Prior to the meteoric success of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington was the lead vocalist of a grunge-inspired rock band known as Grey Daze. The band released two albums (Wake Me and …No Sun Today) before Bennington joined Linkin Park, and the songs from those releases have been re-recorded and re-imagined for an album known now as Amends. The band is comprised of longtime members Sean Dowdell (drums, backing vocals), Mace Beyers (bass), as well as Cristin Davis (guitar) who have affectionately raided their vault of unheard vocal takes from Bennington to recreate this record. Although Grey Daze disbanded in 1998, Bennington took to social media in 2017 to announce a reunion of his former band, yet due to his untimely death, he never got a chance to see the final product through. Amends is a proper time capsule of the brilliance of Bennington’s vocal prowess at such a young age, and it’s easy to see the rock influences that he wears proudly on his sleeve on this album.
The album opens with some electronica-esque sounds that pave the way for Bennington’s opening vocal statement of, “I’m a whore, and I’m feeling sorry for myself / In your arms and I am drowning like the child I was / I need more, can you help me? / Feed my sin, come and kill me.” Much like the Linkin Park lyrics in hindsight sounding like a call for help, Bennington again paints a troubled soul on this release. Other songs like the Alice in Chains sounding “Sometimes” showcase a group of musicians well aware of the music they wanted to create, and having the ability to make to it. Bennington’s ability to showcase a vulnerability to his words gains momentum as the entire record unfolds.
The first single released from Amends, “What’s in the Eye” is reminiscent of the songwriting of other 90’s rock bands that ruled the airwaves such as Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and even a little bit of Creed. Bennington laments his past on the second verse of this song as he sings, “What’s in the eye that I cannot catch? / Is it me? I want to know / Why it’s so hard to let go?” He has left several “bread crumbs” of what he will accomplish later in his career by displaying his capability of going from a growl to a whisper in a matter of bars of music. This album only further displays his generational talent.
”The Syndrome” mixes in some sampled sounds and beats over Bennington’s trademark screams and is as close to the sound that he would later adopt in Linkin Park as anything else on this album. “In Time” is a mid-tempo rocker that further lets us into the singer’s headspace as he sings, “Sin, is always at my door / Slice the vein, blood spilled on the floor / Light shining in my eyes / Death greets me with a smile.” Bennington’s vices come to a head-on other songs such as “Just Like Heroin” and “B12” as he rattles off a bunch of addictions in his life at that time.
The album’s main bright spot comes in the form of a tender piano-based ballad, “Soul Song,” that features Jamie Bennington on guest vocals in the background. It features some of the record’s best songwriting elements as the guitars kick in on the song’s crescendo, and it makes for a truly powerful moment.
”She Shines” is reminiscent of the brooding rock from bands such as Godsmack and Soundgarden, yet Bennington’s impressive vocal range is what makes it stand out from the pack. Album closer, “Shouting Out” is the listeners’ last chance to connect with the memory of Bennington, and it doesn’t disappoint. Bennington’s haunting last vocal refrain of, “Didn’t mean to run from you / I’m shouting out, so ashamed / Didn’t mean to rush you down / I didn’t mean to” seems as powerful as it was originally intended. The tragedy of his life ending much too soon is almost too hard to bear.
Chester Bennington remains a once in a generation vocal talent that was taken from the musical world in the most tragic of ways. Amends serves as a nice time capsule of Bennington’s career and shows that his impressive vocal range was evident in even the earliest stages of his musical path. His bandmates have done a terrific job of preserving the magic of his voice and letting his memory live on in this worthy collection of songs. While the music does not stray too far from the band’s influences, it still makes for a memorable listening experience as we take one last look at the early recordings of Bennington’s career.