Over the past 24 hours, the world has mourned the loss of someone they most likely did not personally know, but who helped them dearly all the same. Chester Bennington of Linkin Park wrote songs that anyone who struggled could relate to. For most twenty-somethings, Linkin Park were not only the gateway to heavy music (or music at all), but one of the first signs that they were not alone.

And while a lot of people today mourning nonetheless will admit to long growing past the days of blasting Hybrid Theory and Meteora every day, even in their twilight years Linkin Park proved a band willing to defy expectations every turn; after seven years of bringing true pop sensibilities to alternative metal, they spent the next ten years becoming one of the most overlooked mainstream bands, for their willingness to experiment with formula and genre. Today, in honour of our man Chester, we look at ten of the most underrated songs, from one of the most successful bands of all time.

No More Sorrow (Minutes to Midnight, 2007)

Minutes to Midnight was when Linkin Park abandoned nu metal, their ‘mature’ album that embraced mellower songs and prime-time radio-rock. Yet they were never fully ready to abandon the sound that became them; indeed, ‘No More Sorrow’ is one of the heaviest songs in their entire catalogue. A live favourite due to its call-and-response intro and the breakdown during the bridge where Chester delivers some of his famous screams, it is, as the experts would call it, a mosh-fest.

And One (Hybrid Theory EP, 1999)

Self-released in 1999 by a band calling themselves Hybrid Theory, this EP shows a band harnessing their sound, before becoming polished gold when they would release their Diamond-certified album in the following year. Possibly the best song on the release, ‘And One’ travels to a remarkable amount of places. It is a grungy down-tuned angst-rock song that by 1:30 has become a contemplative ballad, by 1:54 an angry alt-metal breakdown, and by 3:08 a turntablist-lo-fi rap number. A wonderfully messy showcase of a burgeoning band’s talents to capture the zeitgeist.

Keys to the Kingdom (The Hunting Party, 2014)

The opening track to an album that was designed to be against contemporary rock bands ‘trying to be other rock bands and playing it safe’, ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ is a valiant manifesto for an album that doesn’t meet its mission statement, but is still a great rock record nonetheless. ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ is a hardcore-influenced punk-metal jam that is as exciting, jarring, blood-pumping and downright angry as any great rock album opener should be. And while The Hunting Party did indeed miss out on its lofty claims, it’s still remarkable that a band this far in to its career could still release something so vital.

No Roads Left (2007)

Chester takes the backseat here on this bonus track, playing rhythm guitar backing to a standout vocal performance from Mike Shinoda. A contemplative song about loss in faith, Mike’s singing is emotional and haunting, allowing the song to truly explode in its climax without being overwrought; a lost song that absolutely should’ve been a single.

KRWLING – Mike Shinoda Remix (Reanimation, 2002)

Closing their 2002 remix album, this ‘Crawling’ rework is an example of the underrated melodic beauty in many of Linkin Park’s earlier songs. The extended violin intro is, frankly, beautiful, and the fact that it’s not ruined by the guy from Staind doing cameo vocals is a feat in of itself; indeed, his throaty ‘emotiotone’ gives a genuinely good performance here, and after the turntable break, his back-up combines with Chester’s vocals from the original song to a genuinely haunting climax.

Blackout (A Thousand Suns, 2010)

A Thousand Suns is a truly underrated album; a mesmerising, jarring mesh of Kid A, Public Enemy, U2 and contemporary rock that is always innovating, and somehow always works. The fact that such a confounding work came from one of the most mainstream bands of the time is all the more remarkable. On ‘Blackout’, a constantly marching electronic beat lays the groundwork for some of Chester’s harshest, raspiest growls and screams yet, showing what a missed talent he will be. A distorted breakdown of beats and screams gives way to a beautiful, desolate post-apocalyptic soundscape, where Mike ushers in a truly epic and weighty climax.

She Couldn’t (8-Track Demo, c. 1998)

The most obscure song on this list (having only surfaced in 2009 due to the demo CD being auctioned on eBay), this song is one of the first Chester recorded with the band. While most of the songs on the demo were re-recorded (many later becoming part of Hybrid Theory), ‘She Couldn’t’ stands alone. A delicate 5-minute downbeat R&B-influenced slow-jam that samples Mos Def, it’s a genuine early showcase of Chester’s vocal talent, clean melodies expertly punctuating the haunting atmosphere of the track, which breaks halfway through into an instrumental jam courtesy of DJ Joe Hahn.

Across the Line (LP Underground 9: Demos, 2007)

Ultimately cut from Minutes to Midnight, ‘Across the Line’ starts off as a brooding, mid-tempo radio-rock song until it swerves straight into a harsh, ecstatic bridge of screams and guitar walls, heightening up the tempo that never leaves until the end, the concluding choruses given an exhilarating rush of energy.

Sometimes (…No Sun Today, 1997)

…No Sun Today is the second and final album released by lost grunge band Grey Daze, Chester’s first band before he was discovered by Linkin Park. Recorded when he was only 19, this emotive ballad shows his incredible vocal range (hear the heights he reaches in the final chorus), years before the rest of the world got to hear his voice. A pained, haunting number, Grey Daze was absolutely an outlet for Chester to express the hardships he endured as a child; a gut-wrenching, young honesty is shocked through this entire album.

Breaking the Habit (Meteora, 2003)

Sitting with 130 million views on YouTube and in the middle of their multi-platinum sophomore album, ‘Breaking the Habit’ technically is anything but underrated. But listening now, with the very recent news in mind, it’s a bittersweet testimony of the captivating emotions that pervaded Linkin Park’s first two albums, two albums that captured the alienation and inward rage of millions of post-Y2K teenagers that, until they heard these albums, did not know there was anyone who could listen to them.

Chester’s adolescent battles with sexual abuse and drug addiction are documented elsewhere and it is not this article’s intentions to ruminate on them any further than necessary, beyond this: many have pointed to this track (a track that is cinematic in its beauty) as darkly poignant considering Chester’s demons. However, it was Mike who wrote these lyrics, long before Chester joined the band. And perhaps, in its own way, that is an example of the empathetic, broad emotional brush that swept over the first two albums, that than swept over an entire world of lost teenagers.

The fact that dozens of my twenty-something friends on Facebook and Twitter mourned the loss of a man in a mainstream rock band  of which most admitted to long growing out, is testament to the fact that Linkin Park were the definition of a life-changing band for millions.

About The Author

Lee Whear

Young punk full of love, hoping they've got enough tobacco left when the revolution comes. Canterbury Christchurch University graduate, previous work has appeared in thnksfrthrvrw, Hitsville U.K., Bearded Magazine, and God Is In The TV Zine.