Review Summary: Rough around the edges, and wonderfully so.
“People come around. People let you down.
Before worldwide fame and fortune with the massively successful California nu-metal outfit, Linkin Park, Chester Charles Bennington’s music career was almost over before it had even begun. Numerous admissions from Bennington over the years have revealed a childhood smothered in trauma, being a victim of sexual assault, bullying, and a dysfunctional family situation following the divorce of his parents. The young Bennington, in an attempt to drown out his surrounding demons, first turned to a series of abusive intoxications and various drug usage, before finally discovering the catharsis he was looking for; music.
First joining a friend’s band in his early teenage years while still living in Phoenix, Arizona, Sean Dowdell and His Friends" released a short cassette with Bennington on vocals, before the effort was eventually disbanded. Bennington was then invited to join Dowdell’s new band, Grey Daze, with the 17-year-old Bennington once again taking on vocal duties. The group then went on to independently release two full length albums, Wake Me
in 1994, and No Sun Today…
in 1997, with Dowdell and Bennington being the only two consistent band members, while others came and went over the years. This all came to a final close with Bennington’s departure from the band and eventual decision to join an early incarnation of Linkin Park in 1998, then known as Xero, relocating to California and ending Grey Daze for good.
Heavily influenced by popular rock bands of the era, Grey Daze’s post-grunge stylistic approach very much established the band as a natural product of its time, with Wake Me
and No Sun Today…
both showcasing an incredibly similar sound overall, that simply oozes with nods to Bennington’s personal influences, such as Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden. However, while this style remains consistent on both records, Wake Me
arguably features the superior material and sound between the two. Yes, the production on the bands sophomore album, No Sun Today…
, does feel slightly cleaner, surprisingly this pales in comparison to the muddier mix of the instruments and natural acoustics on Bennington’s vocals seen on Wake Me
, most likely due to recording limitations the band faced at the time. It all contributes massively to the overall tone of the record, enhancing the aggression and rawness of the performances, and stands out as the far more visceral experience between the two.
As a result of the band’s influences, Wake Me
’s instrumentation is pure 90’s rock n’ roll, and Jason Barnes’ grungy riffage easily features as a massive highlight on the album. ‘Wake Me’ and ‘Sometimes’ storm out of the gate in a massive wall of overdriven chaos to compliment Bennington’s furious vocal performance, whilst also taking the time to slip in some great guitar solo work that seem to have been ripped straight out of an Alice in Chains record. While sometimes lacking in the mix, Sean Dowdell’s drumming is at the very least plenty competent to be enjoyable. It’s nothing spectacular, but works with Barnes’ riffage enough to fully establish the rock backbone of the record, and to add to this Jonathon Krause’s bass guitar work actually comes in to some very effective use here, such as the moody Nirvana-esque intro to ‘Starting to Fly.’
As for Bennington himself, his vocal performances on Wake Me
and No Sun Today…
easily stand as some of the strongest performances of his career. Far less focused on the angst driven screams that Bennington so famously utilized throughout Linkin Park’s history, Grey Daze instead see’s the vocals take on a far more crooning approach during softer vocals, with a little more attitude directed toward his would-be tormentors, and lyrically coming across as much more determined to overcome the obstacles in his way, such as the lyrical content of ‘Morei Sky’;
“If I had a second chance, I’d make amends.
This approach also ties in fantastically with the more aggressive side of things, drawing from inner demons and sees Bennington fully embracing his inner Scott Weiland for the roaring chorus’ of ‘Hole’ and ‘What’s in the Eye"’. The album’s final compliment to Bennington comes in the form of a hidden track; an acapella version of ‘Morei Sky’ lies in secret at the end of ‘Shouting Out’ after a few minutes silence, and is easily one of the rawest performances Bennington has ever put on record.
After hearing Wake Me
and No Sun Today…
, it couldn’t be any clearer why the idea of being the front man for Stone Temple Pilots appealed so much to him back in 2013 to 2015; Grey Daze offered Bennington the chance to wear his influences on his sleeves, embody 90s rock n’ roll to the fullest, and he performed fantastically doing so. It’s just a shame that, like so many other talented individuals of the same era, Bennington’s demons finally caught up with him and eventually overcame the man he had become on the 20th July, 2017.
Thankfully, despite the lack of an available physical release, Grey Daze is available to be heard online, and it is strongly recommended that anyone who enjoyed the music of Chester Bennington go and listen to them, as Grey Daze offers another example of a wonderfully versatile vocalist and talented musician, who will unfortunately never perform again.
This review was written to pay respect to a man massively influential to myself and many others. My generation wouldn’t have been the same without him.
Don’t suffer in silence, don’t be alone. Reach out and find the support you need before making the same decision.
“Maybe things will get better,
Maybe things will look brighter,