Breaking Benjamin

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Breaking Benjamin
Breaking Benjamin 2015.jpg
Breaking Benjamin performing in 2015. From left to right, Benjamin Burnley, Aaron Bruch, Jasen Rauch, Keith Wallen, and Shaun Foist.
Background information
Also known as Plan 9
Origin Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Alternative metal, post-grunge
Years active 1998–2010, 2014–present
Labels Hollywood
Associated acts Lifer, Forever Oeuvre, OurAfter
Members Benjamin Burnley
Shaun Foist
Aaron Bruch
Jasen Rauch
Keith Wallen
Past members Aaron Fink
Andy Seal
Chad Szeliga
Chris Lightcap
Jason Davoli
Jeremy Hummel
Jonathan Price
Mark Klepaski
Nick Hoover

Breaking Benjamin is an American rock band founded in 1998 by Benjamin Burnley in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Burnley is the sole constant of the band, withstanding multiple line-up changes, and is the primary songwriter and lead vocalist. Most recently he is accompanied by Aaron Bruch (bass), Shaun Foist (drums), Keith Wallen (guitars), and Jasen Rauch (guitars). The band has released four studio albums, Saturate (2002), We Are Not Alone (2004), Phobia (2006), and Dear Agony (2009), with sales exceeding 5 million units in the United States alone.[1] The band will release its fifth studio album following a four-year hiatus, titled Dark Before Dawn on June 23, 2015.[2]

Breaking Benjamin has produced two albums that are RIAA-certified platinum (We Are Not Alone and Phobia) and three certified gold (We Are Not Alone, Phobia, and Dear Agony). The 2006 single "Until the End" went platinum in February 2014 as well.[3] Since signing with Hollywood Records in 2002, Breaking Benjamin has garnered mainstream success, with its debut album Saturate peaking at #2 in the Billboard Heatseekers chart. The following three albums all appeared in the Billboard 200, with We Are Not Alone peaking at #20, Phobia at #2 and Dear Agony at #4, all in the year they were released. Dear Agony and Shallow Bay also reached #1 on the Top Hard Rock Albums chart, the former in 2009, and the latter in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The 2009 single "I Will Not Bow" reached #1 on the Top Rock Songs chart as well.[4]


Formation and Saturate (1998–2003)

Breaking Benjamin formed as a cover project of Burnley's in 1998, with guitarist Aaron Fincke, bassist Nick Hoover, and drummer Chris Lightcap. The band's name originates from an incident during an open-mic night at a club, when Burnley dropped the microphone he was using to cover a Nirvana song. The owner of the microphone remarked afterward, "I'd like to thank Benjamin for breaking my fucking microphone."[5] Eventually, Burnley moved from Pennsylvania and went to California to explore something different, while the other three members formed the group Strangers With Candy (which would later go by the name of Lifer). In 1999 he returned to Wilkes-Barre to form "Plan 9" with drummer Jeremy Hummel and bassist Jason Davoli.[6] After Burnley re-christened the band as Breaking Benjamin, Fincke returned, along with fellow Lifer member Mark Klepaski who replaced Davoli on bass.[7]

A preview clip of the EP version of "Polyamorous", as first heard on Fabbri's radio station in 2000.

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The four-piece first gained attention when Freddie Fabbri, a local DJ, played the track "Polyamorous" on his station and financed the recording of the group's eponymous EP, which sold all 2,000 copies that were printed in 2001.[8] Breaking Benjamin then signed to Hollywood Records, and in April 2002 began recording their full-length major-label debut, Saturate, which was released on August 7, 2002. The Ulrich Wild-produced[8] record peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, and #136 on the Billboard 200 chart.[9] The album's first single, "Polyamorous", peaked at #19 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and #31 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 2002. The album's second single, "Skin", peaked at #24 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #37 in the Modern Rock chart.[9]

The album garnered generally moderate-to-positive critical reception, AllMusic stating that the album "has serious potential to become one of 2002's most successful debuts," feeling that "as although it is repetitive and generic, it is undeniably addictive," but stated concerns that "the album drags once it hits 'Next to Nothing' and never quite picks back up," ultimately giving it a 2.5/5 rating.[10] Songs from the album appeared in videogame and film media. "Polyamorous" was featured in the games WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw and WWE Day of Reckoning.[11] The track "Wish I May" played during the closing credits of the horror film Wrong Turn.[12]

