Breaking Benjamin - Dark Before Dawn

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 AgonyDark 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

Rating: 5/10

1st Quarter Of 2015 in Music - Wrap Up

2015 is the first year I’m actually actively following new releases in music (in past years I’ve just checked things when I so happened to find them, not keeping track of when they get released, really). This is a list of albums I’ve listened to that’ve been released in the first three months of 2015, my current Top 10 of 2015, and albums I’m looking forward to in the second quarter.

Releases I’ve Listened To In The 1st Quarter

  • An Autumn For Crippled Children - The Long Goodbye: 7/10
  • Against The Current - Gravity: coming soon
  • A Place To Bury Strangers - Transfixiation: 7/10
  • Björk - Vulnicura: 7/10
  • Darlia - Petals: 8.5/10
  • The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World: 6/10
  • EarlyRise - Colors: 5/10
  • Enter Shikari - The Mindsweep: 5/10
  • Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho: 8.5/10
  • Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear: 7.5/10
  • Imagine Dragons - Smoke & Mirrors: 7/10
  • Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$: 9/10
  • Julien-K - California Noir, Chapter I: Analog Beaches & Digital Cities: 3/10
  • Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly: 7/10
  • Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire: 8/10
  • Liturgy - The Ark Work: 7.5/10
  • Papa Roach - F.E.A.R.: 6/10
  • Periphery - Juggernaut: Alpha: 8/10
  • Periphery - Juggernaut: Omega: 6/10
  • Purity Ring - Another Eternity: 8/10
  • Rae Morris - Unguarded: 7/10
  • Three Days Grace - Human: 3/10
  • Years & Years - Y & Y EP: 9/10
  • Zs - Xe: 9/10

Top 10 Albums of 2015:

  1. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho
  2. Zs - Xe
  3. Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
  4. Imagine Dragons - Smoke & Mirrors
  5. Periphery - Juggernaut: Alpha
  6. Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire
  7. Purity Ring - Another Eternity
  8. nothing else really
  9. deserves a place
  10. on my list yet :(

Upcoming Releases I’m Looking Forward To in the 2nd Quarter (in order of hype):

  • Muse - Drones
  • 10 Years - From Birth To Burial
  • Incubus - Trust Fall (Side A)
  • Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  • Portico - Living Fields
  • Years & Years - Communion
  • Breaking Benjamin - Dawn Before Dawn
  • Stone Sour - Meanwhile In Burbank
  • Zac Brown Band - Jekyll + Hyde

Three Days Grace - Human

After Adam Gontier left Three Days Grace in January 2013, a lot of fans feared for the future of the band. Their fear was warranted. Bassist Brad Walst’s brother, Matt Walst filled the shoes of Adam and this is their first release together. Maybe it would have been better for the band to call it quits...

I’ve spoken pretty negatively about it up until now. Let’s talk about the positives - the first half. Some of the band’s biggest jams are found here - ‘I Am Machine,’ ‘Painkiller,’ and ‘Human Race’ all show the band can still bring some great songs into the mix. The album opens up on a passive-aggressive note with ‘Human Race,’ a track that showcases Walst’s ability to live up to Gontier vocally. To be honest, the part about this song that made me love it so much was the verses, or, more specifically, the guitar in the verses. Great playing that keeps the song rolling. Sure, the rest of it is somewhat cliché, but it all builds up to one big jam. ‘Painkiller’ delivers the same energy, yet still a bit cliché in the grand scheme of things. It’s a jam, so it serves it’s purpose. The next two tracks, ‘Fallen Angel’ and ‘Landmine’ start to falter a little, as the album starts to drone on with these guitar-driven, basic songs. ‘Tell Me Why’ is the worst on the first half, not really expanding off of anything new. Painfully cliché at this point. ‘I Am Machine’ revitalizes the album, as it’s the first track since ‘Human Race’ to exhibit some emotion.

This is where everything falls apart - and by everything, I mean nothing is right about the second half of the album. The next six tracks are nothing but cliché, horribly written, sloppy songs that ruin not only the flow of the album but the entire thing. You can tell by it’s title, ‘So What’ is nothing but some angsty rock song that makes them seem like they’re trying to be Nirvana. ‘Car Crash’ earned the award for “second song I’ve given a rating of 1-star too.” The worst song on the album, it sounds like a middle schooler could have written it. ‘Nothing’s Fair In Love And War’ is a song that’s been written hundreds of times before by hundreds of other bands. ‘One Too Many’ is the another pathetically written track, sloppy and uninspired. ‘The End Is Not The Answer’ doesn’t even need an explanation to how bad it is, you can tell from the title. Even if it’s trying to convey a good message, it does it in as obvious of a way as possible. ‘The Real You’ is really bad, too.

If anything is to be taken from this album, it’s that Three Days Grace basically needed filler tracks to close out the album. I found a similar trend in their last album, 2012′s Transit Of Venus, where all the listenable tracks were placed in the first half, but then the album lost focus and became hilariously bad by the end. Perhaps releasing 6-song EPs would do this bad some favors, instead of littering their catalogue with horrendous tracks. Had the band not included the second half of songs into the album, I would have enjoyed it FAR more. If one thing can be said, don’t go into this album expecting good lyrics, let alone listenable tracks as you approach the middle.

Favorite Tracks: Human Race, Painkiller, I Am Machine

Least Favorite Tracks: Car Crash, One Too Many (+ the rest of the second half)

Rating: 3/10