Review Summary: Here we go again…
I’ll admit it straight up; I like Breaking Benjamin, and however much crap I get for saying this I stand by my belief that Breaking Benjamin really aren’t that bad. They certainly aren’t the absolute best of the batch (“batch” here referring to the mainstream rock genre), but they’re definitely one of the more respectable. Originality may be lacking, but to truly be able to enjoy any
mainstream rock, you’re just going to have to put that to the side for a minute. And only then will it be revealed; behind the predictable song structures and the annoying amounts of airplay, Breaking Benjamin do
have talent. They do what they do and they do it well, and while this may not be anything overly complex or astonishing, it puts them in a class above their peers-the infamous Nickelback/Creed/Three Days Grace crowd.
Despite this, I find myself unimpressed with Dear Agony
, and it took me the longest time to figure out what it was that made this album feel inferior to past releases, particularly Saturate
and We Are Not Alone
. When you first listen to the album, it seems Breaking Benjamin have done nothing but improve. Guitar solos are not only present but surprisingly frequent-and although they may be short, they are no doubt sweet-especially when compared to the bitterly disappointing solos of Nickelback or the near-complete lack of anything resembling the sort on any of Three Days Grace’s albums. The melodies are strong as ever and the hooks satisfyingly catchy. Oh, and thank God, the bass is finally
audible (for the most part). Why did it take so long, guys?
All this adds up to what should be a great listening experience. Album openers “Fade Away” and “I Will Not Bow” serve well in kicking off the album, featuring two of Aaron and Ben’s best riffs yet and both boasting pretty good guitar solos. As usual, the choruses are catchy without loosing any of the heaviness that keeps these tracks alive and kicking more furiously and angry than ever before. There’s no denying that Breaking Benjamin’s sound got decidedly murkier with 2006 release Phobia
, and Dear Agony
strides confidently down this path, as is evident right from the start. “Fast I fade away/It’s almost over/Slow I suffocate/I’m cold and broken”
declares Ben in the chorus of “Fade Away,” and this pretty much sums up the rest of the album’s lyrical content; dark, heavy-hearted and generally depressing.
Although screaming, growling and heavy distortion flourish on Dear Agony,
the heaviness does let up to a ballad or two on occasion. Perhaps the best of these is “Anthem of the Angels,” which shows the band-(Gasp!)-include a brand new instrument in their tried-and-tested formula; the violin! The instrument’s inclusion goes far from unnoticed, however-it really backs up the overall mood of the song and helps separate it from the rest of the album. The lyrical content is probably at its best here too, as Ben mourns the loss of a recently deceased (“I keep holding onto you/But I can’t bring you back to life/Sing the anthem of the angels/And say the last goodbye”
). All in all, “Anthem of the Angels” is a solid, atmospheric track, and quite possibly the best on the album.
None of the other tracks disappoint either, so why is it that this album feels so unsatisfactory, so much like it could have been more than it was? It isn’t the slight repetition that plagues this album (most notably in the lyrics and opening riffs), nor the often melodramatic and frankly cheesy lyrical content. In the end, it comes down to one simple fact; we’ve heard it all before.
Call it consistency or call it laziness-the truth is Breaking Benjamin haven’t done anything to, or changed anything major with their sound for four albums now, and it’s really starting to show on Dear Agony
. The band has never properly stepped out of its comfort zone, just built on the same formula they started in their debut. And while this means that they will generally be consistent and reliable as a source for solid, accessible radio-rock tracks with a nicely measured amount of heaviness to fuel their songs, it won’t be long before even the most die-hard fans will get bored and move onto the next big radio hit. It would be a shame to see this band fade into the nothingness that follows a failed music career-a waste of promising talent. But if they don’t do something to raise an eyebrow or turn some heads soon, it will be an inevitable and unfortunate fate for the band.
Let this be a warning, Breaking Benjamin-use the new members I assume you will soon be hiring as a chance to bring your music career back from the brink. Listen to their ideas, throw in some cool influences-maybe do a song that doesn’t simply follow the Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/Chorus formula. Surprise us, or even your biggest fans will soon be bored.
Anthem of the Angels
I Will Not Bow
Give Me A Sign