Album Review: Stone Temple Pilots (w/Chester Bennington), ‘High Rise’

Written by Anthony Toto

81xstcD06BL._SL1500_

Stone Temple Pilots spent twenty years cultivating a sophisticated beauty of majestic sounds by mastering the art of rock ‘n’ roll.

Their colorful palette unified uplifting melodies with melancholy delicacy. The band’s unorthodox approach in crafting song material created a successful timeless catalog through the 1990’s and early 2000s.

With a tumultuous history, drug addictions, arrests, personality conflicts, and chemistry issues with former Vocalist Scott Weiland, tensions overshadowed the music and led to their breakup in 2003. Pursuing other projects with minimal successes, the group seemed destined to settle unfinished business after reuniting in 2008.

STPlogo

The band delivered high quality performances but old wounds resurfaced. The band spent a majority of the recording sessions for 2010’s self-titled release separated from Weiland. With a history of unsettled issues, the band members were once again dismayed with Weiland’s antics. They made a gutsy decision to continue as “Stone Temple Pilots” without their longtime frontman.

Stone Temple Pilots without Scott Weiland? The notion itself seemed destined to fail until the band pulled an exciting card from their sleeves.

The remaining band members delivered a surprising performance with Linkin Park Vocalist Chester Bennington fronting the group. With speculation and hype surrounding the shocking performance, the band formally announced Bennington as the new vocalist of Stone Temple Pilots.

Bennington spent the past fifteen years developing his own signature style as a frontman by achieving massive success worldwide with Linkin Park.

The band brought in an A-List replacement to front the next phase of Stone Temple Pilots. Bennington, a longtime friend of the band, accomplished a childhood dream by joining one of his favorite groups. The band spent a few weeks collaborating on new material and forming a musical relationship.

stpchester

High Rise, released on October 8th, is an impressive glimpse into the future of Stone Temple Pilots. After spending time in the studio developing chemistry with Bennington, this five song EP previews a promising partnership.

“Out of Time,” the EP’s first single, is undoubtedly the band’s best song in 15 years. The up-tempo track hits the ground running like a freight train coming at warped speed. The song perfectly blends Bennington’s aggressive delivery and soothing sense of melody with Stone Temple Pilots’ rock n’ roll grit. The chorus is utterly contagious and the tone of the music captures the highest energy and songwriting qualities of the band’s greatest hits. The band sounds rejuvenated with a sense of hunger missing from the band’s previous album. By reaching the top of the rock charts this summer, “Out of Time” filled a large void missing in music. In a sad state of rock ‘n’ roll famine, there is a chip on the band’s shoulder. As long as bands like Stone Temple Pilots produce quality material, vintage rock n’ roll will never die in the mainstream.

“Black Heart” maintains a high level of momentum and changes the tone of the EP with a classic rock inspired track influenced by bands like The Rolling Stones. Dean DeLeo’s unconventional guitar mastery along with Robert DeLeo’s complex bass playing and Drummer Eric Kretz percussion perfection remains highly intact. The band fires on all cylinders as Bennington delivers one of his best choruses on the EP. The track recalls the instrumental phrasing and melodic elements heard on Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop. The chemistry feels natural and nothing about this partnership seems forced or manufactured.

The spotlight shines on Bennington on “Same on the Inside.” For Linkin Park fans, this song fits with material like “Shadow of the Day.” It’s lighter in nature and demonstrates Bennington’s higher range and softer delivery. After years of hearing Weiland’s lower register sing over the DeLeo brother’s riffs, fans will notice the huge difference in hearing a higher register on Stone Temple Pilots material. The music is still identifiable through the band’s signature rhythm patterns but the song remains starkly different from past material.

Fans of Stone Temple Pilots will enjoy “Cry Cry.” DeLeo’s tasty guitar riff adds another classic to his arsenal. Bennington infuses some Weiland trademarks into his repertoire while remaining original in his vocal approach. With the cymbals crashing as Bennington sings over psychedelic riffs, “Cry Cry” resonates because it builds on Stone Temple Pilots’ strengths. Longtime fans should enjoy hearing the band recapture the hooky riffs and intriguing rhythms heard on their earlier albums.

“Tomorrow” showcases the band’s passion for ear candy melodies. Once the music starts, there is no mistaking the song for anyone other than Stone Temple Pilots. The song itself recalls the musical elements of Purple and ends the EP on a lighter note. The song is highlighted by DeLeo’s guitar solo while Bennington’s uplifting lyrics resemble the delicacy of the music.

STP photo main

Associating the name “Stone Temple Pilots” with new music adds a pedigree of expectations but this is the band’s first collaboration with Chester Bennington. For the band’s first EP, the songs are high in quality and extremely professional. High Rise is indicative of a blossoming relationship with the DeLeo’s, Kretz, and Bennington. Each song is short and precise to the point. The canvass remains open to potentially great material.

Longtime Linkin Park fans should enjoy Bennington’s return to rock after the band’s electronic direction on recent releases. Bennington remains completely committed to Linkin Park and received full support from his band to join Stone Temple Pilots. His involvement with Stone Temple Pilots will not derail or affect Linkin Park’s new studio album.

Scott Weiland brought a huge element to Stone Temple Pilots in terms of singing and songwriting, as he became one of the distinct voices of the 1990s. The DeLeo’s and Kretz made a difficult decision cutting ties with Weiland and recruiting a highly recognized vocalist with a distinct talent for songwriting. Bennington brings a jolt of inspiration and enthusiasm missing from Stone Temple Pilots since the 1990s. It feels like the weight of the world is off the band’s shoulders. Without worrying about Weiland’s antics, the band sounds revitalized. For the first time in a longtime, the band could solely focus on music.

High Rise proves the catchy songwriting of the DeLeo brothers remains intact while Bennington’s passion is contagious. In terms of surpassing expectations and delivering quality songs, High Rise deserves a 4 out of 5. It is a solid return to form after their last mediocre record and fans should give it a fair listen without making assumptions. The simplicity of the material strays from the spontaneous energy heard on songs like “Naked Sunday,” “Vasoline,” or “Sex Type Thing,” but the entire EP revisits sounds from the past while breaking new ground. In the future, look for the band to recapture some of the heaviness heard on “Core” and “No. 4”. Based off recent high-octane performances with Bennington, fans should expect crunching hard rock in the near future.