Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington was taken from all of us far too soon. Vocally, he was one of a kind, able to flip back and forth between hellacious harsh vocals and some of the most angelically emotive singing in hard rock. His lyrics, expressing deep depression and hurt, manifested in his voice, which made every single note of pain or anger sound immediately authentic. Beyond the band’s space-age take on the sound of nu-metal, rock and eventually pop, his voice was integral in defining Linkin Park and what they stood for.
Over his 20-plus year career, fans fell in love with Bennington’s singing on the band’s multitude of hit singles. But digging deeper into his catalog reveals just how nuanced and compelling his croon and scream could be across a variety of different uses and contexts, making a guest spot from him a serious point of attention, even to this day as with his posthumous appearance on Mark Morton’s solo song “Cross Off.” With that in mind, we looked throughBennington’s career and picked out five under-appreciated gems that define who he was as a singer and that are just as powerful as Linkin Park’s biggest hits.
LINKIN PARK – “DON’T STAY”
As the proper kick off to Meteora, “Don’t Stay” is a showcase of everything Linkin Park crush with, not least of which was Chester Bennington’s voice. In one verse, he could go in a single breath from clean crooning to roaring with absolute pure venom. The song’s chorus displays how he could harmonize his screams with the rest of his singing, a skill which many of his harsh vocal contemporaries lacked. The breakdown of the song brings his screaming and singing to a powerful conclusion.
LINKIN PARK – “BLACKOUT”
The Linkin Park vocal dynamic was traditionally Mike Shinoda rapping and Bennington singing, with both of their talents playing off the other. On the group’s record A Thousand Suns, the dynamic was switched up with Chester delivering raps while Mike delivered a softly sung refrain. Chester’s rhyming becomes more emotional as the song continues, turning into screams by the time he’s done doing his thing, and giving a completely different spin on what he could do with his voice versus most of his output.
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS – “OUT OF TIME”
Bennington’s time in Stone Temple Pilots wasn’t long, but he did produce some solid material while in the rock group. “Out of Time” shows the singer adapting to a different band, focusing more of his efforts on the fire of his straight-up singing. He adds a level of Weiland-gravel to his voice to help ease the process, but it always feels as though it’s completely in his own wheelhouse and never in attempt to copy. The song shows a side of him that’s full of attitude and honest fun that sometimes didn’t come through in other projects.
LINKIN PARK – “WAR”
Linkin Park is a lot of things, but “punk” is rarely one of them. The Hunting Party cut “War” shows what happens when hardcore punk makes its way into the band’s approach and Bennington was more than ready for the task at hand. Right off the jump he takes full control with his screams, hijacking the song and making it one of the most fierce of their latter-day catalog.
CHESTER BENNINGTON – “SYSTEM”
Thanks to contract B.S., Korn’s Jonathan Davis wasn’t able to release the Queen of the Damned soundtrack with his own singing on it. Luckily, that meant he would have to curate guests to sing his songs written for the film, and he chose Bennington for “Control.” In an apparent nod to the Korn frontman’s vocal approach, Bennington’s vocals are way creepier here than on anything in his main catalog. His voice comes on strong in the main chorus through the song’s screamed bridge where the Linkin Park sounds astonishingly like Davis while also still retaining his own edge. A magical collaboration between two rock greats.