In 2009, after two platinum albums and a decade-long reign, Breaking Benjamin front man Benjamin Burnley announced an indefinite hiatus. The events occurring in the six years to follow are no secret; two band members authorized a best-of compilation without Burnley’s consent, and were subsequently fired. A third member left shortly after, leaving Burnley the only remaining member of the band named after him. However, Benjamin was not about to be broken. Burnley recruited four musicians to join his band: bassist and backing vocalist Aaron Bruch, Adelitas Way’s Keith Wallen (guitar, backing vocals), RED’s Jasen Rauch (lead guitar) and Picture Me Broken’s Shaun Foist (drums). Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Breaking Benjamin released Dark Before Dawn in June of 2015.
Dark Before Dawn opens with the track “Dark,” and appropriately ends with another titled “Dawn.” “Dark,” an ambient, hypnotic instrumental over a vocal sampling is a discourse on fear and rage. “Fear is the response to loud noises, or loss of support.” (Is this a commentary on the loss of Burnley’s supporting musicians?) In contrast, “Dawn,” is light, harmonic, and hopeful. It is an instrumental manifestation of the lyrics “Look for the light to lead me home” featured in the second track “Failure.” It takes little stretch of the imagination to conclude the tracks in the middle chronicle a journey out of darkness, possibly inspired by Burnley’s six-year battle with his health and his former bandmates.
Between “Dark” and “Dawn” lay ten signature Breaking Benjamin tracks, featuring powerful guitar riffs, esoteric lyrics and the emotive voice of Burnley. While much of the meat-and-potatoes of Dark Before Dawn blend one into another, some tracks stand out. “Angel’s Fall,” and “The Great Divide,” are vehicles for Burnley’s inherent ability to capture an audience. As a singer-songwriter, Burnley doesn’t just pen stories; he writes moods. When he sings, “I’ll carry you and we will live forever,” you find yourself wanting to stay in that song forever. Also notable is the harmonic depth of “Failure” and “The Great Divide,” which feature Bruch’s and Wallen’s backing vocals.
In “Ashes of Eden,” Burnley sings, “I am still calling to you/are you with me after all?” After all the turmoil over the last six years, Burnley remains the driving force behind Breaking Benjamin. Every post-grunge, metal-infused, alternative rock riff, every yearning aching lyric, carry his signature. Dark Before Dawn is a powerful rebirth of Breaking Benjamin. Fans will flock to the new release, answering the question “are you with me after all?”
(We are, Ben. We are.)