By Shazwan Zulkiffli

It hasn’t even been a year since the passing of our beloved grunge prince, Chris Cornell (http://www.thelevel.my/chris-cornell-died-52/) and now, another huge role model from our childhood/teenagehood has passed, in the most unexpected manner. I was about to finally put my demons to rest and sleep when I received the news that one of the figures that I looked up to, had ended his own life in his very own home.

I was heartbroken, and I’m not embarrassed to say that my heart was aching so much that I cried myself to sleep, unable to fathom the idea that the person who encouraged me to speak about my closeted depression and taught me how to break the silence of the darkness that once drowned me, had lost his own personal battle against himself.

Over the years, Linkin Park has produced some of the best rock hits of our generation. Only a decade ago, we could listen to gritty rock music on our national radio stations, with the legendary and well-missed JJ and Rudy serving us the zestiest rock hymns on regular rotation. They’ve succeeded in breaking radio station’s crackling habit in airing only safe pop songs for the public pleasure, paving the way for the likes of Nickelback, Hinder, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, MCR and even System of A Down to spread their heavy-riffed sermons. Chester Bennington’s little project didn’t just affect the lives of the members who were a part of it, it affected the whole music industry.

However, as they were approaching the monumental Minutes to Midnight era, you could hear the groaning sounds of disatisfaction coming from fanboys who claimed that they, alone, are the ‘true’ fans of Linkin Park. Disses were thrown to Chester & Co over the change of sound, or shall I say, their decision to tone the nu-metal down and ‘sell out’. Luckily for the band, Minutes to Midnight earned them a new wave of radio listeners who prefer their style of modern pop rock as the disgruntled voices slowly fade out to black, but not for long.

The hate came back in full swing when they brought out even poppier material for A Thousand Suns. For fans, and even something as powerful as ‘Shadow of the Day’ couldn’t tame the demand for Meteora-sounding songs. That was all they wanted, and that was all they cared about – to bring back the nostalgia that most of us couldn’t seem to get over. But when they actually went full on heavy again for their previous album, The Hunting Party, alongside contributors Page Hamilton, Daron Malakian of System of A Down, and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, the same group who demanded this ignored them, making the album one of the worst performing records the band has produced.

Then came ‘Heavy’, which is probably where most fans drew the line. It’s sad to see someone like Chester, who helped a lot of us through our sucky and painful parts of life, get so much hate for musically progressing the way he wanted to. Frustratingly for the band, Chester didn’t digest the hate well as he went on a rage fit against his biggest critics: his hardcore fans. Sure, maybe ‘Heavy’ was a bold new direction that Linkin Park, but do they really deserve the amount of flak that it got recently?

Linkin Park’s once impending drive towards mainstream acceptance that, angered many of their fans, took a grand toll on Chester. Sure, he claimed that most of his struggles were internal, but after his outbursts after ‘Heavy’ and the death of his good friend, coupled alongside years and years of rejection and criticism, it’s clear that Chester was affected by the things around him, one way or another. Of course, the entertainment world is a cruel place to be, but after saving us from our sorrows, the treatment that Chester had been getting just prior to his suicide was straight up cruel. It’s like we completely forgot about the existence of the masterpieces that he created after a few songs that we may not favor.

If you’re a huge Linkin Park fan, you’ve probably realised that Chester was in pain from day 1. Songs like ‘Faint’, ‘Numb’, and ‘Somewhere I Belong’ are a clear portrayal of the emotional torment that the singer was going through. The message was clearer in ‘Heavy’, but of course it was too ‘poppy’ for our liking. He stood up for us, he made sure he understood us, and apparently yet, it’s still not enough for most us, right?

Now he’s gone, and suddenly everyone’s mourning. The same people who criticised him, hated him, made fun of him when he desperately wanted people to take him seriously, all uploaded tribute pictures and heartwarming captions about how great he is as an idol after treating him badly just a few months prior. Maybe one day we will learn to appreciate people a bit more, and to understand that our heroes are in the end, humans, just like us. But when that day comes, I hope, it doesn’t involve another casualty because this was an expensive lesson.

Rest in peace, Chester Bennington.