Review Summary: An effort so good it leaves you to ponder on what could have been.Dear Agony
, Breaking Benjamin's fourth studio effort and the final album to contain founding members Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski before the band's untimely implosion in 2012. Dear Agony
is an album that documents a band who finally crafted their niche in music; a solid signature sound they can call their own. Breaking Benjamin made real headway with Phobia
in 2006: the album brought a much better control of its emotional balance and the songwriting it created, and is still to this day one of the highlight records of the band's career. So where does Dear Agony
sit with the rest of the band's discography" Pretty damn high. Dear Agony
takes what Phobia
created, and lays it all out to carefully polish and file to a point of complete satisfaction. It could be seen as running the risk of playing it a little too close to Phobia
, but unlike Dark Before Dawn
this has a lot more to offer its fans than its disappointing comeback LP.
As is evident on the likes of the opening track, "Fade Away" and "Crawl", it hears the band dropping its tuning to an even lower level than previous, creating a much more dank atmosphere and one that works harmoniously with Ben's melancholy performances. Its moody, and darker than before, while it constantly sits on refining the staples made from Phobia
. There are so many pleasing moments to be had with tracks, this is achieved by utilising the lower tuning and darker production: "I Will Not Bow" has a great dynamic which brushes between the lighter side of the band's sound, found on the verse as it subtly works on its listener; conditioning you with a reverb saturated guitar riff, while the rhythm section sets the mood of the song. Creeping in with a heavier pre-chorus and then eventually going up to satisfying heights with its soaring chorus. But it's the additional variations and mix ups that make this track, and others like it, so enjoyable. The heavy chugging extensions of the second and third choruses have such a profound affect on the track it can't be overlooked as being a highlight. And it's moments like these that not only steal the show, but really push them into being a much heavier band.
Despite the band largely being restrained over the years, it's Chad's drumming and Mark's heavy crunching bass tones that speak the loudest on here, and really hold up the aesthetics of Dear Agony
; though it will go underappreciated by many, this is where the credit is due. The bleak atmosphere on the softer songs "Anthem of the Angels" and "Give Me a Sign" bring the textbook 101 sound commonly found with a ballad Breaking Benjamin track, but the fat punches and guttural lows of the rhythm section bring a new and different spin to the formula, and it works fantastically well. Additionally, Aaron's guitar playing is hell-bent on creating a distinct ambient mood throughout: the spacey white noise that surrounds "Lights Out" or the painful sounds he gets out of his guitar on "Into The Morning" are a couple of examples of a band working on consistency and mood setting.
What is there to be said about the vocals on here, bar the fact they are probably the best takes Ben has ever done" Undoubtedly the album was made at a time where Ben was at his worst, and it brought the best out of him on here. Lyrical content aimed at his drink problems and God knows what else that was taking over him at this point; his takes on here feel convincing, and pained. The lyrics are still the same tired and overused string of words he's been using for far too long, but his performances on here and the extremely impressive melodies he formulates on almost every song are simply excellent. The title track, I feel, is the only track on the album that doesn't capture the same level of melancholy and depression the rest of the album does. Both musically and vocally, the track falls a little flat.
For all the joy this album brings me, it's also an album of bittersweetness. This is because it sees a band flexing its new found abilities -- showcasing a much broader range of emotions and ambiance; but then it's also to be the last album made by a collection of people that were just starting to work on their stride, and indeed, something that could have been very special in the future. Considering Chad joined the band just before the making of Phobia
, Dear Agony
shows him bringing the band closer together, and brings out a much more exciting band. Is it the band's best album to date" It's a tough one, but it certainly gives its peers a run for its money.
Editions: MP3, C̶D̶, V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶
Packaging: CD - Jewelcase; Vinyl - standard sleeve.
Special Edition: N/A