Breaking Benjamin

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Breaking Benjamin
Breaking Benjamin 2-14-15.jpg
Breaking Benjamin performing in 2015. From left to right, Keith Wallen, Shaun Foist, Benjamin Burnley, Aaron Bruch, and Jasen Rauch.
Background information
Also known as Plan 9
Origin Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Alternative rock, alternative metal, post-grunge
Years active 1998–2010, 2014–present
Labels Hollywood
Associated acts Lifer, OurAfter, Forever Oeuvre, Stardog Champion
Website www.breakingbenjamin.com
Members Benjamin Burnley
Aaron Bruch
Keith Wallen
Jasen Rauch
Shaun Foist
Past members Jeremy Hummel
Aaron Fink
Mark Klepaski
Chad Szeliga
See § Members for others

Breaking Benjamin is an American rock band founded in 1998 by Benjamin Burnley in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Having outlasted significant lineup changes, Burnley is the sole constant member of the band, and serves as the primary songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist. He is most recently accompanied by bassist and backing vocalist Aaron Bruch, guitarist and backing vocalist Keith Wallen, guitarist Jasen Rauch, and drummer Shaun Foist. The band has released four studio albums: Saturate (2002), We Are Not Alone (2004), Phobia (2006), and Dear Agony (2009), collectively selling over 7 million units in the United States alone.[1] A best hits compilation album was also released in 2011. The band will release its fifth studio album in June 2015 titled Dark Before Dawn following a four-year hiatus.

Since signing to Hollywood Records in 2002, Breaking Benjamin has produced two platinum records, one gold record, and one gold single in the United States. Among the group's most successful charting albums include Phobia, which reached No. 1 on the the Top Digital Albums and Top Rock Albums charts, as well as Dear Agony, which reached No. 1 on the Top Alternative Albums and Top Hard Rock Albums charts. Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin also topped the Hard Rock Albums chart for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013. These records spawned high-charting singles as well, including "Breath", which reached No. 1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 2007, and "I Will Not Bow", which reached No. 1 on both the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and Top Rock Songs chart for 2009.

History

Formation and Saturate (1998–2003)

Breaking Benjamin formed as a cover project of Burnley's in 1998, along with guitarist Aaron Fink, bassist Nick Hoover, and drummer Chris Lightcap. After Burnley broke a borrowed microphone during a performance when he was only a solo musician, its owner said, "Thanks to Benjamin for breaking my fucking mic", yielding the band's name.[2] Burnley later went to California to perform and write music on his own, and the other members of the group formed the band Strangers With Candy (which would later go by the name of Lifer). Nick Hoover was eventually replaced by Mark Klepaski in that band. After returning to Pennsylvania in 1999, Burnley formed Plan 9 with drummer Jeremy Hummel and bassist Jason Davoli (although Davoli was later replaced by Jonathan "Bug" Price).[3][4] During a performance, Burnley reclaimed the name Breaking Benjamin by saying, "Thank you, we're Breaking Benjamin."[5] After growing dissatisfied with Lifer,[6] both Fink and Klepaski quit to join Burnley (Klepaski replacing Price on bass).[7]

Sample of the EP version of "Polyamorous", as first heard on Fabbri's radio station in 2001.

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The four-piece first gained attention when Freddie Fabbri, a local radio personality, aired the track "Polyamorous". After it became the number one requested track on his station,[8] Fabbri financed the recording of the group's eponymous EP, which sold all 2,000 copies that were printed in 2001.[9] In March 2002, over a dozen record companies visited a two-night showcase where Breaking Benjamin was playing, and the group subsequently signed with Hollywood Records.[8] In April 2002, Breaking Benjamin began recording their first full-length major-label record, Saturate, which was released on August 7, 2002. The Ulrich Wild-produced[9] record peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and No. 136 on the Billboard 200 chart.[10] From March to April in 2003, Breaking Benjamin participated in the Jägermeister Music Tour 2003,[11] then toured from April to June as a supporting act for Godsmack.[12]

The record garnered moderate to positive critical reception, AllMusic stating that the album "has serious potential to become one of 2002's most successful debuts," feeling that although "repetitive and generic, it is undeniably addictive," adding, "Molding hard rock in the vein of Nickelback with the more aggressive side of Korn, Saturate is accessible and slightly heavier than much music suitable for excessive radio play, yet allows the listener to identify with the themes present on the disc." Ultimately giving it 2.5 stars out of 5, AllMusic maintained, "The only noticeable dilemma apparent here is that the album drags once it hits "Next to Nothing" and never quite picks back up."[13]

We Are Not Alone (2003–2005)

