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Breaking Benjamin is an American rock band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, formed in 1999 by lead singer and guitarist Benjamin Burnley and drummer Jeremy Hummel. The first lineup of the band also included guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark Klepaski. This lineup released two albums, Saturate (2002) and We Are Not Alone (2004), before Hummel was replaced by Chad Szeliga in 2005. The band released two more studio albums, Phobia (2006) and Dear Agony (2009), before entering an extended hiatus in early 2010 due to Burnley's recurring illnesses.
The release of a compilation album amid the hiatus, Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin (2011), unauthorized by Burnley, brought about legal trouble within the band resulting in the dismissal of Fink and Klepaski. Szeliga later announced his departure in 2013 citing creative differences. Burnley remained the sole member of the band until late 2014, when the current lineup was announced, including bassist and backing vocalist Aaron Bruch, guitarist and backing vocalist Keith Wallen, guitarist Jasen Rauch, and drummer Shaun Foist. The band afterward released Dark Before Dawn (2015) and Ember (2018), which debuted at number one and three on the Billboard 200, respectively. Following these albums, the band released another compilation, Aurora (2020), featuring reworked acoustic versions of past songs along with one original new song.
Despite significant lineup changes, the band's musical style and lyrical content have remained consistent, with Burnley serving as the primary composer and lead vocalist since the band's inception. The band has commonly been noted for its formulaic hard rock tendencies with angst-heavy lyrics, swelling choruses, and "crunching" guitars. In the United States alone, the band has sold more than 7 million units and yielded three RIAA-certified platinum records, two gold records, and several certified singles, including two multi-platinum, two platinum, and five gold. The band has also produced one number one record on the Billboard 200.
In an interview in December 2018, Burnley stated there will be an album of acoustic renditions of past songs in 2019. In July 2019, Burnley confirmed during a radio interview that the new acoustic album will feature collaborations from Red, Underoath, Saint Asonia, and Lacey Sturm. The band's 2019 North American headline tour with Chevelle and Three Days Grace went from July 21 to September 25. On October 28, 2019, the band officially announced the album Aurora via their official social media pages, with a release date of January 24, 2020. They also announced their 2020 co-headlining North American tour with Korn. On December 6, 2019, the band released "Far Away" featuring Scooter Ward of Cold, the first single from Aurora. On January 10, 2020, the band released an acoustic version of "Red Cold River" featuring Spencer Chamberlain of Underoath.
Breaking Benjamin's musical style is primarily classified as hard rock and alternative rock, more specifically post-grunge and alternative metal, and has commonly been noted for its consistency. Corey Apar felt that "Breaking Benjamin are nothing if not consistent", and Alex Young felt that "Breaking Benjamin is one of the few modern rock bands on the radio that, if you have heard any song in its catalog prior, could be immediately recognized." Despite a complete lineup change prior to the release of Dark Before Dawn, Dan Marsicano stated, "Breaking Benjamin hardly deviate from the hooky jams that were present on Dear Agony. They have had an established sound since their breakout We Are Not Alone – hard-edged riffs with emotional upheaval – and that isn't tampered with on Dark Before Dawn."
Their style is described by Apar as "mixing heavy hard rock dynamics with a moody demeanor that never slips into full-on dejection." Spence D. characterizes the band as "persisting in delivering crunching guitars topped off with somewhat generic, angst-ridden that waffle between being plaintive and aggressive" with vocals that "deliver just the right amount of emotion, fluctuating between contemplative subjectivity and growling anger." Young felt that Breaking Benjamin is "indicative of early '00s modern rock, while also now and then being more Filter-esque or technically proficient, primarily on guitar during 2002's Saturate, and from then on with bass and drums."
Breaking Benjamin's style was described by The Wall Street Journal in 2020 as "a subgenre of rock 'n' roll, often called 'active rock'... the genre includes bands like Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch and Three Days Grace, hard rockers who growl and yell, but can be as tender and emotive as Coldplay."
Burnley is the primary songwriter in the band. Music industry attorney and author Martin Frascogna writes that "it's unmistakably clear that Burnley started the group, is the creative force behind the group and essentially dictates the group's decisions." Bands such as Nirvana, Live, Bush, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and The Beatles have been cited as influences. Burnley remarked in 2009 that while the other band members did contribute, it was "always left up to me to put all the pieces together and make it so that it's even anything at all." However, Burnley expressed how he considered Rauch to be his "writing partner" during Dear Agony, and that he looked forward to writing with him in the future. After joining the band in 2014 as part of the new lineup, Rauch provided writing contributions on Dark Before Dawn, writing the intro and outro tracks as well as riffs on two other tracks. Burnley revealed in 2015 that the whole band would write songs for Breaking Benjamin in the future, and that "It just so happens that when they came on board for this album, I was already 95 percent done", adding, "I'm really looking forward to writing the next one all together." 2018's Ember represents the band's first effort with full composition credit given to members other than Burnley.
Breaking Benjamin's lyrical content evolved as a product of Burnley's sobriety, the front man noting that the lyricism in Dear Agony is more thought out. Rito Asilo of the Inquirer writes that Burnley "owes the improved clarity and coherence in Breaking Benjamin's music to sobriety." Burnley has said that before sobriety, anything that made sense thematically was a coincidence, and that he would take shots if he were dissatisfied with a lyric. Breaking Benjamin's lyrics have been noted for their vague, angst-heavy themes, Burnley saying that "I try to keep my writing vague so people can draw their own conclusions."
Breaking Benjamin's live sound has corresponded with lineup arrangements. The band originally lacked backing vocalists and tertiary instrumentation, requiring them to rely on pre-recorded tracks during live performances. However, the band was noted for a change in such respects with the second iteration of the band assembled in 2014. Bruch and Wallen were selected in part for their ability as singers, providing all backing vocals on both new studio recordings and during live shows. Burnley noted that it was important to add two new singers in order to replicate vocal techniques such as three-part harmonies, octave range, and layered vocals. Rauch, acting as a third guitarist, provides the band with "more freedom while simultaneously thickening up their live sound", as some songs feature three guitar parts, layered guitars, or are meant to feature Burnley only performing vocals, such as "I Will Not Bow" and "Lights Out". Foist utilizes Roland V-Kit electronic drums during live performances and triggers certain sounds as heard in studio recordings, such as the piano notes in "Breakdown". Additionally, Rauch is equipped with a Roland GR-55 guitar synthesizer allowing him to play orchestral strings and choir sound effects, further eliminating any reliance on pre-recorded tracks.
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