Music has a special power to be cathartic. For years, Linkin Park (fronted by Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington) amassed a global fan base of extremely dedicated listeners, the band’s profile seeming to grow larger with each release, their music and Bennington’s presence appealing to fans’ inner frustrations and personal struggles in an affecting way.
And then, in July 2017, everything was thrown in to chaos when vocalist Bennington was found dead of an apparent suicide in Southern California. It was a catastrophic loss to the rock community (as huge as the band was, they had plenty of detractors, of course, but there was no denying their global appeal), one that is still hard to process, in all actuality.
In the months after Bennington’s passing, Shinoda began releasing some solo recordings as means of coping with his sudden new reality, one without the man he’d called a friend, brother, and band mate for nearly two decades. A Post Traumatic EP was released in January, with Shinoda expressing and channeling some of the raw emotion and vulnerability that he felt — but also that fans felt the world over.
On Friday (almost 11 months to the day of Bennington’s passing), the full-album version of Post Traumatic was released. For 16 tracks, the MC/guitarist/producer/lyricist expresses himself as only he could, and on his own terms — and nobody else’s.
“I used to know where the bottom was/somewhere far below the ocean waves,” Shinoda sings on “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore,” driving the point home quite effectively.
“I’ve got no worst enemy/Than the fear of what’s still unknown,” from “Promises I Can’t Keep” is another particularly memorable line.
Other songs, like “Over Again,” express the frustrations of having to say goodbye over and over again (as the song’s refrain does), with references to the emotional turmoil he felt in the days leading up to the memorial concert the band put on in Bennington’s name at the Hollywood Bowl in late October.
But these aren’t just stream of consciousness raps laid to simple Garage Band beats. Shinoda has worked on this music meticulously over the past few months, and the end result is truly powerful statement of progress, coping, self-care and the aforementioned catharsis.
In terms of special guests, he’s joined on some songs from colleagues and friends including Chino Moreno of the Deftones and Machine Gun Kelly (on “Lift Off,” one of the album’s shining moments), K. Flay (on “Make It Up As I Go”), blackbear (on “About You”), and Grandson (on “Running From My Shadow”).
Nobody knows what the future holds for Linkin Park — not even Shinoda or his band mates. We do, though, know what the past held for the band.
They were one of the most successful groups in the world for nearly 20 years, and Bennington possessed one of the most powerful voices in rock. His heartbreaking end at the hands of the very demons and personal struggles that gave him such a creative drive in the first place was a big reason it hurt as much as it did.
But music, as mentioned in the beginning of this piece, has a special ability to help with catharsis and as a coping mechanism. What Shinoda’s accomplished with this record is truly remarkable in that regard, for himself and his band mates and family, but also for Linkin Park fans the world over.
Rest in peace, Chester Bennington.