When news struck that alternative rock band Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington had committed suicide on July 20th 2017, it was a dark time for fans, friends and family of the musician. Mental health awareness spiked in the aftermath of his death, and a powerful reminder was set in place that not all is as it seems. Organised by the remaining members of the band, Linkin Park and Friends: Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington, a tribute concert, was performed on October 27th 2018 as a way of celebrating the musician’s life and career.
A tragedy in music, each band member had to come face-to-face with the death of their friend. Mike Shinoda, lead vocalist alongside Bennington, as well as guitar and keyboardist to the band, chose creativity as his coping mechanism. He immediately began writing music in the wake of Bennington’s passing as a form of escapism from the grief. What initially started as a project purely for himself was eventually realised and turned into a fully-fledged album titled Post Traumatic.
Released on June 15th 2018, Shinoda’s debut solo album delves into the genre of rock, electro-pop and hip-hop, mixing them effectively in a way that creates a unique sound that is evidently stylised as a piece of Shinoda’s work. Some may know the musician for his work with Fort Minor, however this is the first time he has produced music alone.
So how is the album? Or perhaps more importantly, how does Shinoda perform as a standalone artist?
Arriving with sixteen tracks, Shinoda’s distinct style of producing conveys through the unique instrumentals and offers an effective insight into his mind through the lyrics and names of each track. The album is a journey of emotions and very intimate with Shinoda as an artist offering a reflection on his time with Bennington, and his career as a musician. Each song feels like a different step in the recovery process of losing a loved one and so for anyone who has experienced this type of anguish before, can relate to it personally.
Tracks 1 through 5 convey how the artist felt initially. A recent interview on Sway in the MorninG revealed how Place To Start, Over Again and Watching As I Fall were Shinoda’s earliest work for the album and expressed the darkest feelings he had at the time. Place To Start specifically even incorporating voicemails from friends regarding whether he was doing okay in the wake of the traumatic news. Over Again immediately follows his struggle to decipher where to go next, making note that he isn’t ready to go back on stage because all he can do is say goodbye repeatedly. Tracks like Watching As I Fall and Nothing Makes Sense Anymore go further into exploring the pain and confusion of the matter, whereas About You becomes more personal with Shinoda as the lyrics describe how whenever he now writes music, it always seems to be interpreted as a piece on Bennington.
Brooding acts as a bridge in the album and a switch for Shinoda’s mentality. The following tracks focus a lot more on finding understanding in trauma and escaping pain rather than how one is affected by it. This half questions what the future holds, and the guest appearances become more frequent, potentially as a sign that collaborating with other musicians is the key.
Chino Moreno of Deftones and Machine Gun Kelly’s performance in Lift Off make themselves welcome and deservedly so because they effectively blend their style of music with Shinoda’s work, making a powerful song about the disillusion of reality, and the feeling of being absent from earth. K.Flay’s distinct voice in Make It Up As I Go allows the song to stand out, and bounces off of Shinoda’s verses, creating a very pop-like song that provides positivity, yet still maintains a darker side to it.
I’d argue that Crossing A Line is one of the better songs on the album for its beat, and its meaning after discussing it on Sway in the Morning. Shinoda notes how the song is addressed to friends and family that he hasn’t abandoned them just because he is touring solo, but that he simply needs the ability to perform Post Traumatic alone as a means of progressing mentally, and creatively.
Shinoda opts to focus on the hip-hop side of his skill-set for Post Traumatic’s final track, a skill-set he is most well-known for. The song is seemingly written from the perspective of Bennington and reveals the bond Shinoda and Bennington had as creative partners. With lines like “Some days it doesn’t take much to bring me down, right now I’m floating above it all” and “I can’t hear you now, I’m somewhere far away where you can’t bring me down”, the words from Shinoda make it hard not to imagine Chester singing about finally escaping his demons.
Mike Shinoda proves in Post Traumatic that he is fully capable of performing alone, or as a part of a band. What this album achieves is an emotional mood focused atmosphere, which is where the main problem for it lies. This album isn’t for those who’re after an uplifting or happy feeling. Post Traumatic aims to give you a perspective on death and it knows it. While the subject matter of the album justifies it’s tone throughout all sixteen tracks, it doesn’t subtract from the fact that this atmosphere does make you want to take a break and come back to it later on more than one occasion as it becomes mentally heavy. Regardless, Post Traumatic digs deep into the soul and makes you feel, which at the end of the day is what all music should do. Shinoda attains the ability to make you feel with this album and where he goes next will be an interesting move for the musician which i’m personally looking forward to. Whether you’re a fan of this genre of music or not, the album is absolutely worth listening to for its experimental style, and it’s creative influence.
Post Traumatic is an incredibly powerful record that provides an in-depth look at the mindset of a musician during a time of sadness. What makes this album so effective, however, is that you can feel each song was produced with a series of emotions from its creator that stand out heavily in the music. The circumstances behind Post Traumatic don’t overshadow the fact that each song can be interpreted differently and all offer catchy rock, mixed with unique electro-pop instrumentals that stick with you well after listening. The lyricism from the album is a chain of powerful words that all invoke meaning when you listen, regardless of your own personal situation. Post Traumatic is an album worth investing time into, and definitely worth buying.