Dark Before Dawn review by Breaking Benjamin

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  • Released: Jun 23, 2015
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 7.9 (48 votes)
Breaking Benjamin: Dark Before Dawn
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Sound — 6
Breaking Benjamin formed in 1998, in Pennsylvania. There were several lineup changes throughout the band's history, though the most dramatic occurred because of the release of the greatest hits album, "Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin," which was released by the other members of the band without Benjamin Burnley's sign off. Benjamin responded by firing Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski and suing them for monetary damages, as well as for the legal rights the name Breaking Benjamin. The current members of the band were recruited for the new album in 2014. Aaron Bruch (bass, backing vocals), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Jason Rauch (lead guitar), and Shaun Foist (drums and programming) joined Benjamin Burnley in the lineup and each recorded their parts on the album, though the album was almost exclusively written by Burnley before he had completed bringing new members into the fold. "Dark Before Dawn" includes 12 tracks and has a runtime of approximately 42 minutes. Three singles have been released preceding the album release - "Failure" was released as the lead single in March, "Angels Fall" was released as the second single in April, and "Defeated" was released in May. The album doesn't sound significantly different from Breaking Benjamin's previous albums, with the biggest difference being the backing vocals are noticeably better than on previous releases.

The album opens up with the track, "Dark," which is predominantly built around creating an ambience - it is just over 2 minutes, and doesn't really have any lyrics, just some sampled audio and some "aahs" for the vocals. The lead single, "Failure" is the next track up, which opens up with a twisty little hard rock riff, which reminds me of some older Papa Roach for some reason I can't quit put my finger on. The lyrics are somewhere between abstract and narrative, and tell an interesting story. Next up is the second single from the album, "Angels Fall," which (at parts) reminds me very strongly of "Save Yourself" by Stabbing Westward. Ultimately, what sets this song apart from "Save Yourself" is that it is less enthusiastic and has an adult contemporary vibe to it. "Breaking the Silence" is the next track up, and this is a heavier song than previous tracks on the album. The heavier backing vocals on this track are one of the key elements that set this apart from other tracks. "Hollow" has a riff that is somewhat reminiscent of the riff I remarked on from the single, "Failure." "Close to Heaven" reminds me a little bit of a Queen song - "Who Wants to Live Forever" in parts. It is hard for new music, especially with rock and hard rock, to avoid sounding derivative of other existing rock and hard rock, but I find several places on this album where that is too close to the surface. In Breaking Benjamin's defense, the song does take some turns and doesn't stay in that vibe for the entire track on "Close to Heaven" - it actually gets a little bit better during parts of the second half of the song. "Bury Me Alive" has a few moments where it sounds a little bit like 311, but it passes pretty quickly - this song actually has a lot of potential, and I'm betting it is killer when played live. "Never Again" does some interesting things with how it builds up, and what is going on with the lead guitar with the track. "The Great Divide" is probably my favorite track on the album, just based on the way the verses are handled. There are a few things that go on during the choruses, and briefly when the rhythm is kind of going back and doing the same type of riffing from "Failure" and "Hollow," which detract from the song. "Ashes of Eden" is a slower, quieter love song, but in a lot of ways it reminds me of a pop punk love song if it was played in a minor key. Next up, we have the single, "Defeated," which is a slower track and more of a ballad about no longer being defeated, etc. The album closes out with the track, "Dawn," which is mostly centered around creating a certain ambience, much like the track "Dark" that opens the album. I'm not completely happy with two of the tracks essentially being devoted to just bookending the album. They were okay, and I actually enjoyed them musically, but they're too short to think of as songs and should have either been fleshed out, or built into the surrounding songs. Also, there were too many moments that were too obviously derivative of other existing popular music.

Lyrics — 7
Benjamin Burnley is still running the show, or even more so now than on previous releases. His vocals are still definitely on par with their earlier releases, but his support on backing vocals from Aaron Bruch and Keith Wallen help to push the vocals to the next level. The vocals used on the album are probably over 95% clean vanilla vocals, but that just helps add emphasis when screaming, or even very occasional weird processing, are used for the vocals. The lyrics tend to gravitate somewhere between narrative and abstract. As a sample of the album lyrics, here are some lyrics from the track, "Life will come our way/ It has only just begun/ The world will die alone/ The frail will fall below/ Time will take our place/ We return it back to one/ The calm before the cold/ The long and lonely road/ Look for the light that leads me home/ Tired of feeling lost, tired of letting go/ Tear the whole world down, tear the whole world down/ Failure."

