Following the death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, the world waited to see how the band and the singer’s family would respond. In the aftermath, Bennington’s wife Talinda used her voice to uplift fans and act as an advocate for mental health awareness. Also following the loss of Bennington, Talinda and the remaining members of Linkin Park organized a tribute concert, Linkin Park & Friends, on October 27, 2017, which benefited the One More Light Fund for Music Relief.
Afterward, in the wake of his friend’s passing, Linkin Park co-founder Mike Shinoda began processing his grief through his music. The results of that process are his latest album and first full-length solo endeavor not associated with Fort Minor, Post Traumatic, which arrives Friday, June 15, 2018, thanks Warner Bros. Records.
There are parts of this album that are hard to process. While Shinoda’s work outside of Linkin Park has primarily been centered on themes like hard work, perseverance, and determination, Post Traumatic is a whole other beast. The weight of his grief and suffering is palatable. Opening up with “Place To Start,” Shinoda gives breath to the feelings many have felt after a great loss, including the sense of losing your place and foothold in the world and not knowing where to even begin processing what comes next or whether there even is a “next.” This leads right into “Over Again” which expounds this issue. Here, he explores the constant ripping open of wounds by the publicity of a death and how often the process of healing and finding closure comes at the cost of bleeding out more.
By the time “Crossing A Line” comes along, the momentum and pacing have quickened and there is a different air to the soul of the song. The hopeful symphonic and Pop-infused percussion create a hopeful and uplifting wellspring signifying the beginning of real closure. Here, Shinoda is beginning to cross over from the deepest depths of his darkness and moving towards acceptance. Lyrically he is talking to Bennington and letting him know that his own need to move forward does not mean he is leaving him behind.
“Holding It Together” is a funky and deceptively fun spiraling cataclysm of the fugue state that follows while working towards wholeness again after a hit. The lyrics and music wind around one another in a surprisingly uptempo polyphonic mirage that feels bubblier on its face than the wavering grey that lies just under the surface. Anyone who has ever lost someone will understand: it’s the almost-happy facade you put on in public when the socially-acceptable grieving period has lapsed. This is the face you present to the world so the will stop asking if you are okay, stop ripping open fresh slits of grief, but you walk around in this cloud out of time and place and waiting for the fog to pass.
Post Traumatic finds a cool groove in “Make It Up As I Go” which features guest vocals from K.Flay. Her silky vocals glide along the song and the vocal dynamic between the two intensifies the laidback coolness of the song. It slips easily into “Lift Off” featuring Chino Moreno of Deftones and rapper Machine Gun Kelly. Moreno’s icy and soothing vocals find a home in the chorus of this track as it drifts along. This is a dreamy and ethereal journey through the stratosphere signifying a journey of re-discovering self despite pitfalls and obstacles.
As the album winds to a close, there is a discernible difference between when we began the journey with Shinoda to where he drops us off. By the time we reach “IOU,” Shinoda is reclaiming his power and finding his footing on this journey through his grief. Here he is putting his naysayers and leeches on notice that he will not be counted out or stepped on. From there he transitions into “Running From My Shadow” featuring grandson. The beat on this track is catchy and has a classic Hip Hop feel. The layering of percussion, guitars, and synths, create an infectious whirlwind of sounds that pick up the listener and carry you effortlessly through the entire song. Shinoda and grandson released a video for this track last month, and if it’s not already a fan favorite it will be.
Finally, Post Traumatic closes with “Can’t Hear You Now” and it’s deep bass and sharp wit. This is the last stop on the journey and while it may be the end of this album, it’s not the end of the road for Shinoda. “Can’t Hear You Now” is Shinoda acknowledging that he has been through the darkness and that some days it’s easier to get there than others, but he’s working on being in a good place and won’t be deterred. The desire and drive to rise above adversity and keep moving forward was always Linkin Park’s way and Shinoda is carrying the torch here as well.
If the five stages of grief had a soundtrack it would be Post Traumatic. While Shinoda does kick things off in a heartrendingly sad and dark place, the ending is a bold and empowering outlook that marks the beginning of a new chapter. It is a deeply personal invitation into one man’s processing of, not only grief at the loss of his bandmate and best friend, but the uncertainty that comes when your life’s work comes into question and you don’t have the answers. Shinoda has succeeded in crafting a musical journey that fans can participate in and process with him. So, in many ways, this album is a therapeutic tool for Shinoda and Linkin Park fans everywhere. So, for innovative and original orchestration and compelling storytelling, CrypticRock gives Post Traumatic 5 out of 5 stars.