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DLC Week of 1/26: Linkin Park and Varials

Linkin Park “Given Up” and Varials “Circles” are powerful expressions of anger and defiance supported by expert compositional skill and rock-solid musicianship. You don’t wanna sleep on this heady new DLC debuting this Thursday in the Rock Band Music Store.

Released in March 2008 as the fourth single from Linkin Park’s third LP, Minutes to Midnight, “Given Up” is a prime example of the potent, emotional performances that lifted the Agoura Hills five-piece to the top of the alternative metal/melodic hardcore heap at the beginning of the aughts. From start to finish, this number is drop-D guitar/quiet-loud dynamics/heart-on-sleeve/bombastic sonic perfection. Beginning with sparse percussion, the track then adds a gnarly muted strumming-pattern rhythm guitar figure before the song opens up with full-band at around 14 seconds in – and, truly, “opens up” is an apt description, as the aural transition feels like a shift from transistor radio to epic 5.1 surround-sound. Instrumentally, Dave Farrell’s aggressive bass line and Rob Bourdon’s powerfully confident drums do the heavy lifting during the verses, as the guitars pull back to better shine a light on the vocal performance and deeply personal lyrics, examining themes of alienation and desperation. It’s all hands on deck again for the soaring, impactful, and instantly catchy chorus, though. Again, there’s a reason why Linkin Park reached the highest of highs, connecting with millions upon millions of fans globally, and their many merits are on full display with this banger. Then-frontman Chester Bennington stated that his contributions to the lyrics (many of which were penned by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Mike Shinoda), drew upon his pre-rehab troubles with alcohol. "I wasn't leaving my house,” he said in a 2008 interview. “I would shack up in my closet in the dark and shake all day. I would wake up and have a pint of Jack Daniel's to calm down, then I'd pop a bunch of pills and go back in my closet and f--king freak out. I was a mess… It was f--king ridiculous. I was a total wreck."

The torment and despair of such a miserable day-to-day existence is palpably expressed in Bennington’s impassioned scream (“Misery!”) at the 2:26 mark of the song’s breakdown that he famously holds for a full 17 seconds – a moment that has evolved to become “Given Up”’s signature feature. Following that memorable interlude, the song returns one last time to the refrain before the entire group hits the brakes hard just past the 3-minute point. If you’re already on board with Linkin Park, you don’t need to be told that you’ll be playing this one again and again; If this is your first exposure to this legendary hard rock institution, welcome to your new favorite group!

Scars For You To Remember, released in October of 2022, finds Philadelphia-based metalcore/alt metal five-piece Varials mining familiar musical and lyrical themes to great effect much of the time, but with “Circles” the group explores somewhat different sonic territory. A slower melodic number, this track might subvert the assumptions of fans expecting the full-tilt sonic carnage of earlier material. The intro features a sparse chiming guitar dripping with effects joined by a digitally distorted vocal, supported by spare hi-hat hits before a thumpy, tom-driven drum pattern emerges at around the :33 mark, followed by the entire group kicking in a few moments later. Sean Rauchut’s hard-hitting, tom-heavy drums continue throughout the track and in many ways Rauchut is the star of the show here. His precision and creativity are expertly executed and help “Circles” stand out as a unique achievement within the genre. Which is not to say Mike Foley’s deft bass work, James Hohenwarter’s and Mitchell Rogers’ restrained (sometimes!) guitar parts, or – importantly – Mitchell Rogers’ largely clean vocals (with – gasp! – harmonies, to boot) aren’t equally essential to what the band has achieved with this one. As noted earlier, Varials dials back the heaviness a touch for “Circles,” adding a degree of harmonic and structural nuance that represents a welcome and admirable evolution. The band has said as much, themselves: “‘Circles’ is a new, but familiar style for the band. We’ve touched on sounds like this before, but this is the melodic climax of the record and our career this far. We hope to take this sound further into the future.” But never fear, longtime fans: the song’s outro provides something of a return to the familiar Varials mayhem. At precisely two minutes in (by design?), Rogers’ “clean vocals” give way to full-on, scream-sing angst fury with the instrumental performances matching his intensity beat for beat. A powerful, ferocious breakdown to remember for sure, and one hell of a way to cap off an adventurous and satisfying 3:15 salvo of heavy rock!

Linkin Park “Given Up” and Varials “Circles” are available for $1.99 each.

  • Linkin Park – “Given Up”
  • Varials – “Circles”

VIDEO: Rock Band 4 DLC Week of 1/26: Linkin Park and Varials



*Please note that this week’s DLC tracks will be available for purchase on Thursday, January 26th.