My initial reaction to Post Traumatic — while listening to the first twenty seconds of the opening track — was dread. As a diary of Mike Shinoda’s experiences from the loss of bandmate Chester Bennington and life after, this album was going to be hard to listen to, as Post Traumatic takes listeners through the stages of grief.
Opening track, “Place to Start”, is Shinoda’s prologue, expressing his confusion, fear, and needs. Sincerity in the vocals, along with voicemails from loved ones checking in on him, instantly offer transparency to the audience. Reality sets in as Shinoda articulates the gut-wrenching anxiety of getting back up on stage to honor Bennington in “Over Again”. Reflective and relatable, Shinoda explains closure as a process of having to say goodbye “over and over and over again,” while repeatedly getting “tackled by grief at times [he] would least expect it.” While the melody gets darker, and the rhythm becomes more aggressive, it’s clear that grief transforms into anger for the artist, as he illustrates people standing by “watching [him] as [he] falls.”
“About You” voices Shinoda’s frustration with Bennington’s death as he tries to write about subject matters other than Bennington, but “even when there is no connection back to [Bennington] in any line/All of a sudden it’s about [him] and it gets [Shinoda] every time.” He spoke with Beats 1 about his frustration: “I was writing all these songs and a lot of the early stuff on the album was about what had happened and was about Chester and all that. And then I started trying to write some songs that weren’t about Chester and weren’t about the whole thing, and I realized that people would hear them as if they were about him. And I was like, ‘Man, even when I try to make a song that’s not about him, it still feels like it’s about him.’”
Post Traumatic then takes on a different vibe, bringing the audience a taste of the final stage of grief: acceptance. In “Crossing a Line”, Shinoda makes the decision to recover through music and help others through the process, even if some of the public may not support him. He told Rolling Stone: “It’s a journey out of grief and darkness, not into grief and darkness.” The artist is able to create positivity from his grief as he light-heartedly shot the music video for “Ghosts” in his kitchen with sock puppets. Post Traumatic closes with gratitude for his wife, Anna, and other loved ones who kept Shinoda grounded through such a horrible year.
Though the wound of losing Chester Bennington remains very fresh and painful, friends and family of Bennington, as well as Linkin Park supporters are able to turn to Shinoda’s work for guidance and solace as they experience the stages of grief with him.