Next month will be three years since Chester Bennington ended his life. On what would have been Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday, not only a fellow musician, but also his best friend and Godfather to his son, he took his life. It has been three years and the sadness persists. Bennington’s struggle with depression and substances was a public affair and through his lyrics, it felt like we knew what he was going through. An exceptional vocalist he fronted a band that dove into multiple genres. Either you liked Linkin Park or you hated them. Regardless, Bennington was the best vocalist of any mainstream band in the 2000s – but, before he told you to shut up, he fronted another band.
At just 15, drummer, Sean Dowdell recruited him to form the industrial grunge quartet, Grey Daze that took over the scene in Phoenix. From 1994 to 1998, they released two albums: Wake Me and No Sun Today, respectively. In 1998, Grey Daze disbanded and a year later Bennington auditioned for the band that will change his life forever. Linkin Park made Bennington the rockstar he was destined to be. Throughout the years, he maintained the relationships with his former bandmates and in 2017, he wanted to reunite with Grey Daze and celebrate the 20th year of No Sun Today. A celebratory show was planned for October 2017 but just three months prior, Bennington’s light faded.
After a year and with the blessing of Talinda Bennington (Chester’s widow) Dowdell and the rest of Grey Daze, bassist Mace Beyers, and new guitarist Cristin Davis, began working on the project their friend initiated. Produced by Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach, Evanescence) Amends (Loma Vista Recordings) is an 11-track compilation that shows you a different side of Bennington—a young version, deep in emotion that stays true to the grunge that Bennington was influenced by.
The first track, ‘Sickness’ featuring Helmet’s Page Hamilton, is an insight to haunting past with its edgy guitars. Hamilton assists in carrying Bennington’s 20-year-old vocals to fruition. Yes, Bennington recorded these vocals two decades ago! The emotion that he carried through the Linkin Park projects began with ‘Sometimes.’ His young vocals on this track plea for optimism.
‘What’s in the Eye’ highlights Mace Beyers’s killer bass lines that create the foundation for the melodic structure. The third track sets the tone nicely as it transitions to the atmospheric ‘The Syndrome.’ This is the tearjerker track where Bennington hauntingly asks, ‘Are you happy?’
If you were lucky enough to hear No Sun Today almost two decades ago, you know how hard it is to listen to ‘Just like Heroin’ knowing Bennington’s substance abuse throughout the years. This reinvented version has a modern twist with a grittier tone.
In No Sun Today, ‘B 12’ is a lively, in your face, anthem. This new version featuring Korn’s guitar duo Brian ‘Head’ Welch and James ‘Munky’ Schaffer is darker and more industrial—a bit overproduced as it buries Bennington’s young vocals.
Still, the attention is on Bennington and how he grew into the powerhouse vocalist he was. ‘Soul Song’ features Bennington’s eldest son, Jaime. It’s a moving moment backed by piano and accompanied by Bush’s guitarist Chris Traynor.
The guitar work by Davis in ‘Morei Sky’ parallels the piano as Bennington delivers his softest vocals. Things pick back up in ‘She Shines’ – a melodically dark song that hones a groove ready for the apocalypse. The album ends with ‘Shouting Out’ – a mid-tempo track that wraps up all the emotion up nicely. The song features vocals by indie artist LP and ends with a voicemail Bennington left Davis.
Since his death, #MakeChesterProud has been trending on his birthday and death anniversary. It is not only a hashtag but also a movement that unites fans to celebrate Bennington. What Dowdell and company have done in Amends will make Bennington proud. Fans now have more material to sing along to and embrace the contribution Bennington has made in rock history.
8 / 10