By Ian Krietzberg
After a three-year hiatus from the band’s last album, “Cage To Rattle”, Daughtry is finally back with a new studio album after a slew of singles released throughout the duration of the pandemic: “Dearly Beloved”. This, the band’s sixth record, is also the first record the band has ever released independently of a label, with the band’s other five albums released by RCA Records.
Since Chris Daughtry rose to prominence on American Idol in 2006 – where he sort of finished fourth – his group, Daughtry, have dabbled in a variety of different genre subsets. The band’s debut album in 2006 was packed with smooth guitars and post-grunge roars and became the best-selling first rock album in Soundscan history.
Since the success of those early days, Daughtry has gone beyond comparisons with Nickelback and released several hit rock ‘n’ roll records before 2013 saw a notable turning point with “Baptized,” a record that was more pop than rock.
After a long hiatus, 2018’s “Cage To Rattle” was noticeably more intense, but it was short and felt like a hesitant return to the kind of music Daughtry really wanted to make.
“Dearly Beloved” sounds like an absolute and powerful return, not only to the band’s post-grunge roots, but also to the kind of passion that comes from loving the music you make. And this record is teeming with passion.
It’s structured around this wonderful homecoming setup, with guitars, drums and bass, all creating an intense sonic environment through which Daughtry’s powerful vocals soar.
The album opens with the nearly five-minute track “Desperation”, a song that opens with a slow synth construction that evolves into a catchy guitar-drums moment. Almost a full minute of this instrumental goes by before Daughtry starts singing, and it begins with his low voice, smoothly blending into the guitar.
As he enters the chorus, the guitar rolls hymnically and Daughtry’s voice jumps into his signature, impossible zone, high, clear and dirty, delivering a powerful and desperate scream.
This is the perfect way to open the case. Both subtle and ambitious, as the perfect example of a solid rock ballad, it really sets the stage for a record that takes Daughtry back to his post-grunge beginnings, albeit with a more modern take.
“Asylum” has this lovely haunting intro – Daughtry’s vocals are full of that passionate texture, which, combined with the initial lack of instrumentation and the effect on his vocals, creates a really interesting introduction to the track. This little five or six second intro is a prime example of the rare kind of vocal ability and control that Daughtry has. Bending, seemingly effortlessly, varying amounts of intensity, texture, and grunge in certain syllables of certain words is a skill few people share.
The song fits into a fairly standard rock track whose chorus is resplendent with rousing drums and screaming guitars, all filling the air around the central point of the track: Daughtry’s seductive vocals.
On the 13-track record, however, two songs really stood out to me: “Somebody” and “Call You Mine”.
“Somebody” has this incredible, honest desire that is clear both in the lyrics and in the vocals. The more relaxed instrumentation on the verses – a bit of synth and piano – makes the lyrical message much more accessible. But each chorus quickly evolves into an intensity layered on a catchy grungy guitar line – it’s a masterclass in the ballad rock genre.
“Call You Mine” is that song that represents a change of pace for the record. It opens with a muted acoustic guitar, soon joined by the absolutely tender sounding Daughtry. He sings in something that is close to a whisper, and it is a deeper exploration of desire that he exhibits in “Somebody.” It’s a sound that matches the power of her voice incredibly well.
The way the instrumentation builds and evolves as the song progresses has been carefully thought out. As subtle guitar and drum fillings begin to fill the space, adding to the track’s overall passionate intensity, the emotion increases dramatically. As the penultimate chorus builds up and transforms into a guitar solo – which proves the value of the subset – the final chorus has an even greater level of passion and power.
“Dearly Beloved” is like a multi-faceted diamond. When you turn it, the light hits differently on each side. Here, each song shows a different approach to this large and amazing genre of rock music. There are more than recalcitrant moments of the grunge era of the 90s; there are sweeter moments; there are walks and breaths of fresh air; there is a construction and a release, all infused and interwoven with passionate pleas and these formidable heartbreaking voices.
“Dearly Beloved” might just be Daughtry’s best overall record since their eponymous debut in 2006.