Welcome to Stepping Stone: a new column focusing on the metal albums of our yesteryears. Music is very much a proverbial road traveled, and sometimes, years later, we look back at what we used to listen to and realize how much we’ve changed as individuals. Essentially, Stepping Stone is broken up into two parts: how we used to view the album before and how we view the album now. Unlike Heavy Rewind, it doesn’t so much as aim to place the album within the context of its release, but rather explain its meaning to us and our growth as consumers of music. Thus, the article is divided into “opinions” rather than an actual chronology of the album and its release.
Today I’m going to revisit an old favorite of mine: Linkin Park’s Meteora.
I’ve referenced in my article defending nu-metal that Linkin Park’s Meteora was one of the first albums that I really listened to. I wasn’t always a fan of what LP had to offer—Minutes To Midnight was a bit tough to digest fully, and some of Hybrid Theory got on my nerves (I don’t think I’ve ever really liked “In the End”) but I always had Meteora to fall back on. It was an album that, at the time of my getting into it, had a sound that I enjoyed, and lyrics that (as much as I hate to admit it now) really spoke to me.
Back in the day—during freshman year of high school (2007-8 if you want something approximate)—a good friend let me borrow Meteora, and at first listen it blew my 14-year-old mind. I’d never really heard any songs with screaming and/or harsh vocals, and the emotional intensity that that brought was something entirely new for me; I had never known up until that point how one could convey such an emotion of anger in music. Chester Bennington’s voice was smooth, yet tried by time, and full of ire, yet emotionally yearning. Brad Delson’s contributions on guitar offered a heavy, heavy groove, especially for a kid who grew up on Billy Joel and Foreigner.
But it was even past the harshness and the heaviness of the album that really did me in. Linkin Park’s strong hip-hop influence had a huge effect on me. I’m a suburban-raised, middle class, New England-bred, Christian-raised white kid; I’d never really heard much hip-hop until that point, and the stuff I had heard was crap like Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy. Meteora was a change; instead of the “beating hoes and shooting bros” braggadocio and the over-the-top production that I had associated with hip-hop, I was treated with beats that were dark and moody, and, more importantly, lyrics that I was able to identify with at the time. Tracks like “Faint” were a huge influence for me at that time because Mike Shinoda’s raps managed to tackle the loneliness that we all feel: “I am, a little bit insecure, a little unconfident / ‘Cause you don’t understand I do what I can / But sometimes I don’t make sense.”
All of this was stirred up into one big nu-metal gumbo that I metaphorically feasted on until I knew pretty much every single lyric and every single guitar lick by heart. It had a heaviness that I loved, and a really awesome groove to go along with all that heavy shit. It was, until I discovered the true awesomeness of The Dillinger Escape Plan, something to basically mosh to.
You know, listening to this album again really isn’t a problem with me. Most of my feelings that I had about it then are very much the same now. I’ve always loved the fusion of hip-hop and metal, whether it was Rage Against the Machine, Korn, or Linkin Park. Instrumentally, I still love Meteora; although it isn’t nearly as heavy or brutal as a lot of the bands I like today, it’s still worth something. And let’s not even talk about the nostalgia factor, here—“Don’t Stay,” the opening track, is basically transporting me back to high school. Chester Bennington’s vocals are still great to me; you can literally feel his anger ripening when he screams; it makes me want to just get up and start moshing by myself (a frequent, embarrassing occurrence in my past). Even the more melancholic songs—“Easier to Run”—still come off as pretty awesome.
What I think really got me into this album at first was how Linkin Park managed to keep the album overall pretty heavy and dip into some sadder and softer music at the same time. I mean, upon listening to this thing again, I can’t really think of a track where there isn’t some sort of dark groove that I could get into. Even the songs that don’t prominently use Brad Delson’s guitar—like “Nobody’s Listening,” with a big sample that sounds like it belongs in a kung-fu movie, or the instrumental “Session” bring in some really cool elements that get me up and going. It’s a very energetic album from start to finish, even though not all of it has the straightforward kick-ass feel you’d want to hear in, say a workout mix.
But, trust me, this album hasn’t aged perfectly with me. Frankly, the lyrics are a huge issue with me now. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting here, thinking, wondering what the hell was wrong with me as a teen. I get that I was angsty and a little whiny—we all were as kids growing up in a world that didn’t really make any sense (which still doesn’t make sense if you ask me)—but I don’t know how I managed find these lyrics “cool” or “personal” at all. It’s the same old bullshit, if you ask me: whining about feelings like some crappy indie rock band, saying that nobody understands you…it’s just so juvenile. Example: “I had nothing to say / And I’d get lost in the nothingness inside of me.” It’s as if Linkin Park were trying to channel Dashboard Confessional or something.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. Not all the lyrics are horrible on Meteora, but they certainly aren’t poetry.
All in all, though, I enjoyed listening to Meteora again. It’s a nice nostalgia trip, and the music was still as enjoyable now as it was then.