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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Stuck in Traffic with Breaking Benjamin

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 1:14 PM

click to enlarge bebnebne.jpg
Stuck in Traffic is a column in which I begrudgingly review, during my car ride to work, some of the unsolicited CDs SF Weekly receives from PR hacks.

Breaking Benjamin's Dark Before Dawn
Date: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gusts of brisk morning air find their way through my jacket, forcing me to half-walk, half-run toward the refuge of my car. Once inside I inspect today's sonic breakfast: an unsolicited advance copy of Breaking Benjamin's Dark Before Dawn. If I had to guess by the cover, this is going to sound like Staind, but there's only one way to find out. 

*key in the ignition*

The opening track of this CD starts with minute or so of spacious, ambient alternative metal punctuated with what sounds like clips of a politician giving a press conference before the actual music hits. And when it does, there's only one thing I can think of.

Remember back in the day when you would scroll people's Myspace pages and end up landing on someone's page (invariably with a swoopy haircut) that had their page setup to auto-play some incredibly annoying song? This is a 12-track album of just that song, over and over.

Yup, Breaking Benjamin is some emo, post-grunge nu-metal band that you might have heard playing over the speaker system at Hot Topic five or six years ago. Apparently the group has been on a four-year hiatus, but unfortunately reformed with new members to release this album. According to the PR that accompanied this unsolicited CD, some of the band's earlier albums went platinum, but this one is just "#1 At Active Rock Radio."

The opening guitar riff of track two, "Failure," which the PR info calls a "hit single," sounds like a rejected submission for the UFC's intro video. The similarities between the two heavily syncopated guitar riff-driven songs are so strong I can almost see clips of muscled men cage fighting on my windshield as the "hit single" fills my car (a Volvo wagon, not equipped with the capability to display images on the windshield, like some fancy-pants luxury automobiles).
As I get on the freeway, I'm tempted to skip a few tracks, but deep down I know that no matter how many songs I skip I'll just land on more chuggy palm mutes, burst-fire double bass, and horribly outdated vocal stylings — so I let the CD continue to play. Stuck in traffic on U.S. Highway 101, I find myself also stuck wondering who could possibly enjoy this CD, since everyone I know who was into this kind of music has ultimately grown up. Is Breaking Benjamin's target audience angsty mall kids who have grown up into angsty mall young adults? Is this a nostalgia act for angsty mall kids who ended up abandoning their angsty mall kid code of ethics? Either way I know one thing for sure: it's not for me.

I'm onto track six, "Close To Heaven," now, and there's been no notable differences in any song structures, but I'm noticing more and more religious themes and references throughout this album. According to Google (which I searched after parking my car, officer, I swear) some members of the group dance around the question of whether or not they are a "christian band" — so yeah, Breaking Benjamin is a closeted Christian alternative metal band, which is probably the absolute bottom of the barrel as far as music sub-genres go. 

I wonder if the band still maintains a Myspace page? As track seven, "Bury Me Alive" fills my car with dueling vocals (one clean, another in that raspy, growling metal voice) I'm trying to imagine the band posting bulletins to all the new fans it gained after being put on a WWE video game soundtrack. [Editor's note: I don't know if that has actually happened, but based on the fact that this band's horrible style of music could only appeal to only the dimmest of U.S. citizens, I wouldn't be surprised.] 

The only reprieve on this album comes in the form of track 10, "Ashes of Eden," an acoustic love song that is functional, palatable, and proves that it's the stylistic choices that make the rest of Dark Before Dawn unbearable to anyone with a halfway decent music taste.

But hey, music is subjective. rated the album 8.7, and said "Failure" was a "reminder of better days on the radio when pop and rock music co-existed within the same format." Objectively speaking, both sites are wrong and should be ashamed of themselves for promoting music that is unfit for human consumption.

*engine off*

Stuck In Traffic Update: I've officially received another copy of Matt Jaffe and Distractions' Blast Off. 
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About The Author

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome is SF Weekly's former music editor.

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