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Breaking

Breaking Benjamin


There's an old saying that goes, "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." The meaning is clear. Don't think what you don't have is better than what you do have just because you don't have it. While logicians de-construct that last sentence, let's move on.

Sometimes the grass IS greener. Guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark James (Klepaski) were members of Lifer, a fairly successful group - they had a recording contract with Universal Records. Fink had worked with singer-songwriter-rhythm guitarist Ben Burnley and had known him since high school. The experience must have made an impression. Fink convinced James to jump ship and join him in a group with Burnley. Drummer Jeremy Hummel rounded out the line-up.

Playing in their native Philly burbs, an area known as Wilkes-Barre, Breaking Benjamin built a notable reputation.

Back in the old, old days (50s - 60s) before radio consultants, mergers and consolidations drained the freedom and life (in that order) out of Rock radio, DJs were an integral part of the "Rock stardom" process. They took chances on records. If the "A" side stiffed they flipped the thing over and often found an unexpected hit. They helped write songs (yes, they regularly took more credit then they were due) and tirelessly promoted bands they believed in or owned a piece of.





Like a throwback from another age, Freddie Fabbi at Alt. Rock WBSX played Breaking Benjamin's "Polyamorous." He also financed the group's self-titled '01 EP. As a result Breaking Benjamin signed with Hollywood Records and recorded their full-length "Saturate" with producer/engineer Ulrich Wild (yeah, that's the guy who worked with Stabbing Westward, White Zombie and Slipknot).

Two years later, that would be '04, Breaking Benjamin unfurled "We Are Not Alone" with contributions from none other than Billy Corgan. The album was soon platinum-certified (sales over one million).

Breaking Benjamin released their third album, "Phobia," in '06. In its first week the album sold 125,000 copies to reach #2 on the Billboard 200 chart. "The goal was to make a solid, mature and cohesive record, not just a few singles and filler," said James.

"There is always pressure to outdo what you've done before, but we focused on recording great songs," added Burnley.

David Bendeth, who produced both "We Are Not Alone" and "Phobia," was at the controls for the group's fourth studio effort, '09's "Dear Agony," with the single "I Will Not Bow."

While the band was on a co-headlining tour with Three Days Grace and Flyleaf, "Give Me A Sign," a Top 10 hit on the Active Rock Radio chart, was released.

"Dear Agony," topped the Top Hard Rock Albums and Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums charts. Critics however, were lukewarm to the effort not hearing much difference between it and previous efforts. The set peaked at #2 on the Top Rock Albums and Top Digital Albums charts, and #4 on the Billboard 200, selling 134,000 copies in its first week. Later, the album became a certified gold record. Interestingly, it was the first set that Burnley wrote while completely sober.

During the supporting tour, Burnley became ill and was not able to continue. With the group on hiatus there were rumors they had disbanded, which were sharply denied. But that's where it was heading. A dispute over a 'best of' album sealed the band's immediate fate, with Burnley owning the name.

Hollywood Records released "Shallow Bay: The Best Of Breaking Benjamin" in '11 and it went to #1 on the Top Hard Rock Albums chart.

A new line-up was announced in '14. In addition to Burnley, there were guitarists Jasen Rauch (Red) and Keith Wallen (Adelitas Way), bassist Aaron Bruch, and drummer Shaun Foist (Picture Me Broken).

"Everybody that's in the band now is deliberately handpicked," stated Burnley. "Keith and Aaron are really, really amazing singers. That's kind of what the band always needed."

This edition's initial effort was '15's "Dark Before Dawn," which went straight to #1 in the U.S., selling 144,000 copies in its first week.

Breaking Benjamin Discography

Albums:

2002 Saturate
2004 We Are Not Alone
2006 Phobia
2009 Dear Agony
2015 Dark Before Dawn

Breaking Benjamin has a knack for melodic mid-tempo songs. They show their teeth on a couple demonic themed songs.

There is a connection between Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace. Sure, the two groups spent a part of '08 touring together. And Three Days Grace released "Life Starts Now" just a week before Breaking Benjamin's "Dear Agony." So? Here's where it gets too close for comfort. Both albums have a song titled "Without You." Both albums close with an inspirational bonding song - "Dear Agony" has the aforementioned "Without You" and "Life Starts Now" plies the title track. Both albums have a dark, brooding track as their lead single - "Break" for Three Days Grace" and Breaking Benjamin's "I Will Not Bow." Hey, looking for that pop leaning ballad? TDG leads with "Lost In You" and BB rolls out "Give Me A Sign." Both try for big arena Rock and interestingly come up short. TDG offers "Without You" and BB goes with "What Lies Beneath."

Not that one band is imitating the other but these similarities show how predictable Alt. Metal has become. If these bands are going to do it "by the numbers" then maybe it would be wise to release albums further apart. Or maybe that's the plan. Fans who like Three Days Grace will be onboard for Breaking Benjamin and vice versa. Once the customer is in a buying mode, up-sell them.


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