Breaking Benjamin. Synonymous in everyone's mind with the mild-yet-catchy chorus of “The Diary of Jane." At least it was that way for me. The Pennsylvania group released the track as a single off of their Phobia album in 2006. "…Jane" is their most-played track on Spotify (over one hundred million plays to date). It provided a kick-start of sorts for the band’s career. It also has a generic feel to it: another rock band who made an album that would all-too-soon be passé. The band has churned out a few releases since then. If you shared my previous opinion, then you probably took little notice. Well, prepare to have your head turned.
Enter their recently-released, sixth studio album, Ember. Somewhat predictable, yet surprisingly good. One of their most mature works yet, Ember carries itself with a sophistication and a profound sense of responsibility. The opening track, “Lyra," is an instrumental piano composition that is beautiful yet foreboding. A distorted guitar slowly creeps in, triggering an urgent sense of anticipation. Keep listening. It digs deep into the essence of rhythm and melody, contrasting low-lying distorted vocals and "feel-good" gritty guitar work. Each element uniquely fits together like a sonic jigsaw puzzle.
Its varied paces offers enough variety to the listening ear; let’s be real, we all lose interest when there’s nothing to distinguish the songs from one another. Noteworthy is the chilling undertones of “Red Cold River” to the haunting, almost mournful melodies on “The Dark of You." Then there’s “Psycho”—a driving, hard-hitting powerhouse almost smack in the middle of the album. Not only does it deliver on its obligations as a rock song, but it also manages to pull everything together. Being passive-aggressive is not a bad thing here.
Superficially, this is a decent record. Beneath the surface, however, there is more to Ember than first meets the ear. An expressive, subdued prose about the tribulations associated with what it means to be human. “Torn in Two" is the second act in a three-part tale of a young girl's murder. Herein lies the real substance of the record. It details the pain of her father's loss and the lengths that he will go through to save her soul. Not written from direct personal experience, it still resonates heavily with frontman and real-life father, Benjamin Burnley. It would most certainly do so with anyone who has ever lost a child. A portion of the proceeds from their upcoming summer tour will go to Prevent Child Abuse America. The band proudly supports St. Jude Children's Hospital and hopes that their efforts will raise even more awareness.
This alone is a compelling reason to check out the album. Or maybe you would rather just hear it at a surface value because that’s how you enjoy it best. You may find Breaking Benjamin to be as middle-of-the-road as I do. Or you might even disagree with everything that I've said. Sometimes when you least expect it, you find something worthy of being recognized. Whatever the case may be, Ember is a refreshing change of pace if nothing else.