We Are Not Alone (2004–2006)

In October 2003, Breaking Benjamin began recording their second studio album We Are Not Alone, releasing it on June 29, 2004.[13] It was produced by David Bendeth, who would go on to produce every Breaking Benjamin album in the future.[14] The record peaked at #20 on the Billboard 200 chart, and its singles also received mainstream success. In 2004, "So Cold" reached #3 on the Modern Rock chart and #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart. In 2005, "Sooner or Later" reached #7 on the Modern Rock chart and #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The 2005 single edition of "Rain" reached #39 on the Modern Rock chart and #23 on the Mainstream Rock chart.[15]

Breaking Benjamin performing at the Minnesota State Fair on August 25, 2005.

The songs "Rain", "Forget It" and "Follow" were co-written by Burnley and The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan over the course of six days in December 2003. Burnley expressed his initial anxiety in working with Corgan, admitting "At first, I was so nervous," but later feeling it was one of the highlights of his career, saying "After a while, I got more comfortable, and then he just became Billy. I'd come in every day, we'd order soup, eat and then we'd get to work. It was great."[16]

The album, like its predecessor, achieved mainstream success and the band made media appearances. The song "Firefly" was featured in the videogame WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw, like the Saturate title "Polyamorous".[11] The song "Blow Me Away" was written for and featured in the game Halo 2, also included in Halo 2 Original Soundtrack Volume 1.[17] "Sooner or Later" was featured as a downloadable track on Guitar Hero 5.[18] A music video for "So Cold" was created which served as a promotional video for the movie Hellboy.[19] "So Cold" also appeared as a downloadable track for the games Rock Band and Rock Band 2.[20] In 2004, Breaking Benjamin made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night With Conan O'Brian, Last Call With Carson Daly, and in 2005 performed The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[21] On October 21, 2004, We Are Not Alone was certified gold, then went platinum on June 13, 2005.[3]

In August 2004, Jeremy Hummel took a band-approved leave to spend time with his wife after the birth of his first child, and was replaced by Kevin Soffera who played with the band during late night show appearances. In September 2004, Hummel was fired and replaced by Ben "B.C." Vaught, who was later replaced by Chad Szeliga. In November 2004, Breaking Benjamin released the So Cold EP. On September 2005, Hummel filed a federal lawsuit against Breaking Benjamin and its management, accusing them of wrongful termination. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount.[7]

Phobia (2006–2008)

Breaking Benjamin released their third album Phobia (the first to feature drummer Chad Szeliga) on August 8, 2006.[22] The disc sold some 131,000 copies in its first week of sales.[23] It reached #2 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Internet Albums chart,[24] and went gold on November 8, 2006, then platinum almost three years later on May 21, 2009.[3] It released mainstream-reaching singles, including "Diary of Jane", which peaked at #2 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart and #4 on the Hot Modern Rock chart. It was reportedly the fastest single added to radio playlists in the history of Hollywood Records and is the only Breaking Benjamin song ever to place on the Billboard Pop 100 (#46).[7] Other singles include "Breath", which reached #1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart and #3 on the Hot Modern Rock chart, and "Until the End", which reached #6 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart and #21 on the Hot Modern Rock chart,[24] ultimately going platinum on February 11, 2014 (Breaking Benjamin's only RIAA-certified single).[3]

Sample clip of Phobia's "Intro". The track features sound effects of car doors, a PA voiceover at an airport, and plane turbulence, alluding to Burnley's fear of travel.

Sample clip of Phobia's "Outro". The track features sound effects of slightly more chaotic noises and crowd panic.

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The concept of Phobia is dedicated to Burnley's various phobias. The cover of the album depicts a winged man hovering over a runway, which represents his fear of flying.[6] Burnley also has a fear of death, fear of the dark, avoids unnecessary driving,[25] and suffers from hypochondriasis.[6] Phobia's "Intro" and "Outro" tracks feature sound effects of airplanes, airports, and car doors.

