Chester Bennington Brought Rock Ferocity to Linkin Park’s Innovations

Mr. Bennington was both the most powerful and, in a way, most conventional member of Linkin Park, which he joined in 1999 after some time fronting other hard rock and grunge-influenced bands. (The band also included Mr. Shinoda, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, Rob Bourdon and Joe Hahn.) In Linkin Park, he was something of a throwback: an impassioned, fervent hard-rock singer in a band that was intent on remixing hard-rock conventions at every turn. The band’s uniqueness emerged in the ways it upheld rock tradition while acknowledging the urgency and inventiveness of hip-hop production. Remarkably, the amalgam didn’t feel subversive — more an inevitable evolution of a genre that had been stubborn and slow to change.

The late 1990s were heady times for the intersection of hard rock and hip-hop. Linkin Park, which released its debut album, “Hybrid Theory,” in 2000, was the most streamlined and pop-friendly of that generation’s king-size bands — less shambolic than Korn, more mature than Limp Bizkit.

It also baked formal ambition into its release cycle: between 2000 and 2004, when the band was at its most influential, Linkin Park released two studio albums, and also a remix album and a full–length mash-up album with Jay-Z. It continued releasing a combination of major label albums, EPs and annual collections of demos and alternate mixes for the fan-club faithful.

The division of labor in Linkin Park was crucial — Mr. Shinoda handled the bulk of the rapping, earnest and slightly lumpy, and Mr. Bennington complemented him with fierce, tightly controlled shrieks and tempered, reflective crooning.

In a 2015 interview with AltWire, Mr. Bennington cited as formative influences the grunge icons of the 1990s, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, but also industrial outfits like Ministry and Skinny Puppy and hardcore punk bands like Minor Threat and Fugazi.

It was for that reason that Linkin Park was able to survive the rise and precipitous fall of the rap-rock era. Mr. Bennington was a rock music polymath, so on later albums, as the group emphasized electronic music and even a touch of new wave, Mr. Bennington was able to sound more or less at home. Its most recent album, “One More Light,” was released in May, and debuted atop the Billboard album chart.

Even though his music helped put an end to the mealy, gritty hard rock of the 1990s, Mr. Bennington still felt simpatico with the singers of that era. When Scott Weiland split from Stone Temple Pilots, Mr. Bennington took over as lead singer, touring with the band for two years and recording new music. And he was close with Chris Cornell, the frontman of Soundgarden; just two months ago, he sang “Hallelujah” at Mr. Cornell’s funeral.

On YouTube, you can find a handful of videos of the two men touring in the late 2000s, singing a version of “Hunger Strike,” the elegant dirge originally performed by Mr. Cornell with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam (in the supergroup Temple of the Dog). In these performances, Mr. Bennington’s vocals are scraped-up and eager. In one clip, filmed at a 2008 concert in Irvine, Calif., the two men are joined on stage by some of their young children, turning a song about unimaginable loss into a family song-and-dance party, fleetingly free of pain.

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