On May 19, 2017, Linkin Park released the album "One More Light", Chester Bennington's last album with the band.
We must say that expressing ourselves in this review has been challenging. We have been filled with emotions, reminiscing, and undergoing a tumultuous inner battle between instinct and logic. Thus, we would like to begin this review by sharing a quote from "Metal Hammer" magazine:
“With One More Light, Linkin Park have waved goodbye to Rock!!"
Now Let's Go Back A Little...
Our disappointment as devoted Linkin Park fans began with the release of their album "The Hunting Party" in 2014. Our relationship with the band started to cool off as we struggled to connect with the album. It felt like a desperate attempt by the band to recapture their aggressive sound, but after multiple listens, we were left confused, frustrated, and even angry. Somewhere along the way, the band's musical credibility seemed to fade, perhaps lost in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, symbolized by their association with the luxury car brand Mercedes AMG.
Three years later, "One More Light" was released, marking a stark contrast to their previous album. The roaring guitars, pounding drums, and fast-paced rhythms were replaced with pop songs adorned with electronic elements and soothing vocals. The first single, "Heavy," unsettled us, causing discomfort and making it difficult for us to embrace the sounds emanating from the speakers. We hoped to find something in the song that would rekindle our hope and evoke a sense of power, a glimpse of the band's new sound. Sadly, our search was in vain.
To make matters worse, the release of the single "Battle Symphony" only intensified our concerns. Everything felt excessively saccharine, like a mouthful of hot marshmallows. When the third video/single, "Good Goodbye," came out, it felt like the final blow—the swan song of a beautiful era that would never return. We had already witnessed a similar transformation with "Thirty Seconds To Mars," turning into a sugary confection. Were Linkin Park following the same path?
What happened to Chester's voice? What happened to Mike? Where did Brad's guitars disappear to? And who abducted Joe Hahn? For us, this album remains unresolved, and there is no need to persuade us to accept it. "One More Light" is simply a polished, professional, and pop-oriented product that struggles to find its place in our music collection and library.
Let's be clear, we do appreciate pop music. Some of us have even had a past deeply rooted in pop (but we will maintain individual privacy regarding names). We also appreciate bands exploring different sounds and styles, as the fusion of innovative elements can be a wonderful thing in music. However, it becomes challenging to detach ourselves from the band's roots, from the signature sound that defines their DNA. It's frustrating to listen to a rock song without the presence of acoustic drums and guitars, where everything becomes overly electronic—it just doesn't have the same impact.
This is an opportune moment to initiate a discussion regarding the recent trend among several prominent bands (such as Bring Me The Horizon, All Time Low, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Panic at The Disco) who have undergone unexplained transformations towards pop music. These transformations involve the utilization of catchy lyrics, pleasant melodies, and electronic sounds that seem to erase the distinctive qualities that once defined these bands. Understanding the underlying motives for this shift can be perplexing. Is it driven by a thirst for financial gain? Is it an expression of musical creativity? Is it an attempt to redefine oneself or push artistic boundaries? What causes these bands to sound more like "Ed Sheeran," "Maroon 5," or "Justin Bieber"? These questions and many more warrant a lengthy discussion, but for now, let's focus on this specific album.
The band faced harsh criticism from music critics and a significant portion of their fanbase for this album, leading Mike, Chester, and even Brad to offer various excuses and explanations regarding its musical style. As Chester eloquently described it:
“If you’re saying we’re doing what we’re doing for a commercial or monetary reason, trying to make success out of some formula… then stab yourself in the face,”
But then an inconceivable tragedy occurred...
Tragically, on the same day the second official single from the album, "Talking to Myself," was released, Chester Bennington took his own life. The news of his death was met with an indescribable heaviness—a rush of blood from head to toe, a gut-wrenching blow, a profound weakness throughout the body, overwhelming sadness, and an immense sense of loss. Losing Chester, just like losing Chris Cornell, felt like losing one of the greatest vocalists of our generation.
As is often the case, a person's creations take on a different meaning after their passing. This album, in particular, underwent a profound transformation in sound, significance, and essence. When revisiting the album in the wake of this loss, it suddenly becomes unmistakably Chester. Despite the absence of his signature screams, which were his most recognizable trademark, the album resonates with his essence in its entirety.
(Photo: Linkin Park)
Chester Bennington's struggles with mental health were well-known to the band's fans. In interviews, he openly discussed the battles he faced within his own mind. Despite appearing calm and normal on the surface, an internal "world war" raged within him. Chester fought against himself, his emotions, and his thoughts. As a result, the entire album takes on a different character. Songs that were originally written with specific contexts or intentions now carry an interpretation that is uniquely Chester's.
One of the remarkable aspects of music is its ability to be interpreted by listeners in ways that resonate with their own personalities and current life experiences. Songs like "Talking to Myself," "Battle Symphony," "Heavy," and, of course, the titular track "One More Light" suddenly acquire entirely new meanings and become inseparably linked to Chester.
Originally, "One More Light" was inspired by the passing of an employee at Warner Bros. Records, someone the band knew personally. Mike Shinoda felt compelled to write a song about her after her death, intending to convey the message of caring for others. Following Chester's own passing, the band made the decision to release the song as a single. A poignant music video, directed by Joe Hahn, was dedicated to Chester and featured alternating scenes of Linkin Park performing, with Chester singing alongside the audience. The band members acknowledged the emotional challenges they faced during the creation of this video, but they believed it served as a way for them to use their talents to bring some solace and light to many people, particularly their fans.
There are many interesting and unusual things on this album...
This album marked a departure from the band's usual songwriting process. Unlike previous albums where the focus was on creating the musical structure and melody first, for this album, they started with writing the lyrics. This was a significant shift for them. Furthermore, it was the first time the band members collaborated with other artists during the songwriting process. In the past, such collaborations typically occurred towards the end of the song's development, if at all. However, on this album, they involved co-artists from the initial stages of writing the lyrics.
It is worth noting that Chester's involvement in writing the lyrics was limited to just two songs on the album. Despite this, after his passing, the lyrics took on a profound resonance and seemed to emanate from his very soul.
Although the guitars may not have been as prominent or noticeable as in their previous albums, Brad emphasized the tremendous guitar work on this album. Multiple layers of diverse guitar sounds were intricately woven together to complement and enhance the other elements within each song. Given the band's decision to explore new directions with this album, the guitar work presented significant challenges as they sought to align the sounds with the new elements and overall vision of the album.
In conclusion, the album "One More Light" may not be flawless, but its significance and interpretation undergo a profound shift following Chester's untimely passing. Listening to the album in retrospect provides a completely different perspective.
This album may mark the end of an era for the beloved band. While Mike Shinoda continues to create music, and there have been discussions suggesting that the band's journey may not be entirely over, it is evident to all that it can never be the same without Chester. The band's golden age, defined by his presence and talent, has come to an end.