May 27, 2024

Weekly Music Express

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Ember – Breaking Benjamin

Pennsylvania hard rock outfit Breaking Benjamin debuted with a brand of metal-tinged alternative that came to define the sound of mainstream rock in the early 2000s. Over the years, multiple lineup changes would impact the band’s sound, which developed into a more arena-friendly act by the late 2000s. Originally indebted to the minor-chord dirges of grunge rockers like Alice in Chains and the menacing darkness of nu-metal acts like Godsmack and Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin became one of the most popular rock bands in the United States, scoring a number one with the single “Breath” in 2007 and topping the Billboard 200 in 2015 with Dark Before Dawn. In addition, three of their albums — 2004’s We Are Not Alone, 2006’s Phobia, and 2009’s Dear Agony — have been certified platinum in the U.S.

In late 2000, after parting ways with the band Lifer, founding guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark Klepaski joined forces with singer Benjamin Burnley and drummer Jeremy Hummel to form Breaking Benjamin. When the quartet started playing around their hometown of Wilkes-Barre, they favored a radio-friendly post-grunge approach that was informed by influences like Live, Bush, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and Nirvana. Later, they would adopt the downtuned guitar sound of bands like Korn and Tool.

In 2001, Breaking Benjamin’s Wilkes-Barre gigs caught the attention of a local radio DJ named Freddie Fabbri, who was an on-air personality at alt-rock station WBSX-FM. Fabbri put their song “Polyamorous” in rotation, later financing the recording of their self-titled debut EP. That year, they signed with Hollywood Records, which connected the band with Ulrich Wild (Static-X, Pantera, Slipknot), who served as both producer and engineer on their debut full-length, 2002’s Saturate. The David Bendeth-produced We Are Not Alone followed two years later, complete with a few collaborations with Billy Corgan. The band landed a spot on tour with Evanescence in support of the effort, as three of the album’s singles made their way onto the Billboard charts (“So Cold” and “Sooner or Later” both peaked at number two on the Mainstream Rock list).

Breaking Benjamin issued their third album, Phobia, in August 2006 before heading out on a nationwide headlining trek. The album featured new drummer Chad Szeliga and was spearheaded by the single “The Diary of Jane,” which gained radio airplay and helped the album debut at number two on the Billboard charts. Phobia was reissued that fall with additional bonus tracks, while the band continued touring alongside Godsmack. After the tour, Breaking Benjamin dove back into the studio to begin work on their fourth full-length. The resulting Dear Agony, fueled by the first single “I Will Not Bow,” arrived in the summer of 2009. More touring followed, including legs with Three Days Grace and Nickelback, before Burnley announced a hiatus due to persistent health issues. Ensuing legal disputes within the band led to Fink and Klepaski being fired just before a collection, Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin, was released in 2011. Szeliga exited the band in 2013.

The following year, Burnley confirmed that Breaking Benjamin would continue as a quintet, and in June of 2015 they returned with their first album of new material in six years, Dark Before Dawn. The comeback effort featured the lineup of Burnley (who also produced), guitarists Jasen Rauch and Keith Wallen, bassist Aaron Bruch, and drummer Shaun Foist. While lead single, “Failure,” cracked the Billboard Hot 100 and hit number one on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart, the album became their first American chart-topper. While still touring behind Dark Before Dawn, Breaking Benjamin recorded their sixth effort, Ember, which arrived in 2018. The effort included singles “Red Cold River,” “Feed the Wolf,” and “Blood.” ~ Neil Z. Yeung & Alex Henderson