Lead singer of Breaking Benjamin, Benjamin Burnley, stated in a recent interview that the hard-rock band’s sixth studio album, Ember, was their heaviest and darkest project to date. This comes as no surprise considering the Pennsylvanian natives have been a part of controversy and hardships over the past decade.
Whether it be the health issues Burnley experienced to kick off the new year in 2010, or the legal affairs associated with two former band members, Breaking Benjamin has been through a lot. Not to mention, the group had to go on a short hiatus amidst all of the adversity.
Burnley turned to songwriting and hard-hitting production for his sixth go-around, and the result is a bass-heavy record filled with emotion from top to bottom.
The first track on here, “Lyra,” is a keyboard intro that leads into the infectious “Feed the Wolf.” This is the actual musical direction the band takes the rest of the way through, and “Feed the Wolf” is an undeniably head-bobbing track. Even “Red Cold River” has an interesting structural concept, and Burnley’s pain radiates off the page (“I can’t feel anything at all/this love has led me to the end”).
Not every cut on here is memorable, however. A lot of the times, Breaking Benjamin just seems to be going through a wash, rinse, and repeat cycle. For example, “Tourniquet” has similar pacing to “Red Cold River.” Nonetheless, I do enjoy the lyrical cleverness within the chorus, where Burnley talks about how love will tie the tourniquet and kill him. It’s depressingly troubling, but it’s also very fascinating.
Burnley then teeters on the edge between melodic and aggression on the hypnotic “Psycho.” The change of pace during the track as it goes from verse to chorus was pretty impressively orchestrated. It not only sounded smooth, but the switch-up resulted in a much-needed abandonment from uniformity.
Same goes for the more reserved, “The Dark of You.” This track may be even more sinister than the others because of how menacing it is. When Burnley is screaming on a song, it means he still cares, but when he’s this reserved, that could signal a way of giving up.
The second half of the album starts off a little more resilient, especially on the 90s inspired alternative metal single, “Down.” Reminiscent of some of their older songs, the chorus on here talks about fighting until the end, which is something Breaking Benjamin has been doing since the start of the decade.
Unfortunately, there’s some more repetitiveness within the final few tracks. Sure, “Down” was fine, but “Torn in Two” had the same feel and subject matter. Artists should never find the need to have too many songs with similar messages, otherwise it just gets stale and boring for the listener.
“Close Your Eyes” was an excellent final touch to Ember, because it seems like Burnley finally wants to find metaphorical bandages for all of the misfortunes he’s had to go through (“Take away the dark side and lead me to the light”).
Overall, Burnley’s songwriting seemed to carry the project. While there were some highlights production wise, much of time I felt that the heavy guitar riffs sounded too similar to differentiate from each other. A lot of the sounds were a little too derivative of their earlier music, as well as other alternative metal bands from the mid-to-late 90s.
I do appreciate the fact that Burnley and company were able to stick with a consistent tone through the full 40-minute running time. The themes and concepts were all clear, but sometimes as a detriment to the very wishy-washy instrumentation.