Sound — 10
Bassist Mark James said it best when he said this album isn't a recreation of the band rather an evolution of what already there. The fourth album, titled 'Dear Agony', takes the all so familiar sound of Breaking Benjamin and gives it new depth and emotion. For many 'Phobia', the bands 3rd offering, was a lyrical maturity while taking a darker look at the sound the band is known for. 'Dear Agony' takes that lyrical maturity, darker sound, and new outlook on how they present their sound and reaches back to 'We Are Not Alone' for their heavier tracks and 'Saturate' for that energy and excitement that made us fall in love with the sound and styling of the sons of Wilkes-Barre. Ben Burnley leads with vocals to be recogned with as always finding a new emotional depth to his delivery of each note while Aaron Fink continues to provide his unmistakable riffs in tandem with Ben on rhythm making a marriage that reaches inside to grab your attention and keep it as long as the sounds flowing through your speakers. Mark James delivers a Bass performance that demands respect and adds a layer of texture and emotional boom to each song continuing his trend of making the Bass line demand respect while blending with the mix of energy and emotion emitting from every corner of the album. As always Chad Szeliga accents every beat and progression with drum riffs that stand out as not only smooth but reflective of the mood presented by the rest of the band at that moment. All elements combine to create a sound the gives you more than just the lyrics and vocals telling a story but each note played by the remaining instruments reflects the emotional tone and react with Ben as though each instrument itself is a voice providing its take on the subject of each song. Some of the songs do have a rehashed sound feeling like previous albums but at the same time feel different enough to justify revisiting those riffs.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrically Breaking Benjamin has evolved light years with their fans. 'Saturate' provided a fun lyrical offereing while 'We Are Not Alone' continued this atmosphere offering deeper tracks such as 'So Cold' and 'Sooner or Later' while 'Phobia' gave us a more serious and darker side to the lyrical genius of Ben Burnley. 'Dear Agony' takes the energy of 'Saturate' and the progression of 'We Are Not Alone' mixes it with the mature subject content of 'Phobia' and gives us an album the lyrically will reach any listener with at least one song. The album captures the essence of adoration and passion for something or someone and reflects the inner emotions adjoining that love. Lyrically this album advances the experiment of 'Phobia' and hits it with perfection. Ben's delivery of the lyrics paired with the rest of the band makes every song fit perfect lyrically with the sound providing an experience beyond the words into a level of an audio experience that connects to the listener on all levels. Some listeners will feel the lyrics are simply rewording of past songs with new vocals but the delivery should be enough to allow forgiveness from the more critical fans. For those looking for the youthful carefree lyrics of 'Saturate' prepare to have your hopes let down, this album is more of a balance between 'We Are Not Alone' and 'Phobia'.
Overall Impression — 9
While the evolution of the band will prevent them from ever releasing another 'Saturate' for the hardcore fans there from day one, those who jumped on board with 'We Are Not Alone' and especially those who became fans via 'Phobia' will be very pleased with the latest offering from Breaking Benjamin. While Saturate will always be the "fun" album for the band 'Dear Agony' is definitively head and shoulders over 'Phobia' and feels like a perfection and 'We Are Not Alone'. With 'Phobia' I found myself skipping around from song to song yet with 'Dear Agony' I can rip the proverbial knob of the set and let it play on loop and never feel like I'm settling for a song that could be better. I do miss the standout power track of the album, 'Saturate' had 'Shallow Bay', 'We Are Not Alone' had 'Break Down' and 'Phobia' had 'Topless'. None of the songs on this album really emmit that specific energy that those 3 songs possesed which is sad, losing that one track isn't an all bad thing though since the album as a whole flows a lot more seamlessly than any of the previous albums. Track placement and transition for 'Dear Agony' are smoother than any of the bands previous offerings. This album opens loud and in your face then gives you a soft exit making it an emotional roller coaster for the fans that can truly get into the lyrics and music and for 11 tracks lose themselves without interruption. This album was meant to be listened to beginning to end in order to get its full effect. Aside from missing the power hitter of albums past and sticking with a more serious tone than what brought them to the dance 'Dear Agony' is arguably the best Breaking Benjamin album to date. After 3 days straight of listening to it I can honestly say its an album that gets better with every listen. If you have ever enjoyed a release from Breaking Benjamin you owe it to yourself to pick this album up. If I lost all of the Breaking Benjamin Albums I would pick up this and Saturate first due to their different representations of the band.