any occasion.

Although it is essentially picking highlights out of highlights, two things stand out above all else; Firstly the very special Minutes To Midnight pre-release show at The Astoria in London in 2007. Linkin Park just didn’t play anywhere smaller than an arena in 2007, so to see them in that tiny (by their standards) iconic venue, hearing Given Up and No More Sorrow (two of my all time favourite Linkin Park songs) for the very first time, along with a selection of the classics was just brilliant. I almost lost my shoe in the moshpit, having to literally dive on top of it at one point to rescue it and suffer the consequences of any punishment I got as a result. Secondly, Hybrid Theory in full at Download 2014. It doesn’t really matter that the rest of that performance after wasn’t quite up to their usual standards and that it was a bit flat. How were they ever going to follow performing that album in full for the very first time? I’ve rarely seen the fields of Donington so rammed, and that half hour was an exercise in mutual joy, shared by both band and audience. I’ve never seen Linkin Park, and Chester in particular, look so happy on stage as he did that day.

As it turns out, that was the last time I saw Chester perform, having elected to pass on their most recent UK tour which was only two weeks ago because of a combination of the ticket price and being very much less than enamoured with their newest album One More Light. So that memory of seeing him so happy on stage at Donington is something I’ll hold onto.

I know I can speak for a lot of people when I say thank you to Chester. Thank you for the album that helped shape the musical taste of so many people of my generation, and others. Thank you for another of my all time favourite albums, Minutes To Midnight. Thank you for always being nothing less than stellar every time I saw you live, no matter what personal demons you were battling at the time – and there clearly have been many down the years, as are very well documented elsewhere.

I keep coming back to the lyrics of the title track of One More Light. While a lot of Linkin Park songs have dealt with the issues of depression and/or mental illness (With You, Breaking The Habit, Shadow Of The Day, The Little Things Give You Away), in a way with One More Light Chester has almost written his own epitaph. RIP Chester, you will be missed so much by so many.

Should’ve stayed, were there signs, I ignored?
Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?
We saw brilliance, when the world, was asleep
There are things that we can have, but can’t keep

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

The reminders pull the floor from your feet
In the kitchen, one more chair than you need oh
And you’re angry, and you should be, it’s not fair
Just ’cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it, isn’t there

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

Well I do

If you think or know you are suffering from mental health issues in the UK, please visit Mind’s website or Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Please also call the Samaritans if you feel that you need to talk to someone, they will be very happy to listen.

In the US, if you are in crisis or need someone to talk to, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

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