On February 11, 2007, HDNet aired a one-hour Breaking Benjamin concert from Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This concert was included on the re-released Phobia DVD in April 2007, billed as "The Homecoming". A music video was created for "Breath" which was made from footage of the song's performance at the show.[26][23] In July 2007, Breaking Benjamin performed the number on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,[27] as well as on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.[28] In support for Phobia, Breaking Benjamin toured thirty-six venues during the Fall of 2007, along with Three Days Grace, Seether, Skillet (first half), and Red (second half).[29]

Phobia made appearances in other various media. "Until the End" was used as a background track on a 2007 broadcast of WWE Friday Night Smackdown and appeared as a downloadable track on Guitar Hero 5.[18] "Diary of Jane" was featured as a hidden track (#124) on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster at Universal Studios Florida.[30] The same track was featured in the videogame NASCAR 07[31] and as a downloadable track for the games Rock Band and Rock Band 2.[20]

Dear Agony (2009–2010)

Burnley performing in early 2009.

Dear Agony was released on September 9, 2009,[32] and achieved substantial success, reaching #1 on the Top Hard Rock Albums chart and Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums chart for 2009. It also reached #2 on the Top Rock Albums chart and Top Digital Albums chart, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200 as well.[33] The disc outsold its predecessor at 134,000 copies within its first week,[23] ultimately selling more than 500,000 units.[7] On February 16, 2010, Dear Agony went gold.[3] Its singles include "I Will Not Bow", "Give Me a Sign", and "Lights Out", all of which achieved success on the charts. "I Will Not Bow" reached #1 on the Rock Songs chart, and #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Give Me a Sign" and "Lights Out" peaked at #9 and #21 on the Rock Songs chart, respectively, and #10 and #29 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, respectively.[33]

Dear Agony is the first album that Burnley wrote while completely sober.[34][35] The album cover features an image of Burnley's MRI scan, which serves to feature his chronic fatigue syndrome and additional neurological disorders, all results of his previous alcoholism, which the frontman wanted to publicize and describes as "kind of the whole Dear Agony theme."[35] Burnley stated of the album, "The songs all share similarities in themes. I think sobriety definitely helped with keeping that focused and keeping me focused ... You can really hone in on the skills that you have and see thoughts through to the end."[34]

For the album, Burnley collaborated with then-Red guitarist Jasen Rauch. The two equally wrote together the songs "Without You" and "Hopeless". Rauch also wrote the outro for "I Will Not Bow", and helped write "Lights Out". Burnley commented on the collaboration, saying "I love writing with him because he does stuff exactly like I would've done", feeling that "writing-wise, we're like the same person. It's really, really relieving, because I never worked with anybody like that."[35]

As with its predecessors, Dear Agony songs were featured in popular media. The song "Lights Out" was used to promote the game Halo: Reach.[36] "I Will Not Bow" is featured in the closing credits of the Bruce Willis film Surrogates,[37] and a promotional music video was filmed for it in the 7 World Trade Center building.[35] The song is also available as a downloadable track for the games Rock Band and Rock Band 2, along with the Phobia title "Diary of Jane" and the We Are Not Alone title "So Cold".[20]

In the first quarter of 2010 the band went on a tour supporting Nickelback on their Dark Horse Tour alongside Shinedown and Sick Puppies.[38]

Hiatus and legal affairs (2010–2013)

In early 2010, Hollywood Records requested that the band produce two new master recordings and sought permission to release a new version of the hit song "Blow Me Away" with backing vocals by Sydnee Duran of the band Valora.[7] Later in June, the band went into hiatus when Burnley stated that he was ill, thereby no longer able to tour in support of Dear Agony. After internet rumors began to spread that the band had broken up, Burnley issued a statement, "officially letting everyone know that Breaking Benjamin has not broken up."[7] In May 2013, Fincke and Klepaski gave Hollywood Records permission to do a remix of "Blow Me Away" with Duran after the company offered a $100,000 payment.[7] Burnley, alleging that Fincke and Klepaski had acted without his permission, fired the two via email, demanding at least $750,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the exclusive right to the name "Breaking Benjamin".[7] Burnley's attorney, Brian Caplan, told the Associated Press, "The relationship between Mr. Burnley and the two other members of the band has ended ... Mr. Burnley intends on moving forward using the name Breaking Benjamin and the band will continue. It just won't continue in its prior configuration. He's not retiring."[39]

In August 2011, Hollywood Records scheduled the release of Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin compilation album, featuring every Breaking Benjamin single released, including the remix of "Blow Me Away". A 2-disc deluxe edition was released alongside it, with the second disc containing altered versions of b-sides, bonus tracks and other non-album tracks from the band's catalog. Burnley publicly opposed the album's release, saying content had been altered without his consent and did not meet his standards.[40] The album was released on August 16, 2011.[41] Little news circulated throughout 2012, with the exception of drummer Chad Szeliga assuring fans in an interview that Breaking Benjamin was still together and he looked forward to writing new music in the future.[42]

On April 19, 2013, Burnley announced that the dispute between him and the other members had been resolved and that he retains the right to continue the band under the name Breaking Benjamin.[43] Three days later, Chad Szeliga announced his departure from Breaking Benjamin, citing creative differences.[44]

Reformation and Dark Before Dawn (2014–present)

A preview clip of "Failure", the band's first released studio recording since 2009.

