By Aaron Clark on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017
Chester Bennington, famous as the lead vocalist of Linkin Park, was found dead in his home on the morning of July 20th, 2017. His suicide came only a few months after Chris Cornell, who Bennington was close friends with, also committed suicide. Had Cornell survived, July 20th would have been his 53rd birthday. On the day of Cornell’s death, Bennington wrote to him saying “I can’t imagine a world without you in it.”. Bennington was 41.
It seems like every week we’re hearing about the death of another beloved pop culture icon. So I was unphased by Chester Bennington’s death at first. But as the day came to a close, I started thinking about how Linkin Park’s music was intertwined in my adolescence, as well as modern anime fandom, and Bennington’s lyrics were instrumental in shaping that. Linkin Park was a key influence on music in the early 2000s, as rock transitioned from grunge to nu metal. They weren’t the first band in the nu metal genre, but they certainly helped pave the way for its wider popularity. In a genre filled with bands like Korn, Slipknot, and Limp Bizkit, they stood out by avoiding explicit lyrics entirely for their first two studio albums.
I have a lot of vivid memories of Linkin Park. I can still remember listening to Hybrid Theory for the first time during my senior year of high school, and being immediately enamored by them. I remember seeing the band perform live at the Spring 2001 HFStival in Washington D.C. I remember nearly wearing out a cassette with “Hybrid Theory” recorded on one side as I commuted between two community college campuses during my second year of college. I remember having my alarm clock set to play “Breaking the Habit” every morning, for at least one semester of college. And I remember blaring “In Pieces” entirely too loud in my car as I sped out of the city to the suburbs of Baltimore to make videos with friends, in order to get away from the stress of a toxic work environment. High school, through college, and even into my early professional years, Linkin Park and Bennington’s lyrics ran in and out of my life.
And then there is anime fandom.
If you’re unfamiliar with anime music videos, suffice to say that there are a lot of Linkin Park AMVs. During the early to mid-2000s, the Anime Music video landscape was absolutely littered with videos set to every last song they released. In particular, “In the end” was seemingly set to everything imaginable, sometimes to the ire of fans everywhere. It was pervasive in a way that extended beyond the overkill of radio play and cable request shows. Ultimately, it was clear indication that the music resonated strongly with the influx of millennial anime fans that were responsible for the anime boom of the early 2000s. The angst of Linkin Park’s music had broad appeal with these anime fans who, I think, like me, just didn’t fit in socially at the time. We congregated at anime conventions, which also proliferated in the early 2000s, and where AMV competitions were celebrated as a main attraction.
Like many shows popular at the time, Evangelion had its fair share of Linkin Park AMVs. I myself even experimented with making an Evangelion AMV with Linkin Park. I feel like its pervasive use is actually an unfortunate thing. Linkin Park was in many ways the lowest common denominator, and I feel like when that happens, it can make it difficult for outstanding works to stand out. However, one video in particular remains a personal favorite of mine to this day. At Otakon 2004, a video set to Linkin Park’s “Numb” won the serious/dramatic category at the Otakon AMV contest. As the last track from Linkin Park’s second studio album, “Numb” closed the album with their characteristic intensity. The AMV, entitled“Faithless”, by Daniel Hopkins, aka “HurQlez” explores the parent-child relationship between Shinji and Gendo, and between Asuka and Kyoko. It’s a simple video, free of flashy effects, but skillfully explores its theme through thoughtful clip selection, and confident editing to its musical choice. Even after all these years, Faithless still holds up, and remains one of my favorite AMVs, and a key intersection between two aspects of my life.
It may be strange, but this is how I will remember Chester Bennington, and how he inadvertently contributed to Evangelion and the broader anime fandom.
“Faithless” by Daniel Hopkins, aka HurQlez