Before their hiatus (and I won’t get into the whole story behind that) Breaking Benjamin were on their way to being the biggest rock band in the world, with each album one-upping the last. Well that actually came true recently, even if for a short period of time, when fresh off a six year absence, Benjamin Burnley and his new band of merry gentlemen released Dark Before Dawn, which would become their first number one album in the US (on just about every American chart it appeared on) as well as in Canada, and it charted in more countries than any previous album. Needless to say, Breaking Benjamin were missed, with results that shock even me.
Breaking Benjamin left fans wanting so much more after their 2009 album Dear Agony, it would almost appear people have been waiting on their toes for Dark Before Dawn. I’ll admit to being one of those people. The surprise, though, comes from the lack of alternative bands similar to Breaking Benjamin. At the height of their popularity, there were quite a few bands that, while they didn’t sound similar (Three Days Grace and Seether immediately come to mind) they were all making music at a time where that particular style of alternative rock/metal was far more welcomed than it is now. It doesn’t take long to realize mere seconds into listening to Dark Before Dawn that not much has changed in Benjamin Burnley‘s playbook, which makes the album’s success, not to mention that most of the albums sales were physical album sales, practically a miracle in positive proportions.
I think most fans would agree that Phobia is where Breaking Benjamin set their pinnacle. It’s not my personal favourite by the band, but I don’t disagree with that specific popular opinion. It’s no doubt that Benjamin knows of this public opinion, which is why I feel that, while Dark Before Dawn sounds very similar in style to just about every previous Breaking Benjamin album, its heart is most similar to that of Phobia. Ever so evident by the introduction and concluding tracks being instrumental pieces: Dark and Dawn respectively.
The first track just about anyone heard from Dark Before Dawn was leading track Failure. This is where long time Breaking Benjamin fans heard that though the band may be different, the music hasn’t changed. It has that slow and hard as nails sound with structure familiar to every fan. But you can’t judge an entire album by one track, so when I heard the slightly more heartfelt following track Angels Fall, that’s when I was convinced that even if the rest of the album sounds like nothing totally new, it would still be completely worth the wait.
That screaming growl of Benjamin Burnley‘s, you know the one, it hasn’t gone anywhere. Just listen to Breaking The Silence, that’s where he uses it the most. There are also heavy melodic tracks like Never Again and Bury Me Alive where he uses it but only at opportune times. In the evolution of Breaking Benjamin, the vocals have become more and more focused on the melodic aspects and not so much the harsh aspects. That’s not to say Dark Before Dawn isn’t a heavy album. It still has its delightfully loud and luscious songs like Hollow and Defeated. The Great Divide has some of the best melodies I’ve ever heard Benjamin come up with, and there are some great ones that the band (with whichever members have you) has recorded. Close To Heaven stands out above others on the album by how Benjamin brings out his inner James Hetfield. I just can’t help but hear James at the quiet moments of the song.
One (of many) thing(s) Breaking Benjamin has done well is the slower song. In Breaking Benjamin terms these would be ballads, but most of these songs are harder than most other bands ballads. There are songs like Next To Nothing and (my personal favourite) Forever from Saturate. Then Forget It and Rain from We Are Not Alone. Breathe from Phobia is the perfect example of how these songs can still be heavy, but very much have the spirit of a ballad. Dear Agony practically had a bumper crop of these softer songs, lead by the terrific Give Me A Sign. Anyways, the point I’m getting at here is that Dark Before Dawn has just one song of this classification, Ashes of Eden, though you can make an argument for Angels Fall too. Regardless, Ashes of Eden It’s unique in that it actually doesn’t sound like anything the band has ever recorded. Comparing it to the past soft greats I’d have to rank it somewhere in the lower middle, but the passion and heart is still right there in Benjamin’s voice for old and new fans to love.
So though most people (including me) would be very quick to point out how Dark Before Dawn sounds similar to past Breaking Benjamin albums and how instead of evolving into a new mature sound they stick to what they know, one can’t deny that it was a bad thing. I mean really, what kind of message would Breaking Benjamin be sending to their fans had they NOT sounded like this? I’d like to note that these songs actually are quite distinctive when I think about it. I don’t know if I’d call it maturity, but there is an experience in these songs that differentiate Dark Before Dawn from the rest of their career. We can only hope Breaking Benjamin stick around a bit longer this time.
“Failure” – Let’s just say it was the first song released from Dark Before Dawn for a reason. It shows exactly what you’re in for, but that doesn’t change the fact that Failure is one of the absolute best tracks on the album. I’ve mentioned some great melodies sung on this album, particularly The Great Divide having one of the best melodies the band has ever recorded. Well the melody sung by Benjamin Burnley at the top of his lungs towards the end of Failure may even be a better melody and surely one of my favourite moments out of any Breaking Benjamin song.
8.5 (Out of 10)
|4.||“Breaking the Silence”||3:01|
|6.||“Close to Heaven”||4:09|
|7.||“Bury Me Alive”||4:04|
|9.||“The Great Divide”||4:12|
|10.||“Ashes of Eden”||4:53|