REVIEW: "Ember" By BREAKING BENJAMIN
Alternative Metal/Released April 13, 2017/Hollywood Records
Rock radio darlings Breaking Benjamin have already proved the worth of the new line up on their 2015 comeback record Dark Before Dawn. The album maintained the style and consistency of the band's previous material and pretty much proved that singer/guitarist Benjamin Burnley is indeed the driving creative force behind the band. With their new follow up album Ember, the band utilized a more collaborative writing process and, by fan demand, aimed to make a heavier album than their previous material.
Now while fans of more extreme forms of metal will scoff at the idea of Breaking Benjamin being heavy, the band does make good on their promise of going in a harder direction. There's more screaming and a lot more chug to be found on this album. There's some actual riffs in the mix that provide a welcome switch up from the band's more common practice of rung out chords with a swaying vocal melody laid over top
While there is an overall heavier focus the album is still firmly in Breaking Benjamin's established sound. None of the band's longtime fans should feel too alienated with the radio hooks still firmly in place. And the first main song on the album "Feed The Wolf" would be right at home on any of the band's other works. Mid album track "Psycho" is where the instrumentation really starts to stand out. The guitar work in the verses have a nice groovy bounce to them that's interspersed with the band's usual sense of melody for the chorus.
The last three main tracks on the album are among the heaviest and most instrumentally interesting works on the album. "Blood" has a strong flow with a consistent headbanging rhythm and seamless transitions from verse to chorus. "Save Yourself" plays with an alternating vocal dynamic in the verses switching between screams and singing with a focus on atmosphere. And the last of the three, "Close Your Eyes", sounds heavily influenced by Korn with its downtuned, nu metal guitar patterns.
Ember is one of the stronger additions to Breaking Benjamin's discography. Long time fans should enjoy the similarity to the band's previous work with the focus on a heavier than normal sound being a breath of fresh air. But while the verse instrumentation is more interesting than much of the band's earlier work, they're not going to win over newcomers until they break free from their formulaic approach to choruses. While better than the average radio rock album, Breaking Benjamin haters might not be jumping on the bandwagon from this record. And seeing how the formula for their sound has only changed minutely this deep into their career, it's unlikely that's going to change anytime soon.