Breaking Benjamin frontman Benjamin Burnley called it a day and packed up his band back in 2010 to take care of his health issues. Dark Before Dawn announces his return with a new, handpicked lineup, marking Breaking Benjamin’s triumphant return to hard rock. Despite being on hiatus for five years, Breaking Benjamin have crafted a record that sounds like they never stopped playing, picking up right where they left off.
The Pennsylvania-based quartet have always been able to successfully walk the line between metal and hard rock in their previous records, giving them a greater mass appeal. I always liked that, despite Breaking Benjamin’s pop songwriting sensibilities, they still bring a crisp, hard edge to their music. Songs like “Failure,” “Breaking the Silence” and “Never Again” have a wonderful dynamic between softer melody driven choruses, the hard-edged crunch of Burnley’s guitar and the dirty backing vocals to make up some of the best songs on the album. (The slower songs on the album, like “Ashes of Eden,” do a great job balancing out the album’s harder songs and give the album an effective ebb and flow to the listening experience.)
Burnley has said in interviews he was sick of getting nowhere with doctors and decided to focus on music to cope with the pain of his unknown disease, and that passion from that desolate place allow his songwriting to shine through. The lead guitar does a great job of creating this melancholy atmosphere and blending it with the soulful themes of that struggle in spiritual faith, a theme found throughout the album.
You’ll have a hard time finding anything that really deviates from the formula they created with their previous albums; it helps the formula is tested and true. But with Breaking Benjamin’s new lineup, I would have expected a little more deviation from their previous precedent. New guitarist Jason Rauch, formerly from Red, helped co-write several songs off of Breaking Benjamin’s album Dear Agony, so it makes sense to a certain degree why Dark Before Dawn matches up so well with the band’s previous music.
Dark Before Dawn is a great album for a band coming out of a five-year hiatus, and the band still has plenty to offer for veteran Breaking Benjamin fans. For new fans that missed out on the band’s earlier work, though, this album will be a great introduction, lining up as an album that slides easily into the band’s canon — for better or for worse.