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Chester Benington's death: Linkin Park was the soundtrack of my growing up years

Linkin Park scored the soundtrack of my growing-up years, the purveyors of my teenage angst. The band and their singer, Chester Bennington, were with me through many of my firsts.

Their debut album Hybrid Theory came out in 2000, when I was in Primary 5 and still googly-eyed over Backstreet Boys.

I saw the music video for the darkly beautiful Crawling on MTV, with its tinkling electronic refrain. On it, Bennington literally screams: "Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal." His voice drips with despair and anger.

As an 11-year-old, I did not understand where all his rage came from. And, not only did I not know whether Bennington was saying "insecure" in one of the lines or if he spit it out in his screamo anger as "insechure", the heavy guitars and turntable scratches, with rap verses thrown in, were extremely grating.

But I was intrigued, nonetheless.

It was my introduction to the world of nu-metal, a genre that combined hard rock and hip-hop, pioneered by the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot, and mainstreamed by Linkin Park.

You could say nu-metal was my gateway to heavier rock and metal, the early simmering start to my exploration of Metallica and AC/DC.

The opening refrain from Crawling would find its way to become my first custom ringtone when I got my first mobile phone, a Panasonic, in secondary school.

Linkin Park songs meant all the more to me as I transitioned into my teens, when I eventually discovered the causes of Bennington's rage (abusive childhood, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse et cetera).

Hybrid Theory - which went on to become the best-selling debut album of the 21st century, selling 30 million copies - became a source of comfort to me. Bennington's screaming and angsty lyrics ("I'm one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break" from One Step Closer, for instance) helped me cope with the stresses of being in a competitive secondary school environment and the minefield that is puberty.

Over the distorted guitars of Place For My Head, Bennington screams, "You try to take the best of me, go away", which is something I would've liked to have said out loud to the bullies, but never could.

His screaming rage seemed to encapsulate every insecurity, every bit of self doubt I had. Feelings and thoughts that I could not express verbally or in writing, he expressed for me in his songs.

It was second-hand catharsis, but therapeutic nonetheless.

In The End, the smash hit that cemented Linkin Park on mainstream radio, was a bridge of sorts in a divided school environment. Even my classmates who listened to Jay Chou on most days knew every word (and even the rap verses) on In The End.

In 2004, a year after their second album Meteora came out, Linkin Park played their first concert here to a crowd of 15,000 at the Padang. It was also the first concert I attended without parental supervision.

It was a huge deal for me. I remember waiting for three hours in the hot sun, racing to the front of the Pen B barricades when the doors opened and getting interviewed on camera by a local news network as a giddy teenager.

That concert kicked it all off for me. It is why I do what I do today. Watching Linkin Park live in concert, feeding off the energy of the crowd, having our bodies pushed against the barricade, but still singing every word of every song with Bennington till our throats were sore - it was the quintessential rock band experience.

Subsequently, I savoured each of their albums - whether it was the left-field but brilliant collaboration with rapper Jay-Z, Collision Course, or the high-energy Live In Texas concert album - from start to finish, learning every word to every song.

The later albums, from 2012's Living Things onwards, moved further away from the raw energy of Hybrid Theory and into a more electronic space. Perhaps they were pandering to changing consumer tastes and trendy electronic music.

When I heard the news of Bennington's apparent suicide, the first song I searched for on Spotify was Easier To Run from Meteora. "It's easier to run, replacing this pain with something numb/It's so much easier to go, than face all this pain here all alone," he sings.

Every single Linkin Park song sounds darker to me now.

However, without Bennington's voice as an anchor, perhaps Linkin Park's time is over.

Today, I wear the same T-shirt I wore to the Padang concert 13 years ago. It makes me feel closer to Bennington and I stand in solidarity with all the kids from my generation who grew up with his voice too.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2017, with the headline 'Songs filled with screaming rage a source of comfort in my teens'. Print Edition | Subscribe