Review Summary: Best single -- worst album.
A lot like Linkin Park and Nickelback, through no fault of their own, Breaking Benjamin are a starting point band. The sort of band that sets a novice of the genre on their way to discover and journey through the rock and metal archives of the last 50 years. All the bands of this sort have key elements in their sound that make them ideal candidates for being one of the first bands people tend to start off with: digestible riff's; simple song structures; a bucket of angst; and one hell of a voice coming from the frontman.
Breaking Benjamin's debut, Saturate
, did little to garner much attention at the time, but it was a solid blend of grunge, metal and alt-rock influences. Ben Burley is a huge fan of bands like Tool, and Saturate
showed a side of Breaking Benjamin you won't see these days, but at the time the band were trying to find their footing, and due to release something that would put their mark on the world. We Are Not Alone
was the make or break album for the band, that managed to bring large, rewarding results. As luck and determination would have it, the band broke out with a sophomore album that collected a healthy amount of coverage -- largely down to the smash single "So Cold", that would go on to be one of the bands biggest hits -- a strong following beginning to form, and eventually lead them to where they are now.
The irony in all this, though "So Cold" is one of the best songs they've ever written, the album is by far the weakest offering. We Are Not Alone
has a lot of strong qualities, but suffers far more from terrible ideas and, mainly, lyrics. Saturate
's thematic lyrics brought a cryptic side to the band, as well as putting a glaze over them to prevent the aging process in later years; We Are Not Alone
goes more straight edge, and over time the lyrics have not done this album any favours. "Simple Design", "Rain" and "Firefly" are the biggest culprits, with lyrics so ridiculous it makes me cringe just thinking about them now. But even the less silly, and more simplistic, approach to songs like "Follow" and "Breakdown" hold little depth -- although, you can give Ben credit for keeping a lot of what he's talking about cryptic, but it's all done in the wrong way.
Musically, the albums production opts for alt-rock and little else. The acoustic offerings of "Forget It" and "Rain" bring a slight variety to the albums mainstay of rock tunes, with a sprinkling of metal influence from time to time. This album is also the beginning of Breaking Benjamin awkwardly forcing harsh screams and heavy metal sections into songs that don't need it: "Breakdown" starts off with a piano section, before kicking in to Ben's laughable "BREAKDOWN!" scream, made more embarrassing by Mark playing his riff with a slap bass technique; the song then decides to get cold feet and quickly runs back to its usual Breaking Benjamin sound, leaving it feeling horribly disjointed.
In comparison to what Saturate
has to offer, We Are Not Alone
is a far less cohesive and bland experience, but that isn't to say the album is a total bust. The album manages to hold your interest to the end -- even today. And even though there are some glaring flaws with "Simple Design", "Rain" and "Firefly" these songs never stop from being energetic or fun. More to their credit, they are infectious and catchy as hell. The three very well made tracks "So Cold", "Away" and "Believe" are the songs that collect the best ideas and focus on a consistently exciting sound, that will become a blueprint for future albums. The problem is that there isn't enough of it throughout.
It's hard for me to swallow this album overall. "So Cold" is such a fantastic song, filled with dread and atmosphere, that it comes as a surprise when the rest of the LP sounds like bland radio-rock tunes. But if you look past its lack of cohesion and, for the most part, bad lyrics, there is a fun album to be had here. Though I would recommend listening to the bands other albums if this is your first time trying Breaking Benjamin out.
Worth Checking out.
Packaging: Standard Jewel Case.
Special Edition: Standard (US).