Review Summary: A great debut that showcases elements of the band you won't hear anywhere else on their discog.
Before "So Cold", "Diary of Jane" and "I Will Not Bow", there was a time when Breaking Benjamin hadn't quite found its niche in life; primitive and more eclectic, Breaking Benjamin's early days weren't quite the fundamental radio-rock band they are today. Sure, Saturate
has all the catchy, easy listening song structures you've come to expect from the band for the last decade, but there were other things rooted at the core of this debut that make it a little bit different. What makes this LP so interesting is its shortcomings: in spite of Saturate
's IQ falling short next to Tool's first two masterpieces, there is a big nod of respect to those two albums, and a fair chunk of influence from the band; the album's sound has a decent grunge type production, and an obvious choice, since Nirvana is another huge influnece here -- and a backbone for the band's sound -- but that also falls short, as the album lacks the same level of grit and energy Nirvana pertained with their discography. So with all that said, you're left with chunks of ideas that fail to compare next its influences. However, mix these ideas up with Breaking Benjamins now successful sound and you've got yourself one interesting debut.
Yes, at this point I don't think I need to write off what Ben's favourite bands were 14 years ago, it's common knowledge at this point that he was a fervent Tool and Nirvana fan. And while the crystal clear production of the band's future records distort this fact somewhat, Saturate
shows a slightly more raw Breaking Benjamin; a Breaking Benjamin lathed in a lower produced grunge sound, with plenty of room to show a few nods of respect to bands of that sort. The album's song structure is still pretty textbook for the band, but there is a more primitive, metal rawness to the album, while it occasionally opens up to show different sides to the band. The album is littered with atmospheric build ups or passages: the slow building opening to "Phase" screams out "Adam Jones guitar tones", that is accompanied with a crunchy pre-Lateralus bass tone and tom work, before going into the band's usual shtick. It works nicely. Saturate
doesn't have the credentials to stand next to, say, Ænima
, but it gets close enough to Undertow
to utilise certain aspects of Tool's crude early sound and the album benifits from moments like this.
Everything this album tries to be falls short when it's compared to the work of its peers, but that doesn't stop this band's debut from being an interesting and enjoyable listen. It's these ham-fisted ideas that branch out from Breaking Benjamin's tunnel vision of future works; you'll see a band larking around and trying a couple of things here and there to see what works for them -- and it really does work. Ben's vocals on tracks like "Water" and "I Wish I May" show shades of Cobain's gruff, adding different textures to the band, while other tracks like "Shallow Bay" and "Polyamorous" set the foundations for the frontman's brilliant melodic range for future records. The album also fairs much better lyrically than that of the band's sophomore effort; this is largely down to the way he presents his lyrics and the way they're executed: mostly a cryptic offering that touch on various subjects such as friendship, drugs and love (with a twist) -- but generally lyrics that don't fall into any kind of pitfall becoming foolish or cliche. They've clearly had a lot of thought put into them. The most interesting track here is the thematic "Home", which is based on the Wizard of Oz. This sort of writing is something he's never gone back to post-Saturate
and it's a shame because it's something that has always stood out and made this LP a little unique.
is most definitely one of the band's strongest offerings, simply because it does things a little differently to what the rest of the discography does -- and most importantly, things that work in the band's favour. The slightly rawer edge of the production, Ben's darker performances vocally and his solid lyric writing, as well as the atmospheric touches, meld together and create a distinctive tone, and one the band haven't really been able to tap into since. The songs themselves are a little crunchier, a little sludgier and straight forward, but it all works well here. Well worth checking out if you dig the band, or like grunge/alt-rock.
Editions: CD, M̶P̶3̶
Packaging: Standard Jewel Case.
Special Edition: N/A