When an icon leaves their mark on a culture, their influence reigns all over impressionable audiences that contain fans, fellow artists, people of interest, and spectators of all demographics. The notions and actions of effect when the said icon utilizes a medium and becomes such a dignified and recognizable entity within a culture.
This can be undeniably said about the late musician Chester Bennington and his impact on rock music. With his efforts toward the executions of his art and mastery of his craft, his voice remains a staple in the genre he intended to be in.
Now, a glimpse of the beginning of his journey in becoming the icon that he was has surfaced. Grey Daze, the pre-Linkin Park outfit that Bennington occupied as the frontman of in the mid-90s has now brought forth their third and final studio album, Amends via Loma Vista Recordings.
This album takes a step back in time and gives listeners a chance to experience a young Bennington’s originally recorded vocals while also showcasing the raw energy he embodied that allowed him to pave his way to becoming the monumental influence that he’s remembered for today.
Grey Daze bandmates: Sean Dowdell, Mace Beyers, Cristin Davis, as well as Chester’s family members: Talinda Bennington, his parents, Susan and Lee, and his son Jaime all participated in the curation and storytelling that served as both catharsis and the completion of a promise to see the 11-song album through to completion.
Linkin Park was and still is wildly successful, but it’s not where Bennington first cut his teeth in efforts to master his craft. Amends utilizes his original, now re-mastered vocals from the mid-90s on 11 tracks taken from the group’s unknown vault of unreleased song catalogs. Although the vocals were originally recorded back then during Bennington’s initial involvement, the instrumental music itself has since been re-recorded by the likes of musicians from associated acts such as Korn, Helmet, Bush, Breaking Benjamin, P.O.D, and Orgy. With revamped music, the origin story of rock music’s icons is solidified as a modern, yet almost nostalgic sound that embodies a young star’s gritty and raw emotion.
They shared stories and insight into how Amends became a reality via a documentary, an eight-part, studio driven video series titled “Making Amends,” and a Dave Navarro (Inked Master, Jane’s Addiction) hosted roundtable discussion featuring Dowdell with Amends contributors Brian “Head” Welch (Korn), Chris Traynor (Bush/Helmet), LP and producer Esjay Jones.
As someone who was entranced by Bennington from a young age, hearing these adolescent vocals come from such an inspirational artist was incredibly surreal. At first listen, one can hear that Bennington’s lyricism was at a point of becoming refined into the charismatic and distinguished anatomy that the hits he helped create that we’re familiar with today now embody.
Beginning with a strong, yet eerie ballad, “Sickness” places the album into the melancholy and angsty tone that the overall atmosphere throughout the album has. It’s a great start to the record as a whole, for it demonstrates the grittiness and vast range that Bennington had.
Following this are a few tracks that really bring forth the group’s foundational songwriting that holds a very cohesive way to make a simple melody sound bigger than the mechanical essence that they are, meaning they captured simplicity precisely and allowed it to flow in an unapologetic way. “Sometimes”, “What’s In The Eye”, and “Syndrome” all have variations of the previously mentioned notions, with a heavy hitting breakdown at the bridge of “Syndrome” that definitely can leave a listener reminiscent of a fight-song vibe. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.
Continuing through the record, that big sound full of various depth doesn’t end with the following tracks. “In Time” feels like an evolving trance to the progressive and thickly, syncopated riffs of “Just Like Heroin” keep the momentum of the album on track.
One particular song caught my ears a little more than others though, and that track is “B12”. It seems to be a recollection of political speculation of what was happening around the world at the time of the lyric’s conception. Knowing now that Bennington had been working consistently behind the scenes outside of his musical endeavors to fight against controversial activities involving political corruption and overall human-trafficking, hearing the lyrics of this track truly embody aspects of his overall activism speaks volumes.
With the remaining few tracks on the record, “Soul Song” really sticks out to be a particularly emotionally driven song, especially with Bennington’s son Jamie at the helm of production for the track’s music video. Listening to this one while watching the music video really encapsulates the surreal involvement that Jamie had taken part in, with Bennington’s legacy being what it is today.
With the three tracks after this following suit, “Morei Sky”, “She Shines”, and “Shouting Out” all capture feelings and themes of internal struggles with love, life, and mental illness that Bennington has always been incredibly vocal about. His consistency of messages that he engraves into all of his art is proven to ring true through these previously dormant works of art. At the very end of “Shouting Out”, a voice message from the late frontman himself was layered into serene conclusion of the song. And in his voice, you can really hear the sincerity of a man that was an inspiration to millions in such a vulnerable, nurturing state. In that little snip of vocalized affection, the genuine aura and aspirations can be felt very vividly from the gentle, unique, and delicate soul.
Chester Bennington announced the reunion of this project in 2017, which ultimately was halted by the event of his death in the following year. With the love and compassion from the fellow musicians, friends, and family that surrounded him, the individuals whom he kept close to him were able to release this once lost origin story for all to enjoy. Seeing the stepping stones of his career being brought forth after two decades of history, it was an incredibly surreal experience to hear this record.
I firmly believe that this record will continue to fortify his legacy as the icon that he was. And for those that are always seeking guidance through music, I believe this is yet another beacon of light that Bennington had for us to traverse through the darkness that this world brings.
The album is available in a variety of collectible formats with several iterations available exclusively via the band’s website. The CD comes as a 16-page case-bound book; a first pressing, ruby red vinyl variant exclusive to the band’s webstore; and a numbered deluxe edition featuring both a CD and LP, which includes the first ever disc tray designed for vinyl, a 60-page book with never-before-seen photos, 180g red and white splattered vinyl, and a collectible set of band memorabilia dubbed the “Grey Daze Archive.”
Digital and other standard versions of the album are available here.