Review Summary: Competent, with a few shining moments, but otherwise bland.
Let’s face it. If you’re looking up information about Dead by Sunrise, there is a nearly one hundred percent chance you’re doing so because you heard Linkin Park’s front man Chester Bennington is attached as the singer/songwriter. You want to know what his side project sounds like, and if it has any relevance to his well known nu-metal works. That’s a fair inquiry. Let me tell you right now that this is not a clone of Linkin Park, nor is it very reminiscent of it at all. Is it good, though"
Unfortunately, most of Out of Ashes
just isn’t very interesting. The transition from nu-metal to rock has been an awkward and unwieldy process for Bennington, because there are definitely some songs on here that would sound fantastic in his natural setting but are really lacking in plain rock flavour. “Condemned”, and to a lesser extent, “Inside of Me”, just beg for a spot on a Hybrid Theory
era album but languish and feel incomplete in their actual forms. “End of the World”, both lyrically and sonically, is as subtle as a fart in an elevator, and saving the lukewarm interesting guitar bridge, is the least appealing track on the album. “Walking in Circles” is quite dull as well, following a rudimentary rock-by-numbers layout. Nothing on here (except maybe the aforementioned “End of the World”) is a bad song; they’re just uninspired and derivative.
Chester’s vocals are just what you’d expect from him. While his iconic screaming is not as ubiquitous as it is on Linkin Park’s earlier work, it is ostensibly for the best. Most tracks on Out of Ashes
don’t really call for it, and on occasion it seems like Bennington’s screams are included for the sake of it. “Inside of Me”, probably the biggest offender, appears to be nothing more than an outlet for Chester to scream to his heart’s content, but sonically it would be done justice if wrapped in the nu-metal sound he’s so well known for. There is a greater emphasis on his singing and impassioned, high range yells, which feature prominently in “Crawl Back In”, for example. “Too Late” and especially “Give Me Your Name” showcase Bennington’s softer, melodic tone, explored further with decent results. This album hasn’t particularly advanced Chester’s voice, but his performance is at the same quality as it’s always been.
Lyrics are incredibly basic. Chester’s never been known for deep, poetic wordsmithing, but some instances on Out of Ashes
are outstandingly irritating. “End of the World” sports inane, unoriginal lyrics about the way the world is; a short excerpt is below.
When you read the news
Does it make you feel sick"
Murder, money and politics
Gonna fill you up
Get your b*ll*** fix
There really isn’t much here to see. While not all songs have atrocious lyrics, there is nothing creative or inspirational in any tracks. For the most part, the lyrics are just there so that Chester has intelligible words to sing rather than engaging in the Hayley Williams style of ‘wooo’s and ‘whoa’s.
While much of the album is forgettable, there are several tracks that stand out from the rest. The opener “Fire” has an irresistibly catchy, almost anthemic vibe to the verses where Chester croons along memorably to the simplicity of repeated chord strumming of an electric guitar before launching into the action packed chorus. “Let Down”, despite its strange synth atmosphere, has a difficult chorus to shake out of the head, the harmonies an impressive success. “Give Me Your Name” is oddly charming, led comfortably along by a steady drum beat, reverberating guitar chords and a sugary, almost lovesick Bennington reaching notes I didn’t know he could. “Crawl Back In” is, all things considered, the best rock
track on the album, finding a sound that isn’t similarly replicated anywhere else.
Personally I’d prefer Dead by Sunrise to focus on their obvious strengths. The most shining, attention grabbing songs on the album are removed from the mainstream/hard rock feeling and inhabit a mellower, indie/alt rock sound. Songs like “Into You”, “Fire”, “In The Darkness” (remove the ape-like grunts from the start, though) and “Give Me Your Name” are obvious exceptions to the lacklustre rock tracks that make up the remainder. A future album has been intimated, and if it comes to fruition, it would be wonderful if Dead by Sunrise isolated the mood and impressions of these songs and built an album composed solely of them.
In the end, Out of Ashes
is a competent but bland affair, with a few shining moments. It’s like eating a butter sandwich for lunch. Sure it’s a sandwich, and there are even meagre mouthfuls that contain juicy morsels of meat and garden salads, but ultimately it isn’t as tasty and inviting as it could be and it’ll just leave you hungry for something better.