REVIEW: Mike Shinoda – “Post Traumatic” EP

Since the untimely passing of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington back in July 2017 it has been unknown what would be next for the band mates he left behind and their musical careers  from not only an emotional point of view but also a logistical one after losing not only a close friend but a vital member of such an iconic band. Some members of Linkin Park have had a go of music outside of their main band but none more successfully than vocalist Mike Shinoda who fronted the Hip Hop group Fort Minor. Most would expect that if anyone would go on to make music again outside of LP then it would be Shinoda and that has come to fruition as the vocalist has dropped a surprise EP that is in tribute to his late band mate.

Post Traumatic is a 3 track EP that solely focuses on the aftermath of losing Chester Bennington with each song giving an intimate insight to the mind of Shinoda dealing with the loss of his friend and band mate as well as the events that followed such as the memorial show ‘Linkin Park and Friends: Celebrate Life in Honour of Chester Bennington’ that was put on in Los Angeles in late October 2017.

Each track has been written and produced by Mike Shinoda and are accompanied by a music video, the first track aptly named ‘Place to Start is the shortest of the three and serves as an intro to this mini story. The song opens with a soothing singing sequence before speeding up into Shinoda’s rap flow that then carefully moves between the two styles for a blend that feels extremely smooth and is laced with sentimental lyrics such as “I’m tired of feeling like every next step’s hopeless, I’m tired of being scared that what I build might break apart” as the music begins to calmly build before an abrupt cut to voicemail recordings of friends offering their support and checking up on him. The video version shows a simple shot of Mike calmly singing along as the sunshine behind breaks through the room before cutting to shots of a child’s bedroom whilst the voicemails play over the top.

The second song ‘Over Again‘ highlights the wide range of emotions felt when dealing with the aftermath of a loss as the lyrics give an insight to the days leading up to the bands memorial concert for Chester You can tell that Mike is giving listeners a genuine look into the raw emotions surrounding that gig as he mentions rehearsing for a month and not worrying about the set but instead the fear of an unexpected wave of emotion with the line “I get tackled by the grief at times that I would least expect” and later again in the second verse when he reflects on this with “I almost lost it in the middle of a couple songs“. The second verse has a much more angry tone to it and once again adds to the rawness of the EP with lyrics talking about simply not knowing how he feels and the most candid lyrics on the song highlighting frustration surrounding the questions and expectations for his career “And everybody that I talk to is like, ‘wow Must be really hard to figure what to do now’ Well thank you genius / you think it’ll be a challenge Only my life’s work hanging in the fucking balance”. It’s a really powerful line delivered with such strong emotion that you can feel it’s impact and know that this loss has so many implications to those left behind from losing a loved one and not being able to see them anymore to the intricate things surrounding the bands career moving forward with everything from musical expression, finances, logistics, fanbases, branding and legal decisions all bubbling up behind the scenes. This line feels deeply telling and like a huge moment of opening up for Shinoda but it also serves as a tiny window into a much bigger jungle of emotions that can not fully be expressed. The song mainly focuses on struggling with closure whilst being in the public eye and it’s a really interesting track that ends with “Over and over and over again” repeating as the video spirals into chaos with inverted colours and shakey camera work.

(..continued below EP playlist)

The last track ‘Watching As I Fall‘ feels the least specific as far as direct references to Shindoa’s struggle go and for that reason it feels the most like a single as it’s lyrics are more generalised and therefore may be more relatable to a general music listener. This would usually be something that I would prefer as relating to lyrics is in my opinion one of the strongest forms of relationship with music and is a driving force in genres such as Rock and Metal, but I found myself enjoying the first two more. Even though I couldn’t relate to that specific situation as much as I could a generalised one, things still felt so raw in the first two tracks and so unique that it draws you in even if you’re someone like me who wouldn’t usually look for emotional songs that aren’t generalised enough that I could relate it to my own personal experiences yet still feel it’s specific to me. Whilst I have been through loss myself and in many ways some have been similar to the loss that Mike has suffered, in many ways they have been far removed also and I think it would be the same for most people as we all go through loss but hardly any of us will deal with organising a tribute concert in front of thousands of people for example.

This song does feel like the most polished and so is the video which is a good ending for the EP. There is a lot of animation featured in the video and a lot more locations and stylistic shots used and this blends well with the range of styles used in the song especially when accompanying the chorus which I could definitely see being played live whilst a packed crowd sing back to Mike at the top of their lungs, it’s one of those choruses that just itches you to singalong.

The outro is fantastic and has a lot going on and reminds me of the Reanimation era of Linkin Park’s music just as the solo EP comes to an abrupt end which leads into a vlog style video from Mike Shinoda on the music video version of the song. The vocalist is laying down and speaking to the audience about general things such as going to the doctors and frustrations at stories of racism in the news and mentions that it is December and that the loss of Chester had been four months previous and how he is trying to deal with it yet still be grateful for what he has with the upcoming holiday season. The sombre video is a good addition to the visual experience of the EP as it shows a tired and calm side of Shinoda during such a hectic period in his life and really does cap off the experience that I feel this EP brings of capturing what the immediate aftermath of losing Chester Bennington has been like for Mike Shinoda.

All in all I enjoyed the EP, it’s a strange one as it is so raw and specific and really short but I feel the length is actually something that helps it.

Check out our special Linkin Park episode of the Queue & A interviewing LP fans outside of their 2015 o2 Arena gig in London.