"Who cares if one more light goes out? Well I do"
In July 2017, I watched Linkin Park perform at the O2 Arena in London. The last time I saw the band was three years earlier, at the Download Festival. The shows were supporting two very different albums, the latter being an album that had proved derisive amongst fans. One More Light was a shift away from the hard rock/alternative sound the band were known for, towards a more “pop” sound, hence the splitting of the fans’ opinions. Whilst it was very different from previous albums, there were still some of the trademarks of the band that were a vanguard for nu metal in the early 2000s. Less than three weeks after the show at the O2, Chester Bennington was found dead at his home, having taken his own life. I, like many fans around the world, was in a state of shock. I had been aware of Chester having fought against demons in the past, having faced battles with drink and drugs, but believed that he was winning these battles. On 20th July, the world lost the spokesman for a generation, and arguably one of the greatest voices it had ever been witness to.
It was the release of Linkin Park’s debut album that brought Chester’s talents to my attention. Nu metal was a massive force in alternative music, and Hybrid Theory was almost what people would define nu metal as being. The band formed in 1996, with Chester joining three years later. I remember a documentary of the band being shown on one of the music channels, in which a fellow auditionee recounts walking into the room after Chester’s audition, and telling the band that if they didn’t hire Chester, they were stupid. He had an amazing vocal range, being able to do both the screaming which was almost typical of metal bands that emerged around the same time, and also capable of wonderful clean vocals. Not only was there a lot of power behind both his lyrics and his delivery, there was a distinct emotional content being displayed. The lyrics were accessible, and whilst they focused on the issues and experiences of both Chester and Mike Shinoda, fans were able to relate them to their own lives. Tales of alienation that came through in Linkin Park’s songs spoke to the disaffected youth, but also made them dance out their troubles in nightclubs around the world. As a band, they were not
afraid to experiment. Their third album, Minutes To Midnight, was a very different album to the previous two, a trend that continued for the next two albums, before album number six, The Hunting Party, saw them return to a more traditional heavy rock sound. However, this album still had some of the electronica influences running through it. Many videos were shared, extoling Chester’s prodigious talent, including isolated vocals of songs like “Numb”. Even people who were not fans of the band or their music mourned the loss of an amazingly talented vocalist.
When news broke of Chester’s death, the alternative community was shaken. It was a death that came out of seemingly nowhere. However, if you now listen to the band’s music again, especially the One More Light album, there are clear signs that Chester was losing his battle with depression. Speaking from personal experience, when a person is lost to suicide, there is a certain amount of reflection that is inherent to hearing the news. It is probably no coincidence that Chester took his own life on the birthday of his good friend Chris Cornell, who had taken his life the previous May, in almost exactly the same way. Chester’s suicide reached beyond the alternative community, bringing the subject of mental health to the attention of the world as a whole. In the wake of his death, a mental health helpline was set up, with its focus being on those within the music industry, an industry that seems to have many people within it that are suffering from a mental health issue. The face of both depression and suicide had changed. Chester’s widow released a video of the singer playing with his children, laughing. No longer was the picture of suicide that of a person having been down or outwardly sad for a while. Now it was shown to the world that depression could be hidden, only revealing itself in private moments, to prey upon the person battling it.
Chester Bennington and the music of Linkin Park touched the lives of millions. Metal fans, alternative fans, and even pop music fans can find something within the works of this unique band that would appeal to them, and something to find solace in, and to some degree, a strength to be yourself. This band changed styles, not allowing themselves to be pigeon-holed. At the fore-front of this, was their
charismatic front man, Chester. On stage, his boundless energy was infectious and inspiring. One moment, his voice would have you bouncing, and the next, the raw emotion he could convey would touch your very soul. There are few people who have not only the ability to do anything with their voice as well as making the words genuine and relatable. Chester Bennington was a unique character, and will be mourned by the millions of fans around the world, who had found in him someone who could vocalise what they were feeling, offering a form of counselling as well as entertainment. You could take what you wanted from his lyrics, going as deep as you chose with them. There has been no word from the band as to what they are going to do going forward. However, with the loss of the one of a kind voice that Chester possessed, it is hard to imagine how Linkin Park will continue. All we can do is take heart from the albums they have released, enjoy Chester’s talents, and use his death as an example to remove the stigma attached to talking about depression.