Breaking Benjamin
Ember


2.5
average

Review

by Simon.K CONTRIBUTOR (188 Reviews)
April 14th, 2018 | 169 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "If it's not broke, don't fix it" taken to the nth degree.

Who can say they never saw this coming. It’s difficult trying not to sound like you’re beating on a dead horse when half of the album being promoted sounds as prosaic as 2015’s anticlimactic return. The placid ignorance of Ember is about the only impressive aspect to be found here, and it comes as no surprise. When asked about the sound for Breaking Benjamin 2.0’s second effort, Ben responded that Ember would be the band’s heaviest album to date. This statement highlights what you’re up against as a listener: a frontman cocksure his band is moving forward, when the reality of the matter is they’re as inert of moving forward with this offering as they were with Dark Before Dawn. The thing is, there’s no room for excuses this time; Dark Before Dawn was made during a transitional state where Ben shed his original members for a completely fresh cast, and even with baited excitement for the leap in stylistic evolution that never happened, Dark Before Dawn had its reasons for being written almost entirely without its new members.

Here, no such privilege is given.

No, Ember is the record where it all matters, and yet, after rotating this thing the world over, the LP can only boisterously affirm one thing: creative bankruptcy. Of course, it’s a shady area to be in as it will, yet again, please fans of the band. But why do I feel like the only cynical asshole in the room? The short answer is a discontent which stems from this “new and improved” line-up of musicians who rarely show an iota of innovation. Let’s get it out of the way now: “The Dark of You” is the most innovation this new Breaking Benjamin has displayed in its 3 years of life. It takes all the elements and signature tropes of the past and utilises them with such a fresh perspective it’s depressing thinking about what could have been: a spacey ethereal undertone of muffled echoing drums, cricket-y electronics and twinkly piano notes are used as the basis for this really engaging sound; the cathartic simple guitar chord rings and Ben’s excellent display of melody creation make as the most exciting sound to be heard from this version of the band, while Ben’s lyrics suppress the hideously overused motifs of the past. The result is a song design I wish had been explored more here.

And yet it’s one you’ll hear only once. For the remainder of Ember you’ll be getting a sound that uses the same bloated and muddy production as Dark Before Dawn and builds the structure of riffs around the Dear Agony template, to the point where the crutch is on the verge of breaking. Now to the Breaking Benjamin enthusiast, or the music cynic who looks at the simple nature of the genre in question, they tend to have the notion they’re doing what they’ve always done and were never that evolutionary to begin with. But I would counter quite the opposite: the original four albums all have their own distinct aesthetic and character. Sure, the mid-tempo grinding riff has always been a staple of the band’s sound, but there is variation to be found within those records. A sound that heard them trying to find their own niche with each effort -- and where they eventually found the apogee of their creative peak with Dear Agony. With Dark Before Dawn and Ember they feel and sound so familiar you could mix all the songs up and you wouldn’t be able to tell which album they came from.

Ember tries really hard to be aggressive and different, it does, but the execution comes from a narrow frame of mind. Ben’s buttery croons at the start of “Red Cold River” are so obvious from the beginning you know it’s going to lead into a heavy chorus with Burley’s suppressed screams. It’s an exercise that had me expecting the pre-set motion to do its thing than for me to ever expect a surprise twist or turn, and unfortunately, I was right here more than I care to admit. Like the album before it, this LP plays things far too safe, and though there are ideas here which could have shattered the monotony, they feel like an afterthought or Ben got cold feet during the creative process. The vocal work here does lean on belligerence, but again, it’s an execution made within the confinements of its small box of tricks, it never feels hostile and eager to chase mainstream goers away; it’s still just as radio-friendly as any one of their songs previous and doesn’t bring the fresh injection needed. The biggest problems amount to the tired riffing and structuring of songs though; tracks feel so copy and paste it’s difficult to differentiate any character from a lot of the work here. “Tourniquet” is the rare exception that manages to bind infectious melody with heavy groove, while breaking away from a sound that isn’t completely exhausted, but next to that and “Blood”, the remainder of tracks contain contrived aggression and really flat melodic work.

Exhausted really is the best way to describe the band at this point. The note and rhythm choices here simply make it a colossal slog to get through; three guitarists are in the band now and it never feels as such; songs never break away from the blueprint made 9 years ago; and recycled riffs and melodies make the record feel aged beyond its years. Like its predecessor, it will be enjoyed by radio-rock lovers and fans alike, but for me it’s a continuation on from a sound that’s been beaten to death. If Ember had made more leaps of faith like it did with “The Dark of You” it could have really pushed the boat out there. The reality is, they’ve opted for more of the same, and while enjoyable a couple of times, quickly shows cracks thereafter.

AVERAGE.

EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶

PACKAGING: N/A

SPECIAL EDITION: N/A



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Breaking Benjamin’s album titled “Ember”...



Comments:Add a Comment 
BlackwaterPork
April 14th 2018


3938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Pretty much

Digging: Thou - Heathen

Toondude10
April 14th 2018


12677 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I still don't know if I liked this more than the last album tbh.



Good review

Digging: Amorphis - Queen of Time

Zeuzo
April 14th 2018


701 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review. And they said everything will be different...don’t know what I was expecting haha. But it still sounds good as hell

Digging: Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 14th 2018


26316 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

I actually really enjoyed this. It was samey as hell, but the songs are all individually good.

