The thing with Dead by Sunrise is that you can either listen to it as Chester Benington’s side-project and compare it to Linkin Park, you can also listen to it as Julien-K without Ryan Shuck on vocals, or you can clear your mind of all these faces and names and enjoy a new rock band. And, truth be told, it’s not at all difficult to enjoy Dead by Sunrise’s debut album, Out of the Ashes. The overall feeling you get from this first studio effort by these guys, is that you are listening to some classic rock’n'roll album, something old school, but still alive and kicking. Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell is the first thing that comes to mind, but Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet is not too far either. I’m not entering sound issues when mentioning these albums. I’m just trying to say that Out of the Ashes has everything you would want from a rock album. It might not become your favourite, but you will respect it.
First of all, there is the rock out side, the fast and the heavy, stylized punkish tunes that rely on riff energy and Benington’s screamer abilities. Debut single, Crawl Back In, with its feel good beer party riff, is pretty much what I mean. The grunge-inspired lyrics of inner pain, self-loathing and confusion spawn a bit of an oxymoron in here, because you don’t really see drunk crowds shouting “Dont wanna loose my innocence”. Just as energetic, we can name Inside of Me and Condemned, both of which have that action flick vibe, suitable for the scene where the hero decides to take his ruthless revenge on those who wronged him: “Come on beat me, I’m not a man, Condemned”. The highlight of this punk aesthetics is the less than three minutes long, My Suffering, which has catchy melodic vocals on its otherwise dirty chorus. Chester’s pop voice and rock voice meet up on this one.
And speaking of his pop voice, what would a rock album be without its ballads… Out of the Ashes‘ strongest points are the softer tunes and from these, I have to go with Into You and Give Me Your Name as the best. Second single Let Down doesn’t… let down, either. Tracks like these have that classic value, that I was talking about earlier, while still benefiting from modern producing and interestingly manipulated guitars. Keyboards, synths and programming are also used to great effect (there are moments when Give Me Your Name will remind you of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks) , though they never overshadow the guitar work.
There is also an anthemic side to Out of the Ashes, but, if you know your Chester Benington by now, you’ll guess that these are no ordinary anthems. For example, opener Fire, though sounding very stellar, is actually about death: “When I look to the stars I know just were you are, Your looking down upon me”. The last track, In the Darkness, sounds just as grand, but this time the dramatic overtones are in tune with the lyrics: ”I want to cut through my skin, And pull you within”. The rock craftsmanship is definitely there with Dead by Sunrise and it should be, because these guys are no rookies. Hopefully, we’ll hear a follow-up to Out of the Ashes sometime, because this is one side-project that…