#RIPChester – altrocklife’s tribute to Chester Bennington

I’m sure that everybody reading this post will be aware that on July 20th, the lead vocalist of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, passed away at the age of 41.  He was married and had six children.  Fans of the band and of alternative music in general flocked to social media to pay their respects.  Now, the official Linkin Park website opens on a statement from the band, and an additional page on the site collates all of the outpourings of love and grief expressed via the hashtag #RIPChester.

I have umm-ed and ahh-ed about writing this blog post, not least because it’s been almost three weeks since Chester passed away.  However, it wouldn’t feel right for me to carry on blogging as if nothing major has happened.  Plus, I think it is important for as many people as possible to bring attention to issues surrounding suicide, in the hope that others could find help and support.

When I first heard the news, it’s safe to say that the first emotion I felt was complete shock.  Although Chester made his demons known to everybody through his lyrics, nobody expected that he would succumb to them at the relatively young age of 41.  A friend sent me a Facebook message expressing her shock, and I immediately started scouring the web for more sources, desperate in the hope that it was all a massive hoax, and that Chester would tweet his surprise at the apparent news of his demise.  I then heard the news broadcast on the radio, and I knew it had to be true.

Chester Bennington was the voice of my teenage years.  I was convinced I was an outsider and a freak, and to escape those feelings, it was Linkin Park that gave me comfort.  I was the stereotypical Linkin Park fan, who would blast Hybrid Theory, Meteora and Minutes To Midnight in her headphones to hide from the rest of the world.  As the band’s sound evolved, my music taste changed with it, and I started to enjoy the more electronic sounds of Living Things and A Thousand Suns.  Earlier today I listened to The Messenger and felt myself relating the lyrics to Chester’s passing.

To me, Chester’s passing is on a par with the passing of Robin Williams back in 2014 – both men were childhood heroes that stuck with me into adulthood, and I think it’s safe to say that the world is a little bit darker without them in it.  All I can say is that Chester Bennington was an incredible songwriter and a voice for the downtrodden, and he will be sorely missed.

If you’re in the UK and you are struggling with depression, anxiety or pervasive negative thoughts, you can seek help via Mind, Samaritans, your local NHS mental health services (though there are often lengthy waiting lists) or the registry of private counsellors.  Remember that you are not alone, and that you are deserving of help and support.

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Review: Linkin Park, O2 Arena London

Honestly, this gig could not have come quickly enough.  I’ve been a fan of Linkin Park since I picked up their Minutes To Midnight album back four or five years ago, and I’ve wanted to see the California six-piece live ever since.  If you’d told 14-year-old me that I’d get to see Linkin Park live someday, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

But, back to the gig itself, starting with the support act – Of Mice & Men were an odd choice, I thought, considering the genre difference.  However, their sound was loud enough to fill the O2, and their performance was electric, like it had been at Leeds Festival a few months ago.

As an aside, by the way, check out how close we were to the stage!  I was a little worried when I found out we had seated tickets, in case we ended up right up in the back corner of the arena, but I was more than happy with these seats – the closest I’ve ever sat to the stage at an arena gig so far!

Anyway, back to Of Mice & Men.  I was a little disappointed in their setlist, because aside from The Depths, every track was from their latest album Restoring Force.  As much as I love that album, I would have really loved to hear some of their older tracks, especially some songs they didn’t play at Leeds Festival, but that’s just me being picky.

After a few songs even reluctant crowd members were getting excited by the Orange County quintet.  Austin’s vocals were spot-on, and he did a great job of getting the crowd excited.  Aaron’s clean vocals were drowned out by the instruments a little, possibly down to nervousness or maybe his mic levels were too low – however, what I did hear of his voice was excellent.

The atmosphere during Another You was awesome – the crowd all held up their lighters or phones, and because my sister and I were the only people in our block of seats with their phone lights on, Austin came over and waved at us!  That was a pretty awesome feeling.

Overall, I definitely wasn’t disappointed by Of Mice & Men’s performance, and when they come back to the UK next March/April on tour I hope to be able to see them perform in a more intimate venue.

Now, with no further ado, on to the main event: Linkin Park.

