A singer change often spells the end for a band, as it’s possibly the hardest position to replace. A guitar tone or drumming style can be replicated or tweaked quite easily, however a voice is a very distinct thing. There have been many great vocalist changes, including Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Brian Johnson (AC/DC) and Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath), but there have been so many that have destroyed the band, or simply sent them to plod along in a purgatory of musical blandness. The most recent big-name vocalist change came out when Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park fame) joined Stone Temple Pilots, replacing the fired Scott Weiland in February of this year.
‘High Rise’ EP is the new lineup’s first release and sees the band tentatively stepping out of Weiland’s shadow. There are moments where Bennington tries to impersonate the grunge-tendencies of previous efforts (like on openers ‘Out of Time’ and ‘Black Heart’) and other times where he lets loose with his own vocal style. The whole EP follows this indecision, remembering their traditional post-grunge sound on ‘Black Heart’, but seemingly forgetting it again for ‘Same on the Inside’ and ‘Tomorrow’.
In fact ‘Same on the Inside’ could easily be a bonus track from Bennington’s lesser known project Dead by Sunrise; with the guitars leaning themselves towards the lighter end of the rock spectrum and the chorus exploding into an array of soaring melodies. The only thing that differentiates the two bands on this track and ‘Tomorrow’, are guitarist Dean DeLeo’s small solo sections.
Aside from Bennigton’s delivery, Dean DeLeo provides the best moments from the album, with some excellent hard rock riffs and small tasters of just what he can do on the guitar, especially in the memorable ‘Black Heart’ solo. Unfortunately neither Eric Kretz’s drumming or Robert DeLeo’s bass lines stand out, the former being almost forgettable, doing the bare minimum to keep the song going and producing drumming that has been heard hundreds of times before.
Whilst the EP contains some excellent songs, notably ‘Black Heart’ and ‘Out of Time’, the effort is confused and not very cohesive. Until Stone Temple Pilot’s chose which direction to take, it seems they won’t excel in either style and will be left to fight it out with the rest of the bands that inhabit the musical purgatory.
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