#3: Of Beauty and Rage-Red & Dark Before Dawn-Breaking Benjamin
***For those who love Hard Rock***
A tie? Yeah. These two albums are that good. Hard rock is dying (some may argue it IS dead), but RED and Breaking Benjamin’s 5th full length projects breathe life into the genre. In my opinion, rock could revive itself in years to come, and I believe we will be able to pinpoint its resurgence to when these records were released.
Interestingly, both LPs serve as a rebirthing of both bands. Before Of Beauty and Rage, there was Release the Panic, a great album overall but loyal fans everywhere felt there was something missing. As a result, the record felt like a disappointment. Lead singer Mark Barnes discussed this mystery with HopeBEAT.net, and he revealed RED had abandoned their signature orchestral rock sound (dubbed “strings”) that was found on the first three records. With Of Beauty and Rage, Barnes stated RED rediscovered both their passion for writing music and the use of their “strings”, harkening back to their 2010 Grammy nominee LP Innocence and Instinct. For Breaking Benjamin, Dark before Dawn is the first record released since the disbandment of the band back in 2010. The revival of Breaking Benjamin happened swiftly, as lead singer Benjamin Burley banded together with a couple of best friends to create new material. According to multiple interviews, Burley had “95% of the album already written before recording” it with the other band members, and this is evident because Dark Before Dawn sounds exactly like the Breaking Benjamin albums of the past. Even with their new lineup, Breaking Benjamin sounds the same, a true miracle for lifelong fans
Not only are both albums a symbolic revival of their respective bands, but these LPs’ lyrical & thematic content are also alike. Neither record is a concept album. However, the first half of both LPs is about one’s journey into despair/hardship/struggles, while the second half accentuates the end of that journey into hope/reconciliation/victory. As Mark Barnes puts it, the elements Beauty and Rage are polar opposites, but “a lot of us have to go through these valleys, and these sufferings, sometimes, in order to come out at the other end, looking back and saying ‘oh you know what yeah it’s a good thing I went through those things because I learned so much from that,’” so that one can reach out to others going through those things and help them through it. In other words, rage -or the evil a person endures- can give way to beauty -contentment, joy, peace- for oneself and for those going through their times of rage. On the other side, Ben Burley did not say much regarding the message in Dark before Dawn. Consequently, the theme found on Dark before Dawn described in this article is my own interpretation. The record begins with “Dawn”, an eerie instrumental playing over the voice of what seems to be a mad scientist whom could represent the standards of society. This leads directly into “Failure”: the hard-hitting, catchy-chorus single, doubling