Have you ever heard of an album that eventually, while still continuing on an unscheduled basis, to shift your musical tastes and land you so desperately far off from what your musical tastes were before? Breaking Benjamin was a band that was one for me, and throughout their careers, through raw (Saturate), post-grunge rock (We Are Not Alone), and career defining tracks (Phobia) managed to bring out from. In fact, they are probably one of my most favourite bands in the rock genre that brings about their own flair to a song while keeping their distinct styles apparent. And with this throwback review of their most recent album before their breakup, I will talk about Dear Agony, an album that has been praised and criticized all at the same time, while still being a fan favourite in my eyes.
If you've not known Breaking Benjamin, or have only heard of them now, I suggest you listen to some of their previous tracks just to notice some of the track's grimy related attributes that would later distinguish itself to be a prominent pivot for the band's success in future releases. Dear Agony, while to me having shouldered much criticism than it should have in my view, certainly doesn't deserve the lack of attention that they got with their previous release, Phobia. In many actual facts, it was due to the popularity of the tracks on the album (Diary of Jane, Breath) that eventually won them many fans that would later become just there so that the band would stay afloat for at least one more record. At least now Benjamin Burnley, the lead singer, has finally gotten the lawsuits done so I'm amped up for a new album at the moment.
Let's go back to the band's roots for a second, considering Saturate, when heard now, is characterized with such raw and distinct attributes (the guitar riffs, Burnley's saturated voice (pun) and mostly the drums that pounded insanely on tracks such as Polyamorous, Water, Skin, etc.). I think what most people didn't understand was why the band changed their direction of each album so that it actually felt genuinely post-grunge/alternative rock that eventually shaped future records. For me, Saturate was like a gateway for the band. It was just like a means for them to get their names out, at the same time staying relevant to the mainstream. We're talking about year 2002, where rock kind of dipped and collapsed while it made sure to uphold the intensity of some older bands that had stayed. While it may be considered by fans to be one of the weakest, I feel like the album ranks itself in a position disclaimed because of the way the band writes the tracks. And that to me has always been the band's strength and has always been at the forefront of their sales and success. That to me, is their flair.
Breaking Benjamin's style of writing, or more to the point of Burnley's apt songwriting has always to me, been the focus of some of their songs. Say for example in Dear Agony, there is a track titled Without You, that Burnley sings: Swallow me under and pull me apart; I understand there's nothing left; Pain so familiar and close to the heart; No more, no less, I won't forget. People seem to forget that Burnely's songwriting was also a main component for the breakout of the band's success. In other songs of Dear Agony such as Crawl, Burnely also sings: Falling forever, chasing dreams; I brought you back to life so I can hear you scream. All in all, a talented songwriter was placed in a foothold that basically ripped apart the job so easily that with each brush of a paint he held, he had done something magnificent. Of course, there are times where the track falls apart readily, but the notion of it usually comes from the fact that it is the band that hasn't found the right formula to an ingredient that had been lying awake all so long. With that being said, the lyrics add a wider tone, emotion and depth that hasn't been seen before or heard before on previous records, thus creating a vibe for the audience rather than suit them accordingly. However, the problems lying down with the album definitely don't stem with the lyrics itself.
One of the weaker tracks for me, Fade Away just feels incomplete and undesirable. It's the track the probably to me least fits the album because of the subject and the tone, whereas the album title track and others like Give Me A Sign provide the excellent accompany to an album that's capable of being extremely better beyond it's lengths. And like I said, most of the tracks don't cave in due to weak songwriting, but mainly the tie-in of the tracks and how the tracks blend well on their own. Lights Out also feels similar to Fade Away, while most of the fault kind of lies in it's own weight in which it is unable to hold on it's own. That and the non-subtlety that's missing which is attached to the other tracks definitely show that it's lacking thereof.
In a well-rounded album in and of itself, Breaking Benjamin has made another great album, but to say that it is weaker than Phobia and We Are Not Alone definitely shows that this album doesn't have the more core components that was included in the albums that felt as if this album fell short of something. But in actual fact, the album didn't.
Favourite Tracks: Hopeless, Without You, Crawl, Anthem Of The Angels, Dear Agony
Least Favourite Tracks: Fade Away, Lights Out, Into The Nothing
The album deserves more spotlight than it's predecessor records and that means something. While it definitely doesn't hold up against specifically to Phobia, Breaking Benjamin's Dear Agony is equally damaged, sophisticated, emotional and full of depth. That's probably something most bands can't match, lest even compare to Phobia. Dear Agony is not a wasted trip, but an experienced journey that will leave you in specific tender and warmth. It's one of my favourite Breaking Benjamin albums, and I will play it for a while more as I eagerly anticipate their future releases.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.