I’m sure I’ve mentioned this, but I always like to look at posted reviews of a band’s new album before I write mine, just to see if I’m in agreement or the polar opposite of what others are saying. Take BREAKING BENJAMIN for example. What I’m seeing right now is a lot of, “They’re just doing the same thing” or “they’re not breaking any new ground”. Well guess what? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Just look at AC/DC. They’ve been putting out similar songs and albums for decades and people love it! I especially enjoyed latest record Rock or Bust. And this is NOT to say that BREAKING BENJAMIN have done a rehash of their previous works, not at all. In fact, I find new album Dark Before Dawn (June 23, Hollywood Records) to be a big step up from their last outing Dear Agony. Quite frankly, THAT album felt like they were phoning it in.
Over the course of eleven songs (plus intro/outro) the band does everything in its power to remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place: Benjamin Burnley’s voice set against a backdrop of powerful riffs that helped convey the angst and anguish of the lyrics. Look, we all know that the late 90’s and much of the 00’s was a musical wasteland mostly devoid of anything of substance. These guys were always an exception, not the rule. “Failure” is like that visit from an old friend you haven’t seen since they moved across the country six years ago. As soon as you get together it’s like you were never apart. That’s how I felt as soon as the record started and that never went away. “Angels Fall” continues in that vein, as does “Hollow” which features some killer guitar work, solo-wise.
The chugging riffs of “Close to Heaven” and new drummer Shaun Foist’s controlled chaos behind the kit combine to make this one of the album’s best tracks, as is “Bury Me Alive”. It’s dirty and dark, just the way I like it, replete with some growls that are simply delicious. The same can be said for “Torn In Two” with Ben singing in a way we’re not used to on the verses, almost like an evil Ringmaster at a scary carnival and bassist Aaron Bruch is on and poppin’ throughout. Burnley, Keith Wallen, and Jasen Rauch employ the fullness of a three-guitar attack all over the record, but you can really hear the different elements they bring on “Never Again” more than on other tracks.
“The Great Divide” has a minuet-like quality to it, and I have to say Burnley soars vocally on this one as he does on the following number. “Ashes of Eden” was definitely my favorite tune from jump. I’ve always loved the slower, soul-laid-bare material from BREAKING BENJAMIN, with “Rain” and “Forget It” being two of their greatest pieces. Well, this one can rightfully take its place among them as one of the best things the band has ever written. My all-time favorite song is “Unknown Soldier” off of Phobia, and this is now giving it stiff competition. At the end of the day, this band has given us exactly what we needed after six years: an album that delivers the goods. And really, isn’t that all we want as fans? Dark Before Dawn is a welcome addition to the BREAKING BENJAMIN catalog, and I really hope I finally get to take Mrs. Amps to see them live before the tour ends.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “The Great Divide”, “Ashes of Eden”, “Close to Heaven”, “Bury Me Alive”, “Torn In Two”