Digging: Shakey Graves - Can't Wake Up

TundraL5Z
April 14th 2018


1247 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

little above average i'de say

Dreakon
April 14th 2018


445 Comments


Lyrics are killing this one for me. I like to embarrassingly try to sing along to catchy things in the car, and I find myself saying the word "buried" way too many times for my liking. BB has always had this problem, but it's hitting me harder than usual this time around for some reason. Ben has latched onto probably 5-10 "cool sounding" phrases since Dear Agony and just repeats them (or some similar variation) ad nauseum.

Aside from that, there are some good tunes here. The Dark of You, Psycho and Down in particular. No bad songs really, just samey... as others have said.

Toondude10
April 14th 2018


12677 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

honestly, if you're listening to this band for the lyrics...what are you thinking?

Dreakon
April 14th 2018


445 Comments


honestly, if you're listening to this band for the lyrics...what are you thinking?

Normally I don't, but can't shut it out this time.

EDIT: Same-y ness of the songs is exemplified by the same-y ness of the lyrics. Which is an issue and seem to be getting worse... or at least the same... with each album lately. Can't just completely ignore that the songs have words right?

Maybe it's my bad for trying to sing along, which makes the lyrics a focal point. XD

thelamestallion
April 14th 2018


8 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

It's goddamn true. BB is the band of my adolescence, and with each new album from them I always have that stupid naive dream that it will be ok. I even kinda enjoyed DBD. But this is just a slap in a face. You know, the fans are sure that sticking to the beloved formula is an act of respect towards them and their support, but this is just the opposite case. Manufacturing mediocrity is an act of clear disrespect, as it appears, the band just treats fans like an ignorant fanatical crowd that blindly exalts every single fart of their idols. It's most obvious regarding the lyrics. It's literally the SAME basic phrases Burnley has ever used for any of his earlier songs. There is literally NO effort put in this "piece of work". A few supposedly catchy vocal lines, killed with this awfully layered and autotuned production, atop the SAME riff.

Honestly I don't think that they should change things up even a bit. Expectations of an actual stylistic progression from them are utopian. It's not really important for them to rehabilitate. They should not reinvent their wheel, they just should write GOOD and INSPIRED songs on the same ground, but eventually they fail even this goal. Even Nickelback somehow manage to maintain quality compared with Breaking Benjamin. Hurts to claim that, as I was a long time fan.

Dreakon
April 14th 2018


445 Comments


Seems like a little bit of overkill there. I kinda like the production, in particular the "autotuning" makes Bens voice sound cool. Which if we're talking about "not overthinking it" (re: lyrics)... I'll take things that sound cool at least. There are some good tunes here.

Drummerboy123
April 14th 2018


3077 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

BB as per usual, Tourniquet is cool but Torn In Two and Blood literally have the same intro XD



Band needs to change it up next album or they're gonna become the next nickelback once the nostalgia goggles come off people. Also can we set up some sort of breaking benjamin bingo with words they keep using?



hate, pain, hope, fail, dark, nothing, sick, tired, love, fear,

Digging: Jon Hopkins - Singularity

Lucman
April 14th 2018


399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Nice review. Pretty much agree although I think what they do they do reasonably well. "Psycho" is an absolute jam.

Digging: Midnight Choir - Amsterdam Stranded

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
April 14th 2018


8640 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Couldn’t agree more here

thelamestallion
April 14th 2018


8 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I often exaggerate when things get emotional xD

But dunno what could be cool about autotune at all tbh. Personally I rarely find it fitting rock music. For me it's either a stylistic feature or an intentional trickery to hide a flawed voice, and here it's rather a second case. I found the layering here, on the heaviest songs, to be excessive, because Burnley has a nice characteristic timbre, and here it was often indistinguishable. I mean, when the screams are laid on cleans and there are also backing vocals, and moreover the electronic effects are added.

Song-wise I really enjoyed "Torn in two", "Blood" and "Save yourself" melodically, but these lyrics mess up everything for me. Maybe I'm just too picky, but this is the reason I had switched to instrumental music back in the day. Cheesy and stereotypical lyricism is the ubiquitous curse of modern rock music, I just can't ignore this as a writing person.

Protomorph
April 14th 2018


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It’s easily their best but it wasn’t as heavy and aggressive as Ben claimed it would be other than feed the wolf, tourniquet, and psycho. Still some really fantastic moments. They just can’t reach their full potential quite yet even after all this time. Either way the sound still works well for hard rock and I think they’re content with their already massive level of success.

Friday13th
April 14th 2018


6315 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Phobia was their full potential.

JayEnder
April 14th 2018


1367 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I liked this. Samey at times but songs like Blood and Torn In Two make this their best album.

ExhaleTheLight
April 14th 2018


568 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I gave the last album a pass since it was a while that Ben didn't release anything. For the 2nd effort to be the exact same thing is horrendous. Don't know if it's the doing of their label

Protomorph
April 14th 2018


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Phobia is their second best honestly. Last half of that album is a bit dull at times but still enjoyable. This is way more complete.

DrGonzo1937
Contributing Reviewer
April 14th 2018


14232 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Cheers guys.



@Sowing



Surprised you liked this man, considering I remember you disliking their last one?





Digging: Charlie Puth - Voicenotes



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