21st century rock bands don’t come any bigger than Linkin Park. They might not have the pioneering cachet of Korn or Deftones, and their initial critics churlishly wrote them off as a nu metal ‘boy band’, but their sound – which drew on rock, hip hop and even industrial music proved irresistible to the public to the tune of 70 million records and countless massive headlining shows.
The second half of their career saw them take a few stylistic diversions, some more successful than others, but eveyrthing was tragically bought to a halt by the death of co-vocalist Chester Bennington in 2017.
His surviving bandmates insist they have no desire to reactivate Linkin Park without their late colleague, meaning their catalogue stands at six studio albums plus one high-profile collaboration with rapper Jay-Z. Here are those records ranked from worst to best.
8. One More Light (2017)
Linkin Park’s final album is also their most incoherent and misguided. After returning to the nu-metal approach of their early albums on its predecessor The Hunting Party, the band decided it was time to turn the page again and go full pop. To do this, they brought in outside songwriters who’d worked with Sia, Kelly Clarkson and 5 Seconds Of Summer to give the songs a pop sheen, pushing guitars firmly in the background. One More Light is certainly slick and polished, but it’s lacking in the fire and soul of the band’s earlier work. Only Good Goodbye, their team-up with rappers Stormzy and Pusha T bucks the trend.
7. A Thousand Suns (2010)
Linkin Park’s fourth album marked a dramatic shift, as the hardened sonics of its predecessors were ditched in favour of an expansive, electronic-led sound and a sudden urge for political hand-wringing, the latter signposted by samples of speeches from Martin Luther King and US activist Mario Savio. Artists shouldn’t stand still, but on tracks like The Catalyst and Wretches And Kings, the decision to channel U2 and Peter Gabriel was a leap to far. A failed experiment.
6. Living Things (2012)
One More Light wasn’t Linkin Park’s first dalliance with electropop, but on 2012’s Living Things, the blend of those sonics with the band’s nu-metal stylings proved far more successful. The band’s second and final album with producer Rick Rubin, it dialled back the expansiveness and experimentation of A Thousand Suns with jettisoning it entirely. Opener Lost In The Echo and Burn It Down have a classic stomping feel, while the band pull off a proper haunting ballad in Castle Of Glass. It’s patchy and inconsistent, but there are still plenty of highlights.
5. The Hunting Party (2014)
A return to nu metal after the wide-ranging excursions of A Thousand Suns and Living Things - so much so that the band actively used their debut album Hybrid Theory as a template. It could never have recreated the youthful power of those early records – angry young man rage is hard to capture when you’re a rich rock star – but the likes of Guilty All The Same and fiery Daron Malakian collaboration Rebellion are the sound of a band rolling back the years and having fun while they do it.
4. Collision Course (2004)
Recorded for the self-explanatory MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups, a show which brought together artists from different musical spheres. In this instance, rapper Jay-Z expressly requested Linkin Park, who immediately welcomed the idea. The two parties got on so well that the original plan to do a couple of tracks was soon expanded to a six-track EP, with the band re-recording their tracks to fit in with Jay-Z’s. The two approaches dovetail perfectly, particularly on Numb/Encore and Jigga What/Faint.
3. Minutes To Midnight (2007)
Minutes To Midnight was a transitional album, marking the shift between Linkin Park’s nu metal past and their more experimental, electronic-based future. The result was a potent cocktail, delivering some brilliant moments, especially the searing Bleed It Out and two soaring lighters-aloft anthems, Leave Out All The Rest and What I’ve Done, which showcase the range of Bennington’s voice. It isn’t flawless, but there’s a lot more good than bad.
2. Meteora (2003)
If there were any worries about Linkin Park’s ability to follow up the gigantic success of Hybrid Theory in 2003, they were dispensed as soon as the jagged riff that powers Meteora’s opening track Don’t Stay kicked in. The band stuck closely to the formula they’d laid down on the debut, re-enlisting producer Don Gilmore and sticking to a short, but sweet tracklisting that’s all done in under 37 minutes. It can’t quite match Hybrid Theory banger for banger, but between Faint, From The Inside, Numb, Somewhere I Belong and Breaking The Habit, there are plenty of tracks that remained staple of the band’s live set throughout their career.
1. Hybrid Theory (2000)
With some bands there is a debate to be had about what is their finest work, but with Linkin Park, there’s no argument to be had. It’s Hybrid Theory. The band’s 2000 debut album has shifted a casual 27 million copies to date - 12 million of which were sold the year it came out. From the raw power of Papercut and the epic In The End to the powerhouse riffage of One Step Closer and doomy ballad Crawling, there’s not a wasted second on the 37-minute runtime. More than two decades after its release, Hybrid Theory stands a landmark 21st century rock record. Linkin Park never topped it, and few other bands have.