“Released” February 11, 2000
As I mentioned in the article for the Chris Williams Rate-a-Record demo, a band’s debut album will almost certainly feature more demos and alternate versions of its songs floating around than any other album. Linkin Park, having gone through a lengthy recording process in the course of a year when working on Hybrid Theory, put together a number of demo CDs for Warner Bros. and outside sources.
This demo, commonly referred to as the 9-Track Demo after its track list, is the most well-known and widest circulated of these demos, and is the first one discovered by fans, as far back as 2004. Because of this, the versions of the songs contained on the 9-Track Demo were used as the quintessential reference points for years and years prior to the discovery of even older demos, including the 8-Track Demo, discovered in 2009.
The 9-Track Demo was the first source for many working titles, as well as a few strange quirks in the titles; it’s not known whether these can be attributed to the band themselves or miscommunication with the label, but, for instance, there are no other “By Myself” demos titled “Super Zero.” Regardless, the 9-Track Demo was the first release that explicitly tied “Forgotten” to its predecessor “Rhinestone,” as well as providing the first solid evidence that the band was reworking tracks from their Hybrid Theory EP for inclusion on Hybrid Theory; none of the three featured here made it to that album, despite the work put into re-doing them.
That’s the story that every Linkin Park demo album tells. Many of them share tracks, conveying the idea that they were used as samplers, taking the best demos of each song and combining them in various ways. The 8-Track Demo contains the largest overlap with the 9-Track Demo, with four tracks shared between them, while others (particularly the Hybrid Theory EP tracks) contain minor lyrical and structural differences. Particularly compared to the final versions of these songs, the 9-Track Demo is unpolished and unmastered, sounding quieter, rougher, and less full than the final tracks. Lyrical differences are present but not always significant; “A Place for My Head” demo “Esaul” is the exception, containing completely different verses in each version compared to the final studio recording. By comparison, Chester Bennington’s lyrics almost never change from version to version.
Like any Linkin Park demo, these albums are best viewed as historical pieces as opposed to actual, listenable albums. They work well in that context, too, but that’s not really what they’re meant to be, so far removed from the final version of Hybrid Theory. Instead, they function best as curiosities, windows into the band’s past. The band themselves have facilitated this in recent years, with the release of a few 9-Track Demo songs on their annual fan club albums, which have always been populated with demos and alternate takes for the past five years. For the more casual fan, that is more than enough; these demo albums are, like any deep cut in a band’s catalogue, best served for the diehards.