In October 2003, Breaking Benjamin began recording their second studio album We Are Not Alone for release on June 29, 2004.[14] Two weeks before the record's debut, the group began a tour to "generate pre-release buzz,"[15] later co-headlining a tour with Evanescence, Seether, and Three Days Grace from July to August.[16] Produced by David Bendeth,[17] the disc sold 48,000 copies in its first week[18] and peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 200. Among its more successful singles include "So Cold" and "Sooner or Later", both of which reached No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart ("So Cold" in 2004 and "Sooner or Later" in 2005).[14] On October 21, 2004, We Are Not Alone was certified gold, then platinum on June 13, 2005.[19] It also attracted attention in New Zealand, where it landed as the No. 14 most popular album in 2005 and was certified gold in that country.[7][20] The band's Live EP, which includes four tracks from Saturate played and recorded live at Mississippi Nights, came with limited edition versions of We Are Not Alone.[21]

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."[15]

We Are Not Alone garnered mixed reviews. It was met with high acclaim from IGN's Colin Moriarty, stating he felt "extremely satisfied," saying "safely and confidently" that it "might be my personal favorite album of the year," giving it a score of 9.3 out of 10.[22] Conversely, Exclaim! writer Amber Authier felt that, "On first listen its simply generic sound did nothing for me," though later confessed, "I listened to Breaking Benjamin several times over a week and several elements of the disc started to grow on me, even appeal to me." But the writer concluded, "Breaking Benjamin created a standard of quality for themselves [with Saturate] that they simply couldn't meet on the entire disc."[23] On November 23, 2004, Breaking Benjamin released the So Cold EP, which features live versions of the songs "Away" and "Breakdown", a live acoustic version of "So Cold", and studio acoustic recordings of "Blow Me Away" and "Lady Bug".[24]

In September 2005, drummer Jeremy Hummel filed an eleven-count federal lawsuit against Breaking Benjamin and its management. According to the lawsuit, Hummel requested in March 2004 to take a paternity leave of four to six weeks in August to be with his wife during the birth of their first child, to which all members of the band agreed and hired Kevin Soffera as a temporary substitute. However, in September 2004, Burnley called Hummel and told him he was no longer part of the band, citing chemistry issues. Hummel demanded $750,000 for each count against the band, contending wrongful termination and lack of compensation for profits accrued by We Are Not Alone and other non-album tracks that appeared in Halo 2 and National Treasure 2. However, the band's manager, Larry Mazer (who was also named in the lawsuit), asserted that the lawsuit was "totally frivolous" and had "nothing to do with the paternity leave." Mazer also said that the band received no payment for the Halo 2 appearance, adding that the song was included for promotional reasons and Burnley was happy to have it in the video game. The band received a minimal payment for the National Treasure 2 appearance, and Mazer stated that otherwise, "[Hummel] is 100 per cent current."[25] In April 2006, the lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount.[7] Ben "B.C." Vaught served as a sit-in drummer for Breaking Benjamin during their tour with 3 Doors Down and Staind from May to November in 2005.[26][27]

Phobia (2005–2007)

After the departure of Jeremy Hummel, Breaking Benjamin auditioned fifteen drummers. According to Burnley, Chad Szeliga was the only drummer to send in a VHS tape instead of a DVD, so he had to borrow a VCR. Burnley said of Szeliga:

"Chad showed that he could play the songs, but he also did a few flashy things with his sticks that led me to believe he would be a good stage performer and not just some robot. The icing on the cake was that during his audition he was playing to a CD and it skipped, but he compensated and got right back on track without skipping a beat. I admired that he didn't edit it out or redo it. That really showed me he had serious problem-solving skills."[28]

Szeliga was subsequently hired in 2005 before the recording of their third studio album Phobia (which was released on August 8, 2006 and again produced by Bendeth).[17][29] Following release, the disc sold some 131,000 copies in its first week of sales.[30] It reached No. 2 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Internet Albums charts,[29] as well as No. 1 on both the Top Digital Albums[31] and Top Rock Albums charts.[32] Phobia went gold on November 8, 2006, then platinum on May 21, 2009.[19] Its most successful singles include "Diary of Jane", which peaked at No. 2 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks for 2006 and was the fastest single added to radio playlists in the history of Hollywood Records,[7] as well as "Breath", which spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[7] Additionally, "Until the End" peaked at No. 6 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 2007,[29] and went gold on February 11, 2014.[19]

Sample of Phobia's "Intro", featuring sound effects alluding to the artist's fear of air travel.

