April 14, 2018 Breaking Benjamin – Ember (Album Review)
Behold, incendiary Rock is very much still alive thanks to Breaking Benjamin, who make their triumphant return with Ember, their sixth studio offering, on Friday, April 13, 2018, thanks to Hollywood Records.
Formed back in 1999 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the Multi-Platinum Breaking Benjamin would go on to sell a zillion records, earn millions of streams, and become a NEPA (that’s Northeast Pennsy, to the layperson) institution. Their debut album, 2002’s Saturate, was explosive thanks to singles like “Polyamorous” and “Medicate,” and would see the band moving on to release another four albums – ranging from 2004’s We Are Not Alone to 2009’s Dear Agony – over the next seven years. Accolades and airplay followed.
Of course, no lengthy career is without its snafus, and plagued by recurrent health issues, Vocalist/Guitarist Benjamin Burnley would be forced to place the band on hiatus in early 2010. During this period, legal issues with two (now former) bandmates, arising from the release of 2011’s Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin, would ultimately lead to upheaval in the band’s line-up, and the birth of a whole new Breaking Benjamin roster in 2014. Dark Before Dawn, in 2015, served to cement that roster and road-test Burnley’s new personnel.
Now, Breaking Benjamin – Burnley, Guitarists Jasen Rauch (formerly of Red) and Keith Wallen (formerly of Adelita’s Way), Bassist Aaron Bruch, and Drummer Shaun Foist (formerly of Picture Me Broken) – are tighter than ever and ready to unleash their inner-wolves on Ember, their sixth full-length studio offering. Self-produced by Burnley, Ember is a twelve-song collection that sees the Hard Rockers proving yet again the supremacy of their talents.
Ember begins with the 29-second keyboard intro “Lyra,” building tension before exploding into addictive rocker “Feed the Wolf,” a bestial push and pull that sets an infernal pace. This continues with the infectious groove of first single/video “Red Cold River,” which sees Burnley searching for a reason to live while contrasting his soaring, melodic vocals with animalistic growls that are just divine.
Draining away the blood-splatter from a history of ruinous relationships, “Tourniquet” is a more subtle growler with meandering guitar melodies that weave into the pummeling stomp of the, at times, Pantera-esque “Psycho,” which perfectly births a sonic doppelgänger worthy of its namesake. The electronic atmospherics that anchor the poignant, ballad-esque “The Dark of You” offer up a change of mood, one which features, of all people, Dancing with the Stars’ favorite Derek Hough on guest vocals. An actor, dancer, and now singer (some people can do it all, you know?), Hough does an excellent job of backing up Burnley on this beautiful piece, a clear highlight of the collection.
Returning to their heavier side, Breaking Benjamin fight the good fight on rocker-stomper “Down,” then inject a healthy dose of 1990s Alt-Metal into “Torn in Two,” crafting a pair of tracks that are solid reminders of the band’s earlier days. Similarly, romper-stomper “Blood” is an infectious sonic plasma that drips with scrumptious, frustrated agony.
The melancholia of “Save Yourself” allows Burnley’s vocals to soar as he wavers between defeat and redemption, creating a dichotomous offering that feels vampiric in nature. This opens the flood gates for the bass-slap of hip-shaker “Close Your Eyes,” weaving a danceable rocker full of plentiful hope. Then, they close out the collection with the musical outro “Vega,” full of heavy atmospherics and an intense beat that ultimately detonates into the ether.
Ember sees the band dipping their toes into some darker matters with heavy bass-lines and delicious grooves, Burnley’s signature, gritty vocals, and a solid musicianship throughout. It is an album that will require multiple listens, quite a few sessions of cranking your speakers to appreciate the solid textures and soaring efforts of this talented quintet. Deliciously gritty, wonderfully intelligent, Breaking Benjamin do Pennsylvania proud! For these reasons, CrypticRock give Breaking Benjamin’s Ember 4 of 5 stars.