REVIEW: BREAKING BENJAMIN – “Ember”
2015 ended a six-year wait for fans of Breaking Benjamin as the band made their triumphant return with their fifth studio album, ‘Dark Before Dawn’, a much loved installment in the band’s catalogue adored by fans and acclaimed by critics. April 13th 2018, and Benjamin Burnley and Co are set to release their next installment entitled, ‘Ember’ a new, twelve track LP. An album that caters to both their heavier and more melodic sides to the “furthest degree,” according to singer and founder Burnley. However, it looks like the ‘Ember’ apple won’t be falling too far from the tree that was its illustrious predecessor. In fact, look hard enough, the two share some glaring similarities. So have Breaking Benjamin returned with more of the same, sinking into a tried and tested formula, or have they weaved ties that intentionally bind, or juxtapose, these two albums?
Structurally, ‘Ember’ is comprised of ten songs, alongside two brief, ambient, melodic instrumentals that serve as intros and outro’s, opening and closing the album. No journeys into new territory here, with the same approach having been executed far more masterfully one album prior. “Lyra”, laced with a beckoning Grand Piano and swelling guitars, eases us in while “Vega”, with its prominent percussive drumming brings it all to a cliffhanging end.
Despite the bands’ melodic nature, fans have generally gravitated toward their heavier material more times than not. A deep, down-tuned, dam-smashing “Feed The Wolf” gives the first real taste of the heavier extremes Burnley promises. Rhythmically, and lyrically, it is on par with the albums leading single, “Red Cold River,” the original teaser from ‘Ember’ which reintroduced listeners to the raw and angrier Benjamin Burnley, with bassist Aaron Bruch leading the track with a phenomenal performance.
Gifting us with a song that acts as the gatekeeper to the core melodic element of the record, “The Dark of You” deserves to be held in the highest regard. If the sheer intensity the majority of the album is peppered, only slightly, with melodic elements, this contemporary ballad pierces the merciless tension ‘Ember’ has delivered thus far. And just at the halfway mark too. Reminiscent of the same aura, and purpose, of “Ashes of Eden”, another sombre B.B. classic found on ‘Dark Before Dawn’, it’s near impossible not to think of one without the other. Yet no sooner has ‘Ember’ diverted to this subdued example of melody, it quickly yoyo’s back to its heavier dynamics and stays there. “Torn In”, ripe with string ripping riffing, and “Blood Breaking,” delivering a harmonically driven chorus, add more fuel to the fire in the heavier domain that comes to dominate throughout.
Intentional or not, ‘Ember’ feels more like a strong follow up to ‘Dark Before Dawn’ than a progression from it, like the second installment of one incredible concept album. As for exploring both extremities to the furthest degree, ‘Ember’ is a heavy album lightly seasoned with melodic elements that only really peak on one occasion, as the instrumental pieces amount to less than two minutes. If its balance is off, and it doesn’t quite deliver exactly what it says on the melodic tin, ‘Ember’ delivers instead a loud and large lungful of some of the heaviest material in the Breaking Benjamin legacy to date.