The album opens up with “Place To Start” and it perfectly sums up Shinoda’s frame of mind heading into this record...the subdued tone of the low-fi hip-hop gives off a deeply emotional aura of sadness, the hopelessness of not having control in life and the disorientation of not knowing where life goes from here…this is reinforced by a series of voicemail messages from close friends offering condolences following Chester’s death and it’s so very raw and real and you can’t help shed a tear here…a truly painful start. “Over Again” follows up next and here it’s so sombre; it has a level of frustration as we get a glimpse into what’s going through Shinoda’s mind ahead of Chester’s tribute show…having to mourn not only your band-mate but your close friend, but having to be professional and join the grieving public when there’s so much running through your mind; it must have been such an incredibly difficult time for the whole band and everyone close to Chester, which is something we as fans take for granted, thinking only of the music, and not the human beings behind it all; you can hear the agitation in his lyrics, the frustration and he sounds like a man on breaking point…such an effective track.
Album highlight “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore” is an incredibly simplistic, electro-driven pop number that would have easily made its way onto “Living Things” back in 2012 for example…made all the more powerful by its music video, it acts as a perfect metaphor for the aftermath of Chester’s passing, with Shinoda seeming lost, trudging through ash and dirt following a wildfire; looking for answers but finding nothing but suffering and it’s incredibly emotional. This can also be said for “Hold It Together” which highlights the struggles it caused Shinoda in his personal life and how he has absolutely no idea how to cope; to deal, and despite the tracks up-beat delivery it’s a very raw and honest piece, while “Running From My Shadow” tackles the idea of moving on, or the struggles met with wanting to move on but not knowing how to, almost afraid to…with a sense of guilt or loyalty to the memories shared.
The album continues and overall, over the 16 tracks you can’t help but feel that little bit closer to Shinoda upon hearing these songs…so rare is it that an artist can produce out of grief, pain, confusion and ultimately love…and it resonates so strikingly with the listener. As I said previously, Chester touched so many lives and put so, so many of us down this path of rock ‘n’ roll he really did feel like part of an extended family, and this album not only perfectly sums up our own thoughts and feelings which we all share with Shinoda on some level, but it does Chester justice…he was always about the art and the expression and even in the difficulty over the last year, I’d like to think that Chester would be proud of Shinoda for this record, because it certainly wasn’t an easy one to make. If anything I can conclude this with at all, is if you’re having a hard time in life, whatever the reasons, please talk to someone, you are loved and you are cared about, it’s OK to have a little help, and this album could potentially be a good place of encouragement. Thank you, Mike Shinoda, and, RIP Chester.