Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
After two albums with a much lighter electronic and pop-based sound, Chris Daughtry makes something of a return to his roots on his new album, Dearly Beloved.
This will be of great comfort to those of his fanbase who mourned the departure of the huge guitar-heavy post-Grunge modern Hard Rock upon which Daughtry built his career.
While Daughtry hasn’t entirely ditched the pop influences, this album certainly does bring back the guitars. Big, heavy and downtuned, they, along with Daughtry’s highly melodic and extremely versatile vocals, drive most of the tracks on this album and give even the most melodic songs the harder edge that has been missing for his past two records. Truth to tell, though, this is still a very radio-friendly album.
The songs drip with highly infectious melodies and glorious pop hooks. But then we should expect nothing else, as even in his hardest rocking days, Daughtry has always been as much about melody as he has about thundering guitars.
So, what of the actual songs on this album? Well, the good news is that the songwriting remains very strong indeed. Marry this to a crystal clear and powerful production and a great set of performances and you have all the ingredients you need.
‘Desperation’ opens the album with brooding, menacing electronica and powerful guitars. Daughtry’s vocals move from an aching, whispered croon in the verses, to thunderous power in the huge chorus. The song’s mid-paced groove is relentless and compelling and you already sense that you’re onto a winner with this.
‘World on Fire’ is more uptempo and rocks along like Daughtry’s earlier material used to. Powerful, melodic and utilising plenty of dynamics in the production, this is exactly what we should be hearing from a Daughtry album and is tailor-made for the stadium tour that will inevitably follow.
‘Heavy Is The Crown’ begins with a menacing piano introduction and more of Daughtry’s liquid gold vocals before the huge guitars annihilate everything in the colossal chorus.
They really have thrown everything (including the kitchen sink) into the production on this mid-paced almost Symphonic Stadium Rock track and it works brilliantly, building to the sort of crescendo that could easily cause structural damage to large buildings! This theme continues with ‘Changes Are Coming’, which is more of the same – mid-paced, guitar heavy modern Stadium Rock with quite awesome vocals. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard Daughtry’s voice sound better than on these tracks.
Title track ‘Dearly Beloved’ has a slightly more pop-based vibe in the production, with more prominent electronica and keyboards amongst the thundering guitars. It’s another irresistible track, with hooks galore and more stunningly compelling vocals.
Cry For Help’ is also more pop-based, with a delicate piano and acoustic guitar introduction and another ridiculously melodic and hook-laden chorus. There is a ton of space in the production, with cleaner guitars jangling against the acoustics and piano before the distorted power chords kick in. It’s a welcome change of feel and comes in the perfect place after the huge sound of the previous tracks.
‘Asylum’ has exactly the sort of sound you’d expect from a track with that title. It’s a deliciously insane and over the top morass of crushing guitars, delicate piano and menacing orchestration that builds and builds. It’s the stuff of madness and is utterly superb! It is followed by ‘Evil’, which follows a not dissimilar path. The guitars sit back a little in this track, but the melodies are excellent and are set against a slightly unsettling backing track. Daughtry’s vocal is slightly more exposed in the space within the production and he completely owns it with a flawless performance.
There does seem to be a bit of a theme with the song titles in the middle section of this album, as following on from ‘Asylum’ and ‘Evil’, we have ‘The Victim.’ This is another brilliantly produced slice of modern Stadium Hard Rock driven by those incredible vocals and buzzsaw guitars. It rocks big-time!
‘Somebody’ returns to a more pop-themed sound, but the guitars kick in during the chorus to keep reminding us that Daughtry is back to rocking out! This is actually a brilliant piece of modern Pop/Rock with more straightforward lyrics and song structure/production. It’s tailor-made for radio play and could easily be a massive hit single if pushed properly.
I love it when this happens – just when you think you’ve worked out where Daughtry is going on this album, he throws in a bit of a curveball. ‘Call You Mine’ starts off with a delicate chugging acoustic guitar and delicious vocals. It’s got a completely different feel to anything that has gone before but it works perfectly as it’s another utterly delicious piece of Pop/Rock. Daughtry’s vocals are more delicate here, but that stunning vocal power is never too far away as the song builds delightfully through layers of chiming guitars.
‘Lioness’ starts by combining delicate piano with softly-crooned vocals and electronic percussion. The production on this one is pretty much perfect as it allows the track to breathe and build with the power of the drums, the guitars and the vocals rising inexorably to the song’s climax. Utterly brilliant!
The album ends with ‘Break Into My Heart’, which is a soft and sweet piano ballad. I’m not usually a fan of using ballads like this to end an album but somehow this one seems to fit like a well-worn glove. Daughtry’s vocal sits alone against the piano here and you can really hear just how brilliant his vocal is as he builds it up through the song. This man has a seriously good set of pipes on him!
After the slight disappointment of his last two albums, where, although the songwriting was strong, the overly Pop structures and production kinda spoiled things, this album is a quite stunning return to rocking form! It combines everything that Daughtry is good at: modern Stadium Hard Rock and more delicate Pop/Rock.
The song writing is excellent, the production is outstanding – space where it’s needed and over the top ‘chuck everything in’ where that’s needed too – and then there are the vocals! Daughtry has always had one helluva voice, but his performance on this album is utterly outstanding! If you’re a fan of his earlier work and had written him off, for goodness sake give him another chance as this album deserves to sell bucket loads. Absolutely brilliant!
Get Daughtry’s new album “Dearly Beloved” – OUT NOW! https://daughtry.ffm.to/dearlybeloved
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