Warning: The following review and article concerning the Lost Demos CD on Meteora 20 contain massive spoilers. You have been warned!
The announcement of Linkin Park‘s Meteora|20 box set release on April 7th, 2023, brought a wave of nostalgia for fans everywhere. For me, their music was an unparalleled source of comfort and motivation during my teenage years, profoundly influencing my perspective on life and helping me through some difficult moments. Listening to their Lost Demos CD, I cannot help but reflect on my powerful connection to their early music – a relationship that remains strong today.
Hybrid Theory & Meteora: A Lifeline To Those Who Struggled
The mid-2000s were a tumultuous time for many young adults, myself included. The world had made a seismic shift after 9/11, and everything seemed uncertain. Many teenagers would be met with traumatic event after event, trying to make sense of the people and world around them.
Growing up, my teenage years contained that same angst, confusion, and self-discovery. But through it all, there was one band that always seemed to embody everything I felt: Linkin Park. Their 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, hit me like a ton of bricks and set me on the path I am on now as a music journalist. So, as a (then) seventeen-year-old, when they announced the release of their follow-up album, Meteora, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
If you’re a Linkin Park fan, you know the feeling of waiting with bated breath for their next release. And when they announced Meteora, the excitement was palpable. On the day of its release, Meteora was precisely what I and countless others needed. Tracks like “Somewhere I Belong” and “Numb” spoke to teenagers and young adults grappling with similar issues as myself. And even today, years later, the messages conveyed by these songs remain just as relevant.
Chester Bennington‘s raw and evocative vocals had the uncanny ability to resonate with my chaotic emotions. I felt seen and understood in a way no one around me could grasp. And although their music addressed complex and dark themes often stigmatized by the public, it felt like a comforting embrace that helped me navigate my mental health battles as a teenager.
Years later, the tragic passing of Chester Bennington brought with it a wave of grief that stirred those turbulent emotions once more. The voice that had carried me through my adolescence was no longer with us, and it felt like a piece of my childhood was gone.
For a time, it was too painful to revisit the music that had been a lifeline during my formative years. The association with Chester’s death had eclipsed the healing powers of their songs. Gradually, I began facing – and falling in love again – with their music. Now with Meteora | 20, I get to revisit an era of the band that was so important to me as a fan.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this band to this generation. As the head of The Linkin Park Association fan community for 22 years, I’ve seen firsthand how much this band means to people. The love Linkin Park’s fans have for the band is immeasurable. And the Meteora 20 box set is one more way for fans to celebrate their love and appreciation for this band and its music.
The Lost Demos CD included in the box mentioned above offers fans a rare glimpse into the creative process and development of an album that would become a cornerstone of music history. As a fan, listening to these demos – vulnerable, raw, and experimental – was like uncovering hidden treasures from a time capsule.
It’s no secret that making a follow-up album is never easy. For Linkin Park, crafting their sophomore effort Meteora was an arduous journey. It spanned eighteen months and many studios, including the band’s mobile studio on their Tour Bus. Allowing fans into their creative process for the first time via The Making of Meteora DVD, Linkin Park was always open about the process. Various rewrites and last-minute changes went into making Meteora what it is.
But even with all that transparency, some secrets are still hidden within the band’s incredible “Meteora | 20.” box set. This lost material shows a band willing to do whatever it took to ensure their follow-up would live up to their colossal debut Hybrid Theory. It’s a game changer for the fanbase, ripping the lid off the band’s inner workings and showing how much thought and effort goes into making an album like Meteora. I was fortunate enough to hear the Lost Demos CD early. I was not expecting some of the surprises in store.
Unreleased Meteora B-Sides
Kicking off with their chart-topping rock anthem “Lost,” Linkin Park’s early days of hard rock are illuminated with a hint of pop potential, as this hit tune reminiscent of “Numb” displays. With its distinctive pop influence, Bennington’s crooning delivery in a Backstreet Boys-like harmony explores his fears and the fragility of trust in the face of broken promises. Over a decade later, these pop-infused roots would come to fruition in One More Light, evidence that Linkin Park had been experimenting with pop long before fully embracing the genre in 2017.
The journey continues with the ferocious “Papercut-esque” track, “Fighting Myself.” Completed 20 years after its original demos with an unearthed Chester Bennington vocal stem, this is a masterpiece. In this gripping song, Bennington’s screams of “falling from grace, I watch it all come apart, knowing I could’ve changed it all from the start, fighting myself I always lose…” would have been a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at their live performances. It remains a shame that it never saw the light of day during Chester’s lifetime, as it stands out as one of their most intense works.
For all the hardcore Linkin Park fans, the instrumental on the next track, “More The Victim,” is a tune you’ll instantly recognize. Originally released instrumentally as “Cumulus” as part of their LPU13 CD, it became a fan favorite. I’ve always thought this instrumental could work with rap vocals, and I even went so far as to create a mashup of the track with “Lost In The Echo.” Needless to say, “More The Victim” is a standout track and one of my favorites on this CD.
But I know you’re here for more than a recap of what you’ve heard, so don’t worry – I have what you’re looking for.
“Massive” begins with a glitchy, fast-paced breakbeat reminiscent of “Session” and some of the band’s late 90s demos. Soon, the track transitions to an alternative metal sound that would fit well among the hard rock sound of the early 2000s. In the verses, Mike Shinoda sings solo, delivering poignant lyrics such as “I guess it’s true, you can’t really change the person you’ll be. The least I can do is set myself free.” The song then progresses into an anthemic sung chorus in the style of TRUSTcompany. Shinoda sings, “I heard the screaming in my dreaming every night. I awake, and I’m still mistaking you for right.”
