For anyone who doesn't know, "Hybrid Theory" was the original name of the alternative/rap-metal outfit "LiNkiN Park." This EP was either their first or among their first released works as a band. According to some, this recording was made in 1971. This, however, would be impossible, considering that Chester Bennington (clearly heard on this album) was born in 1976 and first began singing in bands in the 1990s. According to Wikipedia, it began recording in 1998 and was released in 1999, just before the band officially changed its name to LiNkiN Park.
For a first-effort, I find this to be extremely strong material. Despite not having the thoroughly-processed heaviness of later albums, this one clearly has all the heart I've come to expect from Mike, Chester and the boys (by whatever name.) Though it represents some of their earliest work,
I'm surprised to find that the band's familiar confrontationalism was mostly absent from this work, save for the track "Step-Up." And even then, it's not so much an emotional bone-of-contention as one of philosophy and art. Mike's not rapping about someone who's wronged him horribly, he's calling-out disingenuous and unskilled pretenders to the stage in his community. I love the line, "you can't tempt me with rhymes that are empty. Rapping to a beat doesn't make you an M-C. Rapping over rock doesn't make you a pioneer 'cuz rock and hip-hop have collaborated for years!" The message is that simply doing a thing doesn't make you into something. It's a quality of mind and spirit, grown from experience, that translates itself into quality music, and that's what really sets performers apart. You can't just create it by "... [writing] yourself a new identity." I also notice that the guitar in that song is written with a sort of intermittent "HEE-HAWWW!!" effect, kind of like a donkey. Although I have no way to confirm this, I have a feeling this was a sort of tonal insinuation that the people Mike is addressing are making "an ass" of themselves, or otherwise sloppily 'braying' their work into the scene and making a mockery of a spohisticated art-form. Although it's weird, I really love the alien-like vocal effect where (I think) Mr. Hahn says "using waves of sound, the true master paralyzes his opponent, leaving him vulnerable to attack." It's like something you'd expect to hear from an old kung-fu film, except taking place in some futuristic story about warriors using music as a weapon.
Although I'd previously heard a few tracks ("Carousel" and "Part of Me" in my travels, before I heard this album, I was totally unaware of the song "And One." I struggle to guess from whence its name came, but I like the song. Whereas most of the tracks here are pretty Mike-heavy, "And One" is one of the only "Chester-only" songs at this point, if not the only such song.
Songs I'd heard before, like "Step-Up," "Carousel" and "Part of Me" are a huge thrill to hear in 320kbps audio. The harp in "Step-Up" is so pristine and dream-like, it really makes a great contrast with the heavy guitars in the chorus. It really speaks to LiNkiN Park/Hybrid Theory's ability to pick up their instruments and tell you a complex, dynamic story with sound.
I also commend the group for the song "Part of Me," in which I hear some real maturity. Most such bands, especially in their early years, stick exclusively to finding fault with and confronting others for what they percieve to be wrong with them. It's a much more evolved person who knows how to not only admit that they themselves have some serious, life-altering flaws, but also seek to correct those flaws in some way.
Overall I give this album 5 out of 5 stars. With a start like this, I can see why this band has lasted as long as they have.