I forgot to mention that I had already tried xrandr to increase screen brightness. Just like absgamma.py (did the same thing as xrandr) it just bleached the screen out. So I dont think brightness is the issue.
It kind of reminds myself of a power issue while on battery - that is the screen is dimmed to save on power; I also forgot to mention it is a laptop.
I think I have fixed the issue by placing an append command in lilo.conf
I did try a simple append="acpi=off" but what this did was shrink the screen size, but the backlight issue did vanish.