After Massive comes “Healing Foot,” a tune many fans have searched for over the past 20 years! This holy grail was featured in the Making of Meteora DVD, where Rob tracked along to a song featuring heavy piano and strings. Thanks to this album, the search is now over. For long-time listeners of Linkin Park, this track is an exhilarating experience that’s sure to stand out from the rest.
“A.06” remains one of the band’s biggest mysteries. Premiered as a brief instrumental in early 2003, the track didn’t make it onto the album. Yet, in 2009, a second instrumental version, “A.06 (Original Long Version)”, was released to the fan club, leaving many fans craving a version with vocals.
With this release, it was easy to speculate that this would be the infamous “just drag it out, remember” version seen in the Meteora Making Of DVD. Surprisingly? It is not. With raps from Mike such as “has it always been this dark, at this time of the night? Anybody up with me, in these speckles of light?” this now brings us to four known versions of A.06 (including this version). The elusive fourth rendition of the track with Chester’s vocals remains locked away, eagerly awaited by fans.
The instrumental tracks “Cuidado (Lying From You demo)” and “Interrogation (Easier To Run demo)” showcase some interesting variations from their final versions. “Cuidado” has a twangy saw-patterned synth line that replaces its recognizable Carnival-like sample. On the other hand, “Interrogation” has a more atmospheric sound with strings that are buried deep in the chorus mix. Additionally, this demo includes a new bridge that features a piano and synth, which was not present in the final version. Although it would have been great to hear vocals on these tracks, the band’s experimentation with song structures is evident.
The track “Husky (Hit The Floor Demo)” is like the final version but with different rap lyrics from Mike. This early version features Shinoda expressing frustration towards an unnamed person who refuses to stand up for themselves. Key lyrics include, “with all these people that you’re trying to impress, you’re still letting them pull you around just like a marionette.” This aligns with the final song’s intended theme of people looking down and stepping on others.
Moving on to “Faint,” the demo version showcases some notable differences from the LPU 9 demo. While the lyrics remain the same, Shinoda’s vocal take is different. The song begins with a slowed-down and similar intro to the leaked LPU9 acetate. Furthermore, this demo includes an extended outro with power chords and scratchy samples, which are not present in the previous demo or final version. As the bridge lyrics are absent from this version, it could be one of the earliest incarnations of the song.
Moving on to “Plaster 2 (Figure.09 Demo),” this demo showcases the band’s experimentation with various vocal ideas during the making of Figure.09. As hardcore fans will know, the band went back and forth between singing and rap vocals in the verses before deciding on rap vocals late in the mixing process. It’s worth noting that “Plaster” was also the working title for “One Step Closer,” adding an interesting layer to the name “Plaster 2.”
The demo includes lyrics such as “even in the times where I backed away, I still found everything coming back to you,” Additionally, the demo features a riffier bridge with Staind-like guitar distortion. This, alongside the previous Figure.09 demo, is one of the hardest demos written during Meteora.
The Weird Side of The Meteora Lost Demos CD
The surprises continue with the unexpected change in “Shifter (From The Inside Demo).” Chester’s melancholic verses are replaced with introspective raps and sung vocals by Mike Shinoda. Lyrically, Mike leads fans through an inward journey as he speaks of confidence and innocence.
“I am your perfect confidence/I am your childish innocence/I am what you pretend to be/and tomorrow will come to take all these things with me.”
In Shifter, you can hear the beginnings of mike coming up with the flow he would use in the pre-choruses of the final From The Inside. This is likely the earliest demo from the writing sessions, as work began on it in 2001. This is also likely the version we hear in the Making of Meteora DVD. Noticable is the high pitched siren synth in the chorus, which is absent in the final version.
The instrumental track, Wesside, showcases the band’s love for old-school West Coast rap. With a rap beat that feels equal parts, Sublime meets Everlast; it’s a funky track that combines Meteora-style guitars with some nice “west side” rap. It would’ve been interesting to see where this track went had it been finished with lyrics.
Finally, in “Resolution,” listeners will recognize this song as a variation of another holy grail. After twenty years, we know what became of the “Wizard Song” instrumental from the Meteora DVD. Despite the absence of lyrics about fairytale paths and wizards, the song still delivers a powerful rap from Shinoda. His words, “what I knew got lost in the shuffle, and I can’t go digging in yesterday’s rubble,” are excellent. I would’ve loved to hear this song fleshed out more. Considering Resolution was one of the 15 final songs on the NRG Studios song list, this song likely went far before it was scrapped. What a pity this didn’t go further.
In conclusion, the Meteora | 20 Lost Demos CD truly uncovers a treasure trove of hidden gems. These demos showcase a unique blend of sounds and ideas, proving that the band’s experimentation knew no bounds.
The absence of Chester Bennington in the latter half of the demos is indeed a notable curiosity. “Healing Foot” is the last demo on the CD to feature his vocals. Yet, rather than detracting from the experience, it highlights how different Meteora could have been. This is a great collection. For how high the expectations were set with the demos on the Hybrid Theory 20 box set, this disc blows it out of the water.
The Meteora|20 Lost Demos CD is an enthralling and invaluable addition to the Linkin Park legacy. The songs provide a fresh perspective on a beloved classic and give fans yet another reason to cherish the genius of this groundbreaking band.