September 27, 2009|
An artists portfolio is a very important and personal item; only the best of their work is picked to be presented and they must chose each piece themselves. It’s often recommended that an artist begin and finish the portfolio with the two strongest pieces, descending from each end into the middle with the weakest of the strong.
It seems to me that Chester Bennington has followed this advice exactly with his deeply personal new project Dead By Sunrise. Not only is the album some of his finest lyrical work, it also begins and ends with two spectacular tracks, much like his very own portfolio of songs.
Dead By Sunrise began back in 2005 with just Bennington writing on the side the words he could not express with his other band, Grammy Award winning Linkin Park. By 2008, however, he had been joined by Julien-K members Ryan Shuck, Amir Derakh, Elias Andra, Brandon Belsky and friend Anthony “Fu” Valcic. In May 2008 they performed three songs at the 13th anniversary party for Club Tattoo (Arizona) but it wasn’t until later in the summer that Bennington (who quite remarkably was also working on Linkin Parks new record at the time) and co jumped into the studio to record Out of Ashes with producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Daughtry). What emerged was a fantastic rock album which isn’t afraid to push the boundaries with ballads, acoustics and synths.
What is evident while listening to track one of Out of Ashes is that the only real similarity between Dead By Sunrise and Linkin Park is Benningtons vocals; If someone else were to be singing the songs then there would probably be no obvious comparison at all. There is a sense of ‘epic-ness’ as the drums kick in to aptly named Fire and as the chorus enters you can’t help but feel it’d be a suitable song for a blockbuster film soundtrack. I can imagine this song being an absolute hit with fans and am sure many are already singing “When I look to the stars…” at the top of their lungs in their rooms and in their cars.
Crawl Back In is the first single from Out of Ashes and is the rawest, rockiest song on the album sure to be a hit with fans of heavier music and guitar solos. It chronicles Bennington’s difficult personal battle with alcohol and his fear of becoming a broken person described in the lyrics “I don’t want to be like them/I want to crawl back in”. His powerful vocals along with the heavy, fast-tempo beat almost scream his despair and desperation of wanting to beat the addiction, a very impressive feat to tell a story not only through words but through a sound.
Track five -Let Down- is a little slower in comparison with the previous tracks, with a softer vocal from Bennington. This perfectly matches the nature of the song which speaks of love and the hardship of being let down – referring to Bennington’s painful divorce. Speaking of the fear of going down the same old road again in a new relationship, it offers an insight into Bennington’s past and the difficult decisions which are made from broken trust and broken hearts. You may have to listen to this track a few times to completely take it in, in order to fully appreciate its beauty.
One of my personal favorites from the album is the beautiful Give Me Your Name, a song about being in love. Something about Chester’s soft voice as he begins “Give me a smile/Give me your name girl” seems to completely emulate the dreamlike quality of meeting somebody ‘perfect’ for the first time; the feeling of butterflies and the strong urge to smile constantly. It continues in this way throughout and is almost like a lullaby that entices you to join this fantasy world, to feel this same wonderful emotion that he is feeling. It’s a track which is rather different to other songs on the album both lyrically (the majority of other songs are darker) and musically and I think it’s perfectly placed delicately in the middle, almost like a ray of sunshine after a storm. Hopefully this is a song that’ll be played acoustic sometime in the future too.
It’s back to the heavier side of the album next with guitar-laden My Suffering which delves deeper into Bennington’s addiction to alcohol and drugs – a running theme in the album. Perhaps my favorite element of the song is his screams over the chorus. With lines like “I’ve seen the devil in a smile/I’ve found salvation in a vile/My happy ending exists only in my dreams” it’s a brutally honest look at his past demons performed in an explosive musical masterpiece – not perhaps one for the faint hearted.
In the Darkness brings us to the last track on Out Of Ashes which ends with as much power as it began. Deciding to end on a lighter note the track opens up with an acoustic guitar and a slower tempo ready to document the very personal “act of making love with someone you feel deep love for” – as described by the man himself. He speaks of ‘aching at the sight’ of the one he loves in a beautiful display of affection and you can’t help but smile at Bennington’s frank lyrics. I really couldn’t think of a more perfect song to end the album on; after a 12-track journey through the highs and lows of Bennington’s recent years it really does make you glad to see the last track echo the album title as Bennington rises from the ashes with his new love.
Out of Ashes is a beautifully crafted album which skillfully takes the listener on a whirlwind trip through Bennington’s remarkable trials of recent life. He lays bare his deepest, most personal moments from when he hit rock-bottom, through his pain and suffering and to his discovery of new love and the process of healing. Bennington, with the help of his band mates, has managed to create a completely new sound, a sound very different from Linkin Park – something that is often very difficult to achieve when starting a new project. It really is refreshing to hear such honest lyrics which don’t have to be deciphered through daftly constructed metaphors. The meaning and message of each track is clear yet the listener still has room for their own personal interpretation. To any fan of pure honest music, whether you like Linkin Park or not, I suggest you pick up this album on October 13th, I know I will.
For Fans Of: Linkin Park, Julien K, Muse
Overall Rating Out Of 10: 9/10
Crawl Back In
Give Me Your Name
Walking In Circles