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The concept of Phobia is dedicated to Burnley's various phobias. The cover of the album depicts a winged man suspended over a runway, which represents the singer's fear of flying.[3] Burnley also has death anxiety, a fear of the dark, driving anxiety,[33] and suffers from hypochondriasis.[3] Burnley cites his fear of flying for why he does not perform overseas, saying "I'll go as far as a boat will take me,"[33] though the group's record label has not yet facilitated travel by boat.[34] Phobia's "Intro" and "Outro" tracks feature sound effects of an airport intercom, airplane turbulence, car doors, and crowd panic.[35][36]

In support for Phobia, AXS TV aired a one-hour Breaking Benjamin concert from Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on February 11, 2007. The 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.[30] Breaking Benjamin followed with Spring and Fall tours alongside Three Days Grace, accompanied by Puddle of Mudd during the Spring tour,[37] and for the Fall tour Seether, Skillet, and Red.[38] Between the Fall tour shows, they also toured with Godsmack from October to December in 2007.[39]

Like its predecessor, Phobia received mixed reviews. AllMusic found the album "nothing if not consistent," and while generally regarding the disc with positive sentiments, felt, "there isn't always much to distinguish them from the rest of the post-grunge/alt-metal pack," countering with, "But what Breaking Benjamin lack in distinctiveness, they make up in a certain charm that makes them 100 times more appealing than most of their testosterone-clogged peers." The website noted that the acoustic version of "Diary of Jane", featuring Dropping Daylight's Sebastion Davin, "sounds natural and not just like a strained bonus novelty," stating that, "the version may even be better than the original."[40] IGN gave the disc a negative review, citing tedium and lack of vocal distinction, feeling that the group's "intersection of hard rock and emo-oriented introspection" is "not a bad thing, but also not a terribly memorable or earth-shattering one, either." However, IGN praised the musicianship of guitarist Aaron Fink, bassist Mark Klepaski, and drummer Chad Szeliga, ultimately giving the album a score of 5.7 out of 10.[41] Entertainment Weekly graded the album C+, saying, "as pathological angst goes, it's expertly done, with expansive choruses and epic riffs."[42]

Dear Agony (2009–2010)

Breaking Benjamin performing in Forte Wayne, Indiana in January 2010.

The band's fourth studio effort, Dear Agony, was released on September 9, 2009. It reached No. 1 on the Top Hard Rock Albums and Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums charts, No. 2 on the Top Rock Albums and Top Digital Albums charts, and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.[43] The disc outsold its predecessor at 134,000 copies in its first week,[30] ultimately going gold on February 16, 2010.[19] The disc delivered singles such as "I Will Not Bow", "Lights Out", and "Give Me a Sign", all of which appeared on the Rock Songs chart, peaking at No. 1 (2009), No. 21 (2010), and No. 9 (2010), respectively.[43]

Dear Agony is the first album that Burnley wrote while completely sober.[44][45] The album cover features an image of Burnley's MRI scan, which delineates his chronic fatigue syndrome and additional neurological disorders caused by "years of heavy drinking," which the frontman wanted to publicize and described as "kind of the whole Dear Agony theme."[45] Burnley collaborated with then-Red guitarist Jasen Rauch on various tracks for Dear Agony. The two equally wrote together the songs "Without You" and "Hopeless", and Rauch wrote the outro for "I Will Not Bow", also helping 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."[45]

Dear Agony received moderate critical reception, many reviews holding sentiments similar to Phobia, AllMusic stating the album "feels a lot like their first three."[46] The disc received a negative review from Consequence of Sound, who complained of over-production and the disc's sell-out nature at the hands of three-time Breaking Benjamin producer David Bendeth: "Dear Agony is the unfortunate side effect of a trend in 'producer' David Bendeth’s world, training wild chimpanzees to be more tasteful whilst handling silverware", ultimately giving the record "a half-star for succeeding in teaching Breaking Benjamin's peers who not to hire for production credit."[47] About Entertainment gave the record a mixed review, feeling "Dear Agony demonstrates Breaking Benjamin's craftsmanship if not their brilliant creativity. Though it lacks the breakthrough singles of Phobia, Dear Agony does have its moments," adding that, "frustratingly, Dear Agony never reaches greatness, settling for an admirable competency that's still the envy of many of their contemporaries."[48]

In bestride of Dear Agony's successful market reception, however, Breaking Benjamin toured with Three Days Grace and Flyleaf in 2010 from January to early March,[49][50] then with Red, Chevelle, and Thousand Foot Krutch from mid to late March,[51] and with Nickelback, Shinedown, and Sick Puppies from April to June on their Dark Horse Tour.[52] Prior to the last show of the Dark Horse Tour, Burnley stated he was ill and thereby no longer able to tour in support of Dear Agony, placing the band on hiatus. After internet rumors began to circulate that the band had broken up, Burnley issued a statement, "officially letting everyone know that the band has NOT broken up!"[7]

Hiatus and legal affairs (2010–2013)

Sample of the remixed version of "Blow Me Away" featuring Sydnee Duran of Valora.

