Review Summary: Don't quit your day job Bennington
In case you turned on the radio in the past month and wondered a simple question about Dead by Sunrise, here’s the answer: No, Linkin Park did not change its band name. Dead By Sunrise is actually Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s side project. Teaming up with members from Julien-K — former tour mates — Bennington takes a more straightforward rock route with some industrial traits on his vacation from his musical day job. But Out Of Ashes
, the group’s debut, fails to reach any significant musical heights, despite production from Howard Benson, who has manned the boards for My Chemical Romance, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Motorhead.
The album’s downfall is, ironically, the fault of its lead singer: Bennington. He does not have the proper vocal presence to lead this particular group, as he repeatedly delivers underwhelming performances without his Linkin Park partner Mike Shinoda. Even with plenty of full-length records under his belt, Bennington still remains absolutely clueless on how to write consistently passable lyrics, as here they are infested with shallow clichés, angst-fueled nonsense or a mix of the two. Regardless of the poison he chooses, Bennington’s lyrics are stale throughout Out Of Ashes
. It’s a sad story, especially because his new bandmates are not exactly leaving him out to dry.
Though Dead By Sunrise, save for Bennington, is not exactly filled with household names, the other members do a sufficient job of crafting instrumentals. Opening track “Fire” immediately reveals the grand atmosphere the group is attempting to create. Its post-grunge guitar instrumentals are layered with keyboard and synth sections, bringing some industrial touches in shaping its sound. The mid-tempo tune “Into You” creates a dreamy setting with its lavish textures of melodic guitar riffs and synth-heavy chorus.
In both songs, Bennington’s vocal melodies complement the music as he embraces the new style in stride. His lyrics falter, however, and hold the songs back as they fail to match the maturity set by the instrumentals.
While he seems more than happy to test new waters on Out Of Ashes
, Bennington opts to support faster and edgier songs that sound similar to Hybrid Theory-era Linkin Park, absent of its hip-hop touches.
Dead By Sunrise is instrumentally strong when the band crafts heavier and more aggressive rock songs, though it often puts its industrial influences on the back burner to do so. “Inside Of Me” features some enjoyable, heavily distorted guitar grooves and riffs and even has a surprisingly competent guitar solo with its rhythms staying tight throughout its short duration. But just as his supporting cast seems to find its potential, Bennington stumbles and hits a new low with his vocals and lyrics.
Bennington has a tendency to write abysmally, for nearly every time the band crafts a heavier song he reverts into his decade-old, angst-driven lyrical style. “My Suffering” features more of the same as Bennington sings “You kiss away/ I loved my pain/ you wash away these bloody stains/ you are to blame my suffering.” Along with showing the lyrical potential of an irate middle school student, Bennington’s lines completely ruin an otherwise fun, albeit simple, hard rock tune.
Although the mid-tempo, atmospheric tunes with industrial touches are usually distinguishable from the more clear-cut, heavier rock songs, the finest tracks on Out Of Ashes
combine the two styles. The album’s first single “Crawl Back In” is a prime example, for it serves as a safe yet intriguing choice for the radio. Its edgy guitar progressions and heavy bass lines establish an entertaining groove. And although his lyrics are far from poetic, Bennington delivers one of his best vocal performances on the record.
“The Morning After” shows the group at its collective best, as it once again pushes the tempo without completely abandoning its industrial characteristics. The synth sections perfectly blend with the rhythm progressions as the group seamlessly fuses its two strongest aspects. Bennington once again seems to be in a comfort zone, as he ends the record with another stellar vocal presentation.
Though the record’s highlights are enjoyable, they are too few and far between. On its debut, Dead By Sunrise seems shaky on how to consistently use its strengths. The atmospheric, slower tunes never fully reach their intended epic heights, and the heavy ones rarely achieve the planned fun factor — both thanks to Bennington’s inconsistent writing. Nine years ago, Bennington’s angst-filled lyrics captured the hearts of teenagers. But on Out of Ashes
, he sounds like a confused musician, debating how to mature without losing his childhood charm.
***as seen on diamondbackonline.com***