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On August 19, 2014, Benjamin Burnley announced via the official Breaking Benjamin Facebook page that the band had reformed as a quintet with, except for Burnley, all new members, including Dear Agony co-writer Jasen Rauch (guitarist; originally from Red), Keith Wallen (guitarist; originally from Adelitas Way), Aaron Bruch (bassis; originally from Forever Oeuvre, OurAfter), and Shaun Foist (drummer; originally from Picture Me Broken).[45] Burnley said of the new additions, "Everybody that's in the band now is pretty much very deliberately handpicked," noting that "Keith [Wallen] and Aaron [Bruch] are really, really amazing singers. That's kind of what the band always needed."[46]

After performing a set of debut venues for the new band, including a small unplugged tour in late 2014 and a four venue winter tour in north-eastern United States,[47][48] Breaking Benjamin released a new single named "Failure" on March 23, 2015, and announced a new album for release on June 23, 2015, named Dark Before Dawn.[2]

Musical style and lyrics

Breaking Benjamin's musical style has mostly been described as alternative metal[49][50][51][52][53] and post-grunge.[49][54][55] Among the band's influences include Nirvana, Tool, Live, Bush, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots.[49][25] Burnley credits Kurt Cobain of Nirvana as his strongest influence, having taught himself how to play guitar at age 14 by playing along to Nevermind.[49][35][56] Breaking Benjamin's sound notably evolved as a product of Burnley's sobriety, the frontman noting of the sound of Dear Agony, "it sounds more thought-out, because it is more thought-out. Sobriety has definitely helped me with that. That's something that I definitely would not have been able to do in my drunken years. I'm completely clean and sober, and I think it's really evident in the music."[34]

In regard to the meaning of the band's lyrics, Burnley has said of pre-sobriety songs that "before if I was unhappy with a line I would just take a shot and I'd be fine with it," saying that, "in the past, anything that made sense thematically was a coincidence moreso than anything else." But for songs written sober, Burnley has remarked that "I think the clarity of being sober kind of really made me focus, especially lyrically, while making them vague but at the same time making more sense."[56] Burnley said of the vagueness in his lyrics, "I try to keep my writing vague so people can draw their own conclusions. It could be [like a collection of letters]. It could be "Dear Agony," as in agony is dear to you. Or, it could be that you're addressing agony. You can look at it however you want to," but still felt "the songs all share similarities in themes."[34]

Burnley is the primary songwriter in the band.[56][57] Burnley stated in an interview with The Weekender that, "The other guys in the band have definitely contributed in the past, and still do contribute, but it's always left up to me to put all the pieces together and make it so that it's even anything at all."[35] Burnley has also collaborated on various songs with Billy Corgan[16] and Jasen Rauch,[35] the latter of whom joined the band in late 2014.[45]

Band members

Current members
  • Benjamin Burnley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1998–present)
  • Keith Wallen – guitar, backing vocals (2014–present)
  • Jasen Rauch – lead guitar (2014–present)
  • Aaron Bruch – bass, backing vocals (2014–present)
  • Shaun Foist – drums, percussion (2014–present)
Former members
  • Aaron Fink – lead guitar, backing vocals (1998; 2001–2011)
  • Nicholaus Hoover – bass guitar (1998)
  • Chris Lightcap – drums, percussion (1998)
  • Andy Seal (Plan 9) - bass guitar (1999)
  • Jeremy Hummel – drums, percussion (1999–2004)
  • Jason Davoli (Plan 9) – bass guitar (2000)
  • Jonathan "Bug" Price – bass guitar, backing vocals (2001)
  • Mark Klepaski – bass guitar (2001–2011)
  • Chad Szeliga – drums, percussion (2005–2013)
Touring members
  • Kevin Soffera – drums, percussion (2004)
  • Ben "BC" Vaught – drums, percussion (2004–2005)




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External links