Overall Impression — 7
I have to be honest - I was excited about this album. I was excited because this was the first album from Breaking Benjamin in years, and I had nothing but high expectations from the new members. There were no specific big let downs from any one member or their performance, but the end products just weren't working for me, except for a few moments here and there, and a few complete songs. "The Great Divide" was definitely my favorite track on the album.

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    vppark2
    Like most people probably said whole listening to this album, Ashes Of Eden is the standout track. Album as a whole is ok, but it's just too samesy to me. Hopefully their next album is where theyll take more risks.
    JuggaloCloud9
    Nothing on the album really stood out to me. Sounds like the sane thing we've been hearing from them for the last 15 years. I would even go as far as to say it sounds like trashed material from previous albums.
    jman99
    This is the same Breaking Benjamin only with less catchy choruses, less crushing riffs, and overall a more boring sound. However, considering the circumstances, it is a pretty good record. I personally am more excited for the next record where I think he will experiment more. I'm guessing that he made this record to sound like their old ones because he wanted to establish Breaking Benjamin again and not have it sound completely different. 6/10 for me.
    vppark2
    Also, you are drawing some weird comparisons to these songs, Brandon. Literally, the only thing I could compare this to is Red, and it's quite obvious why since their lead guitarist used to be in that band.
    jman99
    Exactly. Why do you have to compare this to everything. Queen? Seriously? Like wtf
    vppark2
    That, the Papa Roach comparison I felt like was just there bc theyre in the same genre, the 311 comparison is also ****ing weird, but the one that did it for me was the pop punk love song.
    JSmith38
    Not bad. Not super great. But not bad. I'd give it 7 nostalgia's / 10
    jaybrink10101
    I just got this today. My initial reaction is a) there's way too much pitch correction on vocals b) the album is hella overproduced and c) the songs are at least 80% as good as any previous release. I feel a bit let down, but it's not a bad album overall.
    MusicMan24
    I really enjoyed this album, and I think it's a lot better than Dear Agony to be honest. I love all you people complaining how not different it is and saying it all sounds the same. Breaking Benjamin's sound has never really changed, and they're one of the biggest hard rock bands still around today. I also love that no matter what bands do, it's never good enough. If a band changes it's sound and experiments, they get bashed and people say it's too different, and if a band doesn't change it's sound and stays consistent, they still get bashed and people say it all sounds the same. I don't get people at all.
    kratos379
    The people complaining about it not changing enough are different people than the people who would complain if they changed too much. Personally, I think it's important for a band to keep to a signature sound, but to grow over time and change their sound to avoid putting out the same album over and over. Look at Mastodon. All of their records are very different from each other, but you know it's them in every song. I haven't listened to Dark Before Dawn, so I couldn't tell you if it's too similar to the last record, but everyone will have a different opionon on that anyway.
    vppark2
    The only song they really experimented with was Ashes Of Eden. Seriously, listen to the album before agreeing with him.
    MetalRock4ever
    Pretty good, if you overlook the fact that it sounds like their older stuff. I think "Never Again" sounded like "Diary of Jane" part 2, sounded so similar (to me anyways). Hope they experiment more when it comes to their next album.
    Benjysticus
    The album sounded like a huge mix of their previous works. As a fan, it wasn't as good as I had hoped it to be, but it wasn't bad either. I'm just happy they've come out of hiatus and are back to producing awesome songs like they used to. This album came after a 6-year hiatus. It feels like a reminder of their past work, and I'm looking forward for them to leave that all behind now that Ben's drinking problem is gone and he can take more risks with the songs. He has so much potential as a songwriter.
    Fatewhip
    I wrote a review a week and a half ago or so and it still hasn't shown up... Anyone else experienced such problems?
    vppark2
    Well, itll prob be up tmr. UG just has this thing where they HAVE to have their own review on top of user reviews. It isnt fair, really.
    BwareDWare94
    Considering that guys like you and me are better writers than who they have on staff, you'd think they'd promote the user base a little bit.
    vppark2
    I really appreciate that man haha I havent read many of yours, but I believe I recall reading one awhile ago from As I Lay Dying, and it was nicely written. But yeah, I thought abt that too, but instead they promote Epiexplorer of all people...