Subscribe | UPI Odd Newsletter Subscribe "In the End" was the big hit from Linkin Park's mega-platinum debut album, "Hybrid Theory." But as it releases its new effort, "Meteora," the rap-rock sextet from Santa Monica, Calif., hopes it was only the beginning. Advertisement "Meteora," which hits stores March 25, follows the meteoric success of "Hybrid Theory," which came out in 2000 and became the top-selling album of 2001, eventually moving more than 14 million copies worldwide. Linkin Park won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance, and "Reanimation," a 2002 remix collection, went platinum. Following that would seem a formidable task, but guitarist Brad Delson says Linkin Park actually found it "easier" to make "Meteora" than it did "Hybrid Theory." "The short answer is that most of the pressure we experience comes from ourselves, because we're kind of perfectionists and definitely strive to make really great art and really great music," explains Delson, 25, a UCLA graduate who co-founded Linkin Park with vocalist and MC Mike Shinoda in 1996, when they were in high school. Advertisement "I think there was less pressure this time. The first time out, if your record doesn't do well, that's it -- your career is pretty much over. But based on the fact we had such tremendous luck with our first few endeavors, we kind of know we have a career at this point. We all feel very secure and pretty much blessed with the opportunity to make music for some time. There's no immediate threat of not being able to do that." That doesn't mean "Meteora" came easy, however. Linkin Park -- which also includes vocalist Chester Bennington, DJ Joseph Hahn, bassist Darren "Phoenix" Farrell and drummer Rob Bourdon -- started working on new material on its tour bus during the OZZFest 2001. After that the group set up shop at NRG studios in Hollywood with "Hybrid Theory" producer Don Gilmore. The 12-track album ultimately took 18 months to create, but while arduous, Delson says it was hardly an ordeal. "We didn't care how long it was going to take," the guitarist says by telephone from his record company's New York offices. "My attitude was we've been working on this for a year and a half; we want it to be great. If we have to spend two more days working on a part, it's going to be worth it. Advertisement "We didn't take any shortcuts or say 'That's good enough;' we just wanted to make sure it was great when it was done." But there were some harried moments, Delson acknowledges. "Somewhere I Belong," the album's first single, wasn't finished until late December, when Shinoda and Bennington got the thumbs-up from the rest of the band on their 40th attempt at a chorus for the song. "All the ones they had before were great," Delson recalls, "but we kept saying, 'You know what? This is strong, but we think there's something more you can come up with.' "At that point we were stressed out. We didn't have a deadline, but we wanted to complete it in a timely fashion. We were definitely under the gun at that point." With "Meteora" ready to go, Linkin Park is now looking forward to taking the new material on the road. It's starting with a run of free or low-cost club and theater shows designed as a thank-you gesture to early fans and to the band's promotional street teams; "We're digging into our own pockets to make this happen," Delson says. Then, after a run through Europe, the group returns to North America for the July 4 kickoff of the Summer Sanitarium tour with Metallica, Limp Bizkit and others, a jaunt Delson predicts will be "awesome ... one of the strongest lineups I've head of in years." Advertisement "We're definitely itching to get this music on stage," he says. "We're extremely, proud of this record. It's like our baby; we can't wait to take it out and show it to our friends."