Sometimes a side project seems like a great idea. Jack White has made an art form out of the practice, as the successful figurehead of The Raconteurs and now The Dead Weather while remaining one half of The White Stripes. Over the years, many well established bands have endured schism and disagreement; staying together but 'doing their own thing' for a while. Chester Bennington, lead singer of American rock band Linkin Park has now fronting Dead By Sunrise. The band has been in existence since 2005 and now release Out Of Ashes as an outlet for songs that "were not right stylistically" for Linkin Park. Strange then that the last Linkin Park album Minutes To Midnight remains the band's most evolved work, showing a more melodic side after playing with remixes, film scores and disastrously collaborating with Jay-Z.
But there is more to Dead By Sunrise than just a side project formed by musical differences. It was clear that Bennington was steering his band in a more accessible direction and on the face of it Dead By Sunrise seems like a convenient place to be creative and diverse. This is important therapy for Bennington, as the name of the album would suggest - a bit disrespectful to draw this analogy toward the band that made his name but more likely directed at the man himself - and musically this appears to make sense. Much of Out Of Ashes is calm and serene, so much so that the harder, more edgy tracks, are lukewarm imitations and at times, out of place.
Too Late is an excellent example of why Out Of Ashes was made. Echoing the direction Minutes To Midnight took Linkin Park, this is a bold soft ballad. And by rights the album should be full of them. Let Down is another attempt at this packed with wonderful backing vocals and a simple no nonsense arrangement. For the same reason, Give Me Your Name has a great Pink Floyd vibe and is proof that Bennington can actually sing, even with the hapless lyrics. The production is drenched in sweet sticky syrup and at five minutes it is about two minutes too long. Into You should work but could be that song from any of Linkin Park's albums, starting soft and building. This has been done many times before. Ultimately there is no point being slightly similar to the band you are trying to get away from. For this reason, parallels are always going to be drawn.
The quality of the harder material is questionable. Fire is a hard hitting opener and at least attempts to deliver some vocal melody through the car alarm guitars but after getting heavy ends up wallowing in self-pity. Not a bad thing, but the momentum evaporates in the last thirty seconds. My Suffering is the only 'fast' song that shows any vibrant creativity. Excellent drums and spiky guitar work hold together the hardcore.
Of the rest, many of the songs on Out Of Ashes find an impressively high level of anonymity. Crawl Back In and Condemned are dull Nirvana impressions, both with decent, if short, guitar solos. Odd then that the former was chosen as a promotional single for an album that finds strength in the 'softer' songs. Inside Of Me is fast, messy and hits that middle ground that plagues most of the album - somewhere between old and new. End Of The World tries to be a bit different, like a bluesy Green Day political statement that is less a march on the Capitol, and more a rain soaked leaflet slapped into a cold hand. Walking In Circles is the right feel but truly forgettable. Out Of Ashes does to try to end on a high with In The Darkness but the opening lyrics of the descent into self harm is as obvious as Dido. Things pick up in a spirited chorus but Bennington just goes through the motions. And it's more old ground.
Out Of Ashes may be catharsis and a necessary channel for the sort of creative purge that cannot be satisfied with Linkin Park but as an album it fails to divorce itself from the sound Bennington is best known for. It's like someone has chucked in a bucket of cold water and left the sound diluted and soulless. As the driving force, Bennington is superb and you can't fault his commitment, but the end result doesn't always hit the mark. The moments of brilliance are spread out amongst dullness, obvious arrangements and incredibly banal lyrics (see "lost and can't be found", "diving into oceans", "feeling pain", "happiness from misery", "learning how to live" etc. Such a shame that a good songwriter and some great musicians fail to come up with anything new. A personal rehabilitation has produced a lack of cutting edge and inspiration. Whether it has worked for Bennington, only he knows.
-- CS (for The Music Magazine)