Music Article

Music Forecast 2003

Advance word on the most promising new releases of the year

Linkin Park, the Sophomore Challenge

CAN NU METAL'S SUPERSTARS SELL ANOTHER 8 MILLION?

On a recent slushy afternoon in Manhattan, the lone cd copy of the tentatively titled ''Meteora'' -- Linkin Park's follow-up to its 8 million-selling debut, ''Hybrid Theory'' -- is receiving the sort of attention usually accorded a state secret. It is residing in the pocket of one of the band's security guards...right next to a Taser. ''Inevitably, stuff will leak,'' says MC and vocalist Mike Shinoda of the extreme security measures. ''In the meantime, you're careful.''

In the two-plus years since ''Hybrid'''s release, the Southern California sextet (pictured) has toured just about every spot in the brave nu world and spun off a best-selling remix album, ''Reanimated.'' Meteora was recorded in three stints: first on a touring bus, then at Shinoda's home studio, and finally with producer Don Gilmore. Often, each member laid down his tracks separately. ''For us, jamming and working and writing as a group would just suck,'' says Shinoda. ''We'd drive each other nuts.''

The album's dozen tracks keep with Linkin Park's rap-rock tradition, but the pounding riffs will have competition. ''Some of the songs are going to feel different,'' says Shinoda. ''We never want to use our guitars or choruses as a crutch.'' (March)

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