Flash forward to 2000! The popular tough music isn't Blues influenced Metal, and Gn'R isn't anywhere to be found! Instead the combination of Rap and Metal only hinted at (and usually in jest) during metal's hey day has captured the charts. Current favorites like Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine (not to mention the great 311) had brought Rap-Metal to the Mainstream. Say what you want about it... I grew to like it. Enter Linkin Park! Linkin Park, like Gn'R erupted with their own take on the scene! They added elements of as many genres as they could find, thus making Rap-Metal as accessible as anything then on the charts. They capitalized on the ground work that many bands before had made, and their debut album Hybrid Theory climbed the charts, seemingly more and more every day! Sound familiar? No one expected Hybrid Theory to eventually become the best selling album of 2001, but it did, and legions of teen, preteen and even adult fans jumped all over them! Like most stories of this kind, there was a backlash of negativity, but I can say that Hybrid Theory was a good album that was catchy, clean, fresh, and was a good (if short) listen! In the void between that popular album and its follow-up Linkin Park put out an album called Reanimation which featured new takes on all their old songs (again, sound vaguely familliar?). With this the recurring "What will the next one be like?" seemed to be answered! The next Linkin Park album would be experimental with Hip Hop hooks and maybe some guest appearances. It would be less uniform and overproduced like Hybrid Theory, and would be more of a loose party like Reanimation!
By now you've caught the pattern! 2003's Meteora came out with a Bang and debuted at number one on the Charts. The first listen was so much fun because, Chester, Mike and the boys were in true Hybrid Theory form! Further listens however left listeners wondering where the experimentation was? Basically, as good as Meteora really was, it still felt like side 2 of Hybrid Theory. Is that such a bad thing? Didn't audiences love Hybrid Theory? Yep! Again, though... progress was expected, and a repeat was delivered! There isn't anything wrong with Meteora, it's just not quite the dead-on, groundbreaking attack many expected!
Now that I've gotten that out of the way Meteora isn't a bad album. It's fun, and has a few surprises to it. The album in its entirety is very short (less than 40 Minutes) either to streamline their sound, or to add more extras onto the enhanced CD... I'm not sure which! Regardless Somewhere I Belong is Vintage Linkin Park and a fitting first single. The main experiment in that track is the vague positivity of the chorus. Other highlights include the Haunting Instrumental Foreward which would have sounded in place in either Hybrid Theory or Reanimation, and the heavy sound of Hit the Floor which is both heavier metal and at the same time more rap influenced than most of their work. The proverbial cake is taken though by the track Faint which incorporated the sound of Strings (either live or Synthesized) in a heavy-sounding, almost James Bond-esque piece that captures all of Linkin Park's Angst, and sounds very fresh even in a Genre that many see as being played out in 2003! Chester and Mike both are in fine form doing what they both do best! Although not all the tracks are quite what Faint or Don't Stay are, there is a refreshing lack of the Filler Material that plagues Use your Illusion (but then this isn't as long as Use your Illusion either).
The album on the whole only really suffers when compared to Hybrid Theory, which doesn't mean it's a worse album, it means that it sounds like more parts of the same album. Maybe people who don't own the first release will find this completely original, but its hard to imagine anyone who doesn't own Hybrid Theory already running out to purchase this disc. This is a really good, tight listen with all of the nu-metal conceits in place, but aside from a few surprises, that's not really anything new for them! It's possible that Meteora suffers primarily from being a follow up! 311 for example had put out six full albums using basically the same formula, and all of their albums are quite good! Linkin Park shouldn't be made to suffer for following what they know they do very well! One is forced to wonder what the next album might in truth be like! Hopefully there are many places that Linkin Park can go from here (they certainly do have the talent), but when "Hybrid Theory 3: Chinese Democracy" comes out we'll have to see! (Hopefully it won't be billed as "Like Metallica!")
Three Stars for Meteora! It's a great album for those who loved the sound of Hybrid Theory... but if you loved the sound of Hybrid Theory, you've already heard a lot of this one!