Review Summary: Hopefully, Breaking Benjamin will now be on their way to better days.
If we take a look at the reception of the previous records from hard rock band Breaking Benjamin, we shall notice they’ve been praised and condemned for the very same things: praised for the balance between accessibility and competence of playing music and condemned for lack of creativity, repetition in songs’ structures and for a certain tendency to recycle riffs and lyrics. Consequently, we shouldn’t expect something different, especially when the debated album is a greatest hits release.
There is a not a great deal of things to say about CD1. It is simply composed by three singles off each of Breaking Benjamin’s four preceding albums in chronological order, with the exception of the new (and also the single) Blow Me Away
. On one hand, it’s not only an unimaginative choice of track listing, but also one undoubtedly designed to sell, as all the singles featured met great mainstream success in their respective time. On the other hand, it’s a helpful organization, since new listeners will be able to know the band step by step and to evaluate the progress made between the efforts. And the progress is indeed manifest. On Saturate
immature songs with random instrumentalization like Skin
give place to solid tracks like So Cold
on We Are Not Alone
and The Diary of Jane
. Furthermore, Ben’s voice, a weak point on the band’s first album and on some songs of the second (e.g the verses of Sooner Or Later
), showed its total potential on the aggressiveness of Lights Out
or at the melodic Give Me A Sign
However, the chosen single, a remix of Blow Me Away
, featuring Syd Duran from Valora, is a failure. In theory, implementing a woman’s voice in a song like the one question is a good idea. And there’s apparently nothing wrong about it - until the second verse. There might more than one explanation to that, but the fact that Duran’s voice is awful may be a contributing factor. And to think Burnley’s best screams ever are overshadowed by some hysterical screeches.
CD2 is mostly composed of acoustic tracks, live acoustic performances and covers the band has done over the years. Fortunately, Breaking Benjamin is an admirable band when it comes to that kind of things. Who Wants To Live Forever
and Enjoy The Silence
are two great examples of how competent the band can get when covering other hits. The first of those displays a very nicely done acoustic guitar version of the old success of Queen, while the second is a full band remake of Depeche Mode’s twenty-fourth single. Although the electronic effects in the beginning don’t help at all, Ben’s voice fits incredibly in this song. Live acoustic tracks Breath
and Until The End
, taken from the performance at the River St. Jazz Cafe just before the release of Dear Agony
, are among the best live performances Breaking Benjamin has ever done. Even Ben, who sometimes has troubles achieving all the notes live, sounds extraordinarily good. In contrast, his voice seems at parts forced at the acoustic version of I Will Not Bow
. On the other hand, previously unreleased songs Better Days
and Lie To Me
are consistent efforts that feel like the typical Breaking Benjamin song and are, therefore, inoffensive. Don’t get me wrong as both songs are good enough; but the lack of innovative elements make them effectively fall into the category of unimpressive.
The best thing about all this b-sides is that they make Breaking Benjamin seem alive and diverse. After a consistent, if unimaginative, CD1 and a fresh CD2, showing all these experiments they have made over the years, it’s now a fact that Breaking Benjamin can make good music. Their members (or should I say, former members) are all relatively prominent with their instruments and together they have created some of the best songs mainstream rock have seen in the last nine years. The main issue with them is the laziness on their albums (especially on the latest) on looking to new things to do. That said, hopefully, after Shallow Bay: The Best Of
, Breaking Benjamin will be closing a door. Hopefully, Breaking Benjamin will now be on their way to better days.
CD1: So Cold, Give Me A Sign, Breath, Polyamorous
CD2: Enjoy The Silence, Who Wants To Live Forever, Until The End (live acoustic)