After six years of static, Breaking Benjamin reenters the scene with their album Dark Before Dawn. Though the band has been around since 1998, there have been significant changes to the band over the past several years; now, Ben Burley (on lead vocals and guitar) is the last member of the original band. New to the band are Kevin Wallen (guitar and vocals), Jason Rauch (guitar), Aaron Bruch (bass and vocals), and Shaun Foist (drums); for listeners, these newcomers quickly and fluidly filled the roles left behind, remaining true to the original Breaking Benjamin sound.
Though the arrangements are similar to those we find in Phobia, with intense movements scattered throughout the album, each track offers its own little euphoria to the listener. “Dark” acts as a prelude, an instrumental segue into the album. The second track, “Failure,” is an example of one the things Breaking Benjamin does best—misdirection. The lyrics begin “Life will come our way / It has only just begun,” the image inherently positive. This feel-good element quickly vanishes with the next few lines: “The world will die alone / The frail will fall below.” Despite the apparent change in mood that occurs within the first four lines, “Failure” speaks to that feeling of gathering one’s passion and strength once more before charging into battle (whether that battle be internal or external), and it is this nuance that lets me know that after six years, Breaking Benjamin has the touch.
The theme of being divided, created by the nuances of “Failure,” continues in “Angels Fall,” the song beginning with “I try to face the fight within.” It’s not necessarily the lyrics alone, nor is it solely the music that draw listeners in, but a combination of both. The layers created by the vocals and instrumentation have us chanting along with them: “When angels fall with broken wings / I can’t give up I can’t give in / When all is lost and daylight ends / I’ll carry you and we will live forever.”
Following “Angels Fall,” “Breaking the Silence” moves towards introspection, somehow managing to reflect an interpretation of the world directly upon it. “I’ll keep my sights on a waking dream / I gave my life to the vile beneath / I am but one of a dying breed / Hate kills this world but it won’t kill me,” they begin, moving into a song seemingly about life after the fall—a reaction to the action we first saw in “Angels Fall.”
“Hollow” and “Close to Heaven,” the fifth and sixth tracks on the album, further explore a tense relationship between ‘you’ and ‘me’ just before a metamorphosis occurs in “Bury Me Alive,” the tone changing, the desperation of the lyrics remaining the same. This transition continues through “Never Again,” yet finds contradiction in one of my favorite tracks, “The Great Divide.” One of the most moving tracks, both musically and lyrically, “The Great Divide” is poetic, though far from whimsical, and it speaks of the connection we all crave—the kind that transcends petty argument and simplistic need, the kind of connection where we can see ourselves in others and others in ourselves.
“Ashes of Eden” and “Defeated” are also highly poetic, the tracks exploring and enjoying the nuances of the language. “Ashes of Eden” excels in all aspects, but especially in its lyrics. Though the tone of the song does not change completely, the shift is noticeable. The fear, tension, and uncertainty of the first nine tracks seem to fade with this song, the lyrics depicting the transition: “When the darkness falls upon me / When the air is growing thin / Will the light begin to pull me / To its everlasting will / I can hear the voices haunting / There is nothing left to fear.” Though the eleventh track is titled “Defeated,” this song is about no longer being defeated, and the power of its lyrics, especially as it leads into the instrumental track “Dawn,” creates a powerful finale to a beautiful album.
For those who have enjoyed Breaking Benjamin’s previous albums, the sound of Dark Before Dawn will be unsettlingly familiar. As a whole, “Dark Before Dawn” feels and sounds as if the band has fine-tuned Phobia, some of the instrumentation making the listener pause and consider if they’ve heard the song on a previous album. Regardless of its familiarity, Dark Before Dawn offers readers an incredible, lyrical journey, and the album is thoroughly enjoyable.