But this is quickly rectified with “Ashes of Eden.”A superb ballad built around four chords (four notes, even) it proceeds by masterfully layering one instrument on top of the next up to where drummer, Shaun Foist, carries it home with a soft, marching snare roll. At this point ‘Dark Before Dawn’is screaming for a good ballad and “Ashes of Eden” delivers what is undoubtedly a great ballad by any standard. Just time to catch your breath before the album nears the finish line with a fists-in-the-air, chorus driven “Defeated”which circles neatly back into an entirely instrumental version of the opening track, “Dawn”. The subtle differences between both tracks tell us we have finished our journey, arriving back at where we started, but it is an entirely different place. An entirely different day. This clever use of a well-placed intro and outro reinforces the albums theme and content perfectly.
They say it’s darkest just before the dawn, when night gives way and sunlight breaks through to a new day. A fitting description for Breaking Benjamin’s new album, ‘Dark Before Dawn’, which takes you on an unforgettable journey through darkness and light. In ‘Dark Before Dawn,’ founding member (and the only remaining original member), Benjamin Burnley continues the journey begun back in Pennsylvania in 1998 when he first founded Breaking Benjamin, a journey that has taken them on the road to continued and well deserved success.
‘Dark Before Dawn’opens with the predominantly instrumental “Dawn” with voice samples subtly setting the listener up for what is to come. With the next track “Failure,” a title the song does not live up to, an intro that carries us into big guitars and bigger choruses serves as a healthy reminder what this band are all about.“Angels Fall” follows with three overlaying guitar tones from Keith Wallen, Jason Rauch and Benjamin Burnley, with bassist Aaron Brach also making his presence known. This track delivers another big, booming chorus.Then comes the heaviest track on the album,“Breaking the Silence” which brings more of an edge with heavier vocals. Midway we meet a bridge and the pace picks up, leading us into an unsettling, but perfectly fitting solo that carries us to the songs finale.
Two back to back, single worthy tracks, “Hollow” and “Close to Heaven” bring us to the half way mark. Lyrically, Burnley is at the top of his game here. In “Hollow” lyrics like, ‘Love left me hollow, don’t leave me here again,’ reveal Burnley at his most vulnerable and most powerful simultaneously. This opens ‘Dark Before Dawn’ up to even greater depths and possibilities. Whether through headphones on your own, or in a crowd of thousands, this one is bound to hit home. Burnley’s delivery shows that something special lives in this song.Similarly with the enigmatic “Close to Heaven” which leaves itself open to a host of interpretations
The album does, unfortunately, hit a bit of a lull at this point. While Breaking Benjamin, as songwriters, work off a formula (big guitars, big choruses, intro, verse, chorus, repeat and end on a chorus) the following three tracks blend into one another as the formula takes too strong a hold. “Bury Me Alive” “Never Again” and “The Great Divide” fail to make their own individual marks and risk sounding like fillers in comparison with the rest of the album.
Six years since the bands last release ‘Dear Agony’, Benjamin Burnley and Co. return with an outstanding new album well worth waiting for. Strong yet vulnerable, rich in lyrical content with a large sound throughout, ‘Dark Before Dawn’ is a journey well worth taking, one that will stay with Breaking Benjamin fans, old and new, for a long time to come.
Carl O’ Rourke
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