As soon as Linkin Park walked on stage, I knew the entire crowd was in for an unforgettable experience.  Chester and Mike’s vocals were on point throughout the entire night, even if Chester did sound a little nasal at times. Guitarist and Bassist Brad and Phoenix were great fun to watch interacting with the crowd and getting everybody hyped.  Drummer Rob’s performance was flawless throughout the entire night, and his drum solo near the end of the set was one of my show highlights.  Mr Hahn could have done more to interact with the crowd – when he had nothing to do, he simply sat down behind the turntables.

The band’s 16 years of touring was evident in that their performance was like a well-oiled machine.  However, Chester and Mike’s interactions with the crowd and each other gave the night its own unique spin.

Overall I was extremely happy with the setlist – the band used a lot of mash-ups and played shortened versions of fan favourites to try and cover a decent snapshot of their lengthy discography.  It was heartening to see the audience reacted just as positively to tracks from The Hunting Party to those from Hybrid Theory and Meteora, which just goes to demonstrate Linkin Park’s wide appeal, and explains their continued success.

Whilst it would have been good to hear more full-length tracks, obviously time constraints meant that just wasn’t viable, and although I was saddened that a lot of older songs were cut down, it makes sense that on The Hunting Party Tour they would want to play full-length songs from that album.

Highlights included the stripped-back piano mash-up of Leave Out All The Rest,Shadow Of The Day and Iridescent, and the entire encore which included Lost In The Echo, New Divide, Until It’s Gone, What I’ve Done and the incredible Bleed It Out.

Last night was my first arena gig since I saw Avenged Sevenfold at Wembley Arena last December, and I think I forgot just how much can be achieved in an arena – the scope for light shows, video displays and the audio quality just cannot be replicated in smaller venues.  Linkin Park definitely filled every inch of the O2 with their massive performance, and I’m sure they will continue on their path to world domination.

Currently listening to: RebellionLinkin Park (featuring Daron Malakian)

#tbt: 10 noughties albums you need in your life

I’m sure everybody reading this post remembers the noughties fondly – for me, it was when I first got interested in alternative music, and where my love of fashion started to develop.  The 2000s were truly an amazing time for rock and alternative music, with bands like Kings Of Leon, Pierce The Veil, My Chemical Romance and Arctic Monkeys forming during the decade.

For this throwback Thursday, I have decided to take on the momentous task of revisiting my favourite albums released from 2000 to 2009 – if you spot any albums in this list that you don’t already have in your album collection, consider making room for them, as they are absolutely amazing.

10: Wheatus – Wheatus

I have my Mum to thank for my love of this album – she was the person who first introduced me to Wheatus, and for that I am forever grateful.  I think everybody with common sense loves Teenage Dirtbag – whilst waiting for Green Day to take to the stage at Reading Festival in 2013, Teenage Dirtbag started playing and I swear, the entire crowd started singing along.  It was awesome.  As well as that, Hump’em And Dump’em and Love Is A Mutt From Hell are brilliant songs which still make me want to get up and dance.

9: Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge – My Chemical Romance

My Chem have this album to thank for their sudden popularity and fame, and it’s still well loved today – watch Kerrang! TV for any length of time, and chances are you’ll come across the video for I’m Not Okay (I Promise) or Helena soon enough.  Plus, The Ghost Of You is a really thought-proving song that still evokes some pretty strong emotions.

8: All Killer No Filler – Sum 41

Sum 41s debut album is a brilliant, feel-good album – Heart Attack and Summer are awesome album tracks, which are unfortunately overlooked due to the popularity of singles In Too Deep and Fat Lip.  All Killer No Filler was truly a sign of great things to come for the Canadian rock band.

7: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys

Now, in my opinion the Arctic Monkeys have a little bit of a chequered past – Suck It And See, for instance, was an instantly forgettable album – however, their debut LP is truly brilliant.  I’ve lived in the Midlands for the past 9 years, so hearing Alex Turner’s Sheffield accent throughout the album is kind of comforting amongst all of the American artists on my iPod.  Plus, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor still sounds just as good 8 years on, as do Fake Tales Of San Francisco, When The Sun Goes Down and Mardy Bum.

6: One X – Three Days Grace

Canadian rockers Three Days Grace are one of my favourite bands of all time.  Their second album, One X, is a polished yet still emotive album, inspired by lead singer Adam Gontiers stint in rehab due to an addiction to OxyContin.  Lead single Animal I Have Become reminds me of my pre-teen angst-filled years, and Never Too Late is just as poignant today as it was when the album was released in 2006.

5: Mezmerize/Hypnotize – System Of A Down

I know that technically these are two albums, however I simply couldn’t bring myself to separate them.  The slow-burning introduction to Mezmerize, Soldier Side (Intro) gets you tingling with anticipation at the amazing things to come, before B.Y.O.B. kicks you in the gut with its heavy riffs and punchy lyrics.  In my eyes, System Of A Down can do no wrong – that’s why they came top of the chart of my favourite 90s albums, which you can take a look at here.

4: Puzzle – Biffy Clyro

This album represented a turning point for Biffy Clyro, because it marks their emergence into mainstream popularity.  The opening track, Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies, is a real anthem, as are Who’s Got A Match? and The Conversation Is…  Machines is the beautifully emotive penultimate track, and the entire album as a whole turned out to be an indicator of the great success to come for Biffy Clyro.

3: In Your Honor – Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters’ fifth double album covers a multitude of stories, emotions and memories for front man Dave Grohl – the most poignant of these is probably Friend Of A Friend, which was inspired by his former Nirvana band mate Kurt Cobain.  In Your Honor has songs for every mood, split between the heavier first disc and quieter more acoustic second disc, which is what makes it so perfect.

2: Minutes To Midnight – Linkin Park

Minutes To Midnight was a little bit of a change of direction for Linkin Park – they switched focus from more electronic elements and ended up creating a true rock ‘n’ roll experience.  Throughout the album there’s a great contrast of heavier tracks such as Given Up, and slower ballads like Leave Out All The Rest.

1: Avenged Sevenfold – Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold’s fourth LP, also known as the White Album due to its album cover, is truly brilliant, and a real summary of what makes the Californian band great.  If I was going to introduce somebody to Avenged Sevenfold for the first time, I’d tell them to listen to this album first, as it is definitely one of their best.  It’s difficult for me to quantify how much I adore this album – from Gunslinger to A Little Piece Of Heaven to Dear God, this album really does have it all.

So, that concludes my Top 10 noughties albums!  Do you agree with my line-up?  Let me know what you think on Twitter or in the comments below.

Currently listening to: SssnakepitEnter Shikari

#tbt: The first albums I ever bought

Today I want to step back into the past, rummage through my CD collection, and blow the dust off the first albums I ever bought with my own hard-earned pocket money.  These albums are truly brilliant, and the main reason I ended up getting into rock and alternative music, so you have them to thank that this blog exists.

Honestly, I cannot see myself ever getting rid of these albums.  Over the years I have thrown away numerous albums; whether they were an ill-informed purchase or they became age damaged over the years.  These ones, however, will never leave my ever-growing CD collection.

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Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree

This album is truly magical, and the singles Dance, Dance and Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down still evoke memories of school discos in the assembly hall.  Plus, Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part To Save The Scene And Stop Going To Shows) is one of my favourite ever Fall Out Boy songs.

Panic! At The Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

A lot of albums released in the early to mid 2000s aged pretty badly, but not this one.  Its lyrics form an interesting social commentary about mental illness and the sanctity of marriage, which are still relevant today.  This album is truly a cornerstone of the emo movement from the early noughties – all you have to do is watch the music videos for I Write Sins Not Tragedies for evidence of that.

Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight

Minutes to Midnight was a turning point for Linkin Park, and a change of direction from their earlier albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora.  Their use of electronic elements reduced considerably, making the album all about the instruments, booming drums and guitar-shredding riffs.  This is probably one of Linkin Park’s heaviest albums – the 18 second long scream before the final chorus of Given Up makes that hard to deny.  Add that to the gritty lyrics of Bleed It Out and Hands Held High and you end up with a truly anthemic alternative rock album that still sounds fresh seven years on.

That’s all from me for now, but I want to know what the first album you ever bought was!  Let me know in the comments below, or send me a tweet.

Currently listening to: Fool’s GoldPure Love