Six years since its last release, Breaking Benjamin returns to the scene with a brand new album in 2015. After finally resolving all conflicts, Benjamin Burnley has brought the band back with a brand new set of members. Was that a good decision? Maybe not.
Being the sequel to 2009′s Dear Agony, Dark Before Dawn had some shoes to fill for Breaking Benjamin fans. Would they be able to keep that signature Breaking Benjamin sound? Could they change for the better? Could their music evolve into something new yet familiar all the same?
To answer each question: Yes, no, no (respectively). From the second you hear the first main song on this album, ‘Failure’, you can immediately tell that you’re listening to a Breaking Benjamin album. Their signature guitar sound and style is back, perhaps cleaner than ever. That’s unfortunately where the positives end. Dark Before Dawn feels like it lacks progress. In fact, it feels like a regression. Half way through the album, everything becomes so repetitive. Every song follows a familiar structure and lyrical quality becomes less and less powerful with each track.
One of my main qualms with this album is the mixing of it. Barring the choruses of ‘Failure’, everything feels too polished. From the intro of ‘Angels Fall’ you can tell the heaviness was drained in favor of a cleaner lead. You can tell the driving powerchords are still there, but they’re mixed to the same level as the acoustic guitars, and are lower than the reverb-packed lead guitar. This formula is followed in almost every other, and where it tries to remedy itself, the flow is broken. Listen from ‘Breaking The Shadows’ through ‘Never Again’. The tones of the songs in between almost seem as if they’re all trying to be something original, when it’s really all the same. Punchy and chunky, yet no substance.
Next, there is no clear progress made from Breaking Benjamin’s last effort. This band is not one known for its stylistic changes, but it’s as if they did not even try to add something new to the plate. Sure, there’s a bit of a heavier influence with electronica on a few songs, but it almost sounds wrong in their execution. The opening and closing tracks (’Dark’ and ‘Dawn’) serve almost no purpose. The album could have been perfectly fine (I can even see it benefiting without these tracks!) without the inclusion of these tracks, at least with their position in the tracklisting. They provide an electronic and symphonic taste to the album, but do not feel like they represent anything. It’s almost as if they included them to make the title of the album seem clever.
Breaking Benjamin, after six years of disputes between band members, followed up Dear Agony with an admittedly agonizing sequel. It is a step back from where they should take their sound. It lost the rawness of older BB tracks and feels overly dramatized and repetitive. Perhaps Breaking Benjamin should have called it quits when issues began to arise. While it isn’t the worst rock album this year (that honor goes to Three Days Grace’s Human), I won’t be going back to it any time soon.
Favorite Tracks: Failure
Least Favorite Tracks: Dark, Never Again, Ashes Of Eden, Dawn