26 June 2020 is a date metal fans will remember forever, as on this day we got to hear Chester Bennington’s voice again on a new album. Pushed from April to the summer, 26 June was the date when GREY DAZE – Chester’s previous band before hitting rock-star fame with LINKIN PARK – choose to unveil songs from their early beginning. The album is simply titled “Amends” and this word pretty much says it all, regarding the nature of this release.
Designed as a tribute album, “Amends” is comprised of eleven tracks that feature Chester Bennington’s vocals from the 90s over freshly recorded instrumental parts. In this context, the offering acts as a time machine where listeners get to hear a young Chester flexing his vocal cords. Work on what would become “Amends” started in February of 2017, after Chester had the idea of reuniting the band for a 20-year anniversary show, and do a full re-recording of their earlier material. The tragic events of 20 July 2017 put a stop to the idea of re-recording the vocals and, with the permission of Talinda Bennington, the band had to find alternative means to finalize this project. Talking about the way the album came to be, drummer Sean Dowdell commented the following:
“We reverse engineered a lot of the music. We took all the music away, we kept the vocal track and the lyrics that were there – that was all Chester. We kept the integrity and the intention of all of the vocals, intact from its original inception. We actually rewrote all of the music to every single song from the ground up.”
Rewriting the music to keep it in tune with Chester Bennington’s vocals and lyrics, while also giving it a modern sheen and production value that would appeal to the current rock/metal scene, makes this album bittersweet to hear. The songs, which were taken from “Wake Me” (1994) and “… No Sun Today” (1997), have such a raw emotional edge to them, while also being rocking and melodic – Chester’s trademark sound, one may argue. The album in itself is quite varied, with some tracks being more rockish, others being more atmospheric, with many others falling in between. The opening track, “Sickness,” is a more guitar-driven and all-around angrier track, while the next tracks, “Sometimes” and “What’s in the Eye,” are more atmospheric and melancholic, but also rough and gritty. This should give the listeners a good idea of the dynamics of this album. While the songs could be labeled as 90s alternative rock/metal, they glide between different moods and vibes as the album progresses.
Despite the occasional guitar bursts and chilling screamed vocals, “Just Like Heroin” has a hazy feeling to it coming from Jamie Muhoberac’s keyboards, while also being very emotionally charged; definitely a highlight of the album. “Sometimes” and “In Time” are softer and maybe even a bit poppier, with some of the hookiest melodies and choruses on this record, so listeners will be singing along to them easily. The same goes for album closer, “Shouting Out.” The fast-paced, hip-hop-like approach to the vocals makes “B12” the most experimental and intriguing song on this album. Another album highlight, “The Syndrome,” has some electronic overlays that add a sense of wistfulness to it, while the vocals are just as powerful and melodic as expected. It ends with the question “Are you happy?” that always catches me off-guard, even though it’s a reprise of the chorus.
The emotional gut-punch comes in the form of “Soul Song” and “Morei Sky,” not just because of the haunting vocal delivery and lyrics, but also because of the superb backing orchestration consisting of piano lines, courtesy of classical pianist Jean Yves D’Angelo, and Heidi Gadd’s beautiful strings. The fact that they included short glimpses of studio work along with a voice message from Chester at the end of the record make this album even more heartfelt and, as mentioned earlier, bittersweet. The added backing vocals from Chester’s son Jaime Bennington makes “Soul Song,” and the accompanying video that he directed, extra special and soulful.
“If I had a second chance I’d make amends…” sings Chester on “Morei Sky,” but since he never got this second chance his bandmates in GREY DAZE, with help from many friends and fellow artists (Brian “Head” Welch, Page Hamilton, Ryan Shuck, Chris Traynor, Marcos Curiel, to name a few), took it upon themselves to finish this album in his memory. Even if he’s gone, Chester Bennington will always live on in our hearts through his music; “Amends” is a testament to this. The fact that I still find comfort in listening to his voice and lyrics speaks volumes of the artist he would become later with LINKIN PARK, touching the hearts of millions around the globe.
Written by Andrea Crow
- What’s In The Eye
- The Syndrome
- In Time
- Just Like Heroin
- Soul Song
- Morei Sky
- She Shines
- Shouting Out
Chester Bennington – vocals
Sean Dowdell – drums and backing vocals
Mace Bayers – bass
Cristin Davis – guitar
Loma Vista Records