I found Linkin Park just before my teens, not looking for angst, necessarily (though it didn't hurt), but for the same thing I've always looked for in music: a sound that would make me notice, that would make me want more.

The first Linkin Park song I heard was 'Numb', and it had a few sounds I couldn't shake. There was the processed piano melody, ominous, quivering a little more than a piano should; and Chester Bennington's voice, which possessed a searing clarity I hadn't heard before. To this point, I had little exposure to hard rock or metal. My tastes began at the Beatles and Stones, and descended toward various strains of pop-punk and emo (Weezer, Sum 41, Green Day, etc.). I was accustomed to tight melodies, harmonies, and the occasional, aggrieved wail--forceful, but harmless.

This was loud and a little dangerous. I had resisted the idea that shouting or screaming could be musical, let alone cathartic; this was different. Bennington's scream was precise, knowing, it seemed to hold secrets I didn't yet understand. How could someone feel such intense pain? Was this simply a performance, or was there truth beneath it? Bennington's interviews would confirm the latter, but at the moment, the answer wasn't important. It was the sound I needed, what I now identify as metal's answer to the high lonesome sound of Roscoe Holcomb and Hank Williams. The sort of thing that weaponizes loneliness. When Bennington worked himself into a frenzy, the rest of the music seemed to subside, while the vocals came through in high definition.

So, I bought Meteora, then Hybrid Theory, memorized the lyrics to both, then the live album, the collaborative EP with Jay-Z (still somewhat mystifying), an oversized t-shirt that clashed with my mild personality, a few Fort Minor singles, a coffee table book, and, almost, a pair of Mike Shinoda's $200 skater shoes. (Thankfully, I decided against them.) The music was rearranging my understanding of music, though not my taste just yet. I had a vague understanding of the "nu-metal" scene Linkin Park associated with, but none of the other bands gave me the same feeling. Disturbed, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit--they moped too much, tuned the guitars and vocals too low, didn't have the same structural agility, the pinpoint precision between modes of expression. When I listened to Linkin Park, I heard an exchange of ideas previously thought to exist in separate worlds--hip-hop, metal, turntablism, the occasional Japanese flute, a visual aesthetic which drew from anime, skater culture, and graffiti art. It felt as if the band and I were discovering its hybrid aesthetic simultaneously, excited at the possibility it had stumbled onto something new.

I left the band before its third album, 2007's Minutes to Midnight, having pledged my allegiance to indie rock and what I believed to be a more serious and authentic art. Linkin Park, I was told, was corny and unsophisticated. It didn't try to obscure what it meant. So, I rejected my love for the band as a pre-teen mistake to be buried and regarded with embarrassment. But it never left entirely. It was Bennington's voice which opened the door to hardcore punk and metal. That scream gave me an entrance to music which could be imposing on first contact. Bennington was my reference point; I had heard this before.

I rediscovered the band a year ago with a renewed openness and realized my initial instincts were correct. My rejection of the band was a product of culture rather than "maturity" or a newly refined sense of taste. I had been excited at finding publications which took music as seriously as I did and hoped in following their rules, I could reach a new kind of understanding. I now realize I was wrong. I now realize the band was onto something, and that it was Bennington who held it together, who gave it pathos. Fourteen years later, those first two albums sound like the template for a revolution, and Bennington still sounds like he has secrets. I hope I never understand them.