Hybrid Theory alone touched upon themes of depression, paranoia, anxiety and abuse. On Papercut, Chester’s personal favourite song from the album, and the one he feels best sums up the band, he sang of ‘a whirlwind inside of my head’ and his inability to ‘stop what I’m hearing within’. Crawling, meanwhile, which earned the band the first of their two GRAMMYs, “[was] about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol”. 2003 follow-up Meteora, similarly, saw Chester tackle love, loneliness and loss.
Yet more current lyrical inspiration was to come. “When I find myself not doing anything, that’s when I feel the most out of control, and… that’s when things get weird,” Chester would later say. And while on a break following 2004’s Collision Course collaboration with Jay-Z, time is exactly what he found on his hands. Divorce from wife Samantha, coupled with burn-out from the heavy workload he had shouldered for the past few years, had taken a huge toll, from which he’d sought refuge in the bottle. After remarrying at the end of 2005, his new wife Talinda and the intervention of his bandmates forced him to face up to “the choice between stopping drinking, and dying”.
The frontman later reflected on this period being one of the lowest in his life. ‘I have reached the end,’ he wrote of this time on the song My Suffering, taken from his side-project Dead By Sunrise’s lone 2009 album, ‘and I don’t know what I believe in anymore.’
“[That album] is a journal, lyrically, of what I was going through,” he told Kerrang! that same year. “Whether it was falling in love or falling apart.”
“Around [2007 album] Minutes To Midnight, for 18 months we were reinventing the band, re-learning who we were as people, and, to some degree, becoming friends for the first time, especially with Chester,” Mike Shinoda said in 2014. “He was changing so much at that time, getting sober, and divorced, and he was just this new person. It would swing wildly, but it was so awesome to see it happen. I know that that was a moment when we all recognised how incredible what he was doing was. I’d seen him spend so much energy on the band. And then he was spending that time and energy on himself, figuring his life out.”
Subsequent years, for both Chester and his band, would be marked by transformation. As Linkin Park embraced an ever-changing modus operandi, with experimentation in sound seeing them shift through nu-metal, alt.rock, electro, industrial and hard rock on A Thousand Suns (2010), Living Things (2012) and The Hunting Party (2014), Chester himself seemed to find a maturity, stability and contentment for which he’d long been searching. He became a father a further three times, including to twin girls in 2011, marking his fifth and sixth (and final) children, with parenthood continuing to be a source of joy in his life. His good friend, Chris Cornell, who would have celebrated his 53rd birthday on the day his fellow vocalist passed away, asked Chester to be the godfather to his son Christopher, born in 2005.