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In March 2010, Hollywood Records requested that the band produce two new master recordings, sought permission to release a new version of the hit song "Blow Me Away", featuring Sydnee Duran of Valora, and requested the production of a greatest hits album.[7] In May 2011, Fink and Klepaski granted the record company's requests after they were offered a $100,000 payment. Burnley, alleging that Fink and Klepaski did not inform him, the band's management, or the band's lawyer, fired the two via email, demanding at least $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the exclusive right to the name "Breaking Benjamin". Fink and Klepaski's attorneys stated the two "dispute and strictly deny" Burnley's allegations, instead asserting that "at issue is the validity of a January 2009 partnership agreement giving Burnley permission to dismiss Fincke and Klepaski for 'cause,'" saying that the agreement was no longer valid due to Burnley's status of indefinite hiatus. The case was ordered by a judge to arbitration.[53] 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."[54]

In August 2011, Hollywood Records scheduled the release of the Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin compilation album, featuring every Breaking Benjamin single released, including the remix of "Blow Me Away". A two-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.[55] The album was released on August 16, 2011, and topped the Top Hard Rock Albums chart for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013.[56] The disc received positive critical reception, Loudwire giving the compilation a score of 4 out of 5,[57] with The Daily Trojan praising it for balance and a progressive retrospective history, concluding with "For the first-timers, welcome to Breaking Benjamin."[58]

On April 19, 2013, Burnley announced that the dispute between him and the other members had been resolved and that he retained the right to continue the band under the name Breaking Benjamin.[59] Three days later, Chad Szeliga announced his departure from Breaking Benjamin, citing creative differences.[60][61]

Reformation and Dark Before Dawn (2014–present)

Sample of "Failure" (2015), the band's first released studio recording since 2009.

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On August 19, 2014, Breaking Benjamin announced via Facebook that the band had reformed as a quintet with, except for Burnley, all new members, including: Dear Agony co-writer Jasen Rauch (guitar, originally from Red); Keith Wallen (guitar and backing vocals, originally from Adelitas Way); Aaron Bruch (bass and backing vocals, originally from Forever Oeuvre); and Shaun Foist (drums, originally from Picture Me Broken).[62] Burnley said of the lineup, "Everybody that's in the band now is [...] deliberately handpicked," noting that "Keith [Wallen] and Aaron [Bruch] are really, really amazing singers. That's kind of what the band always needed."[63]

After performing a set of debut venues for the new band, including a small unplugged tour in late 2014[64] and a four-venue winter tour in north-eastern United States,[65] Breaking Benjamin released a new single named "Failure" on March 23, 2015, and announced a new album for release on June 23, 2015, titled Dark Before Dawn.[66] Within an hour of pre-order availability, Dark Before Dawn reached No. 1 on the rock album chart on iTunes and No. 3 on the overall album chart.[67][68] The band will also tour in support of the new album from April to July in 2015.[68]

Musical style and lyrics

Breaking Benjamin's musical style has commonly been described as alternative rock[5][9][53][69][70][71][72] and post-grunge,[9][47][70][72][73] and despite also frequently being characterized as alternative metal,[48][74][75][76][77][78][79] the band's recurrent expositional biography states, "Korn and Tool have also been cited as influences, but unlike Korn, Breaking Benjamin doesn't have strong hip-hop leanings and isn't quite alternative metal — hard alternative rock, certainly, but not quite alternative metal."[9] Other influences of Burnley's include Nirvana, Live, Pearl Jam, Bush, the Beatles, and Stone Temple Pilots.[9][33][45] Burnley frequently credits Kurt Cobain as his strongest influence, saying that he idolized the singer and taught himself how to play guitar at age fourteen by playing along to Nevermind in his basement ad nauseam.[9][45][80]

Burnley is the primary songwriter in the band,[72][81] stating 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." However, Burnley said of his collaboration with Jasen Rauch for Dear Agony that, "I consider him to be kind of ... my writing partner and I definitely look forward to doing a lot more things with him in the future,"[45] and Rauch later joined the band in late 2014.[62]

Breaking Benjamin's lyrical content evolved as a product of Burnley's sobriety, the frontman noting of the lyricism in 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."[44] 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 ... in the past, anything that made sense thematically was a coincidence more so than anything else." But for songs written sober, Burnley remarked, "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."[80] Burnley said of the vagueness in his lyrics, "I try to keep my writing vague so people can draw their own conclusions ... You can look at it however you want to," but still felt "the songs all share similarities in themes."[44]

Members

Current members
  • Benjamin Burnley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1998–present)
  • Aaron Bruch – bass, backing vocals (2014–present)
  • Keith Wallen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2014–present)
  • Jasen Rauch – lead guitar (2014–present)
  • Shaun Foist – drums, electronic percussion, programming[81] (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)

Timeline

Discography

References

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