Chester Bennington: five of his best Linkin Park performances

From the howls on debut single One Step Closer to the still incendiary vocals of his later years, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington was one of rock’s most emotionally dextrous frontmen

One Step Closer

Linkin Park emerged at the tail end of the late 90s’ landfill-grunge period, their crisp and confident melding of rap and metal a world away from the sloppy fuzz-worship of their peers. It was frontman Chester Bennington’s dynamic range that really pushed them ahead of the pack though, and on debut single One Step Closer they proved themselves immediate alpha dogs. Bennington’s brooding, increasingly maddened take on a fractious relationship built up towards the breaking point: a howl of “shut up when I’m talking to you”. The punchy, emotionally wrought middle-eight refrain would quickly become the consistent ace up Bennington’s sleeve.

A Place for My Head

One of debut album Hybrid Theory’s most genre-mashing numbers, owing as much to Santana as it does to Sepultura, A Place for My Head finds Bennington’s grunge-y vocal seemingly drawing gravel from his diaphragm throughout each trade-off with co-vocalist rapper Mike Shinoda. Propelled by a sense of melody missing from the majority of nu-metal, the soaring choruses segue seamlessly into a whispered confessional – one that explodes into full-on firebrand rage without a millisecond’s warning. Bennington’s vocal diversity at its finest.


The softer side that Bennington mostly hid behind teenage angst on Hybrid Theory came into its own on second album Meteora. Allowing himself breathing space left Bennington able to prove his chops on Numb – even the grizzled choruses have a harmonious edge that could go head-to-head with his soon to be close friend Chris Cornell. That rollercoaster range flourished atop the accompanying cold electronics, as Bennington finally displayed an emotional potency that, for once, didn’t veer into unbridled anger.

Given Up

As Linkin Park began to slip into the realm of tepid alt-rock that would plague the latter decade of their career, Shinoda employed a guitarist’s role and Bennington took full centre-stage. Deftly darting between anguished muttering and headphone-busting screeches to the heavens, that duality meant Given Up became an unlikely anthem of defiance, in spite of its on-the-nose subject matter. Bennington’s range relished the contrast. Despite the drabber direction Linkin Park’s music was heading in, the caterwaul that hits with the song’s huge breakdown is the singer at his most incendiary.

Breaking the Habit

A seemingly teenage run-through of conflicting emotions and a desire for escape, Meteora’s crowning moment (and fifth single) remains Bennington’s best performance. Mixing the guttural yelp of his angstier days with a melodic shine like never before, it’s a perfect cocktail of everything that made him such an incomparable rock vocalist. Given Bennington’s longstanding problems with addiction and the circumstances of his death, Breaking the Habit also now paints a prescient image of a mental-health struggle he would face for 15 years after its recording: “I don’t know how I got this way, I’ll never be all right / So I’m breaking the habit tonight.” It will stand as Linkin Park’s most melancholy masterpiece.

Tom Connick

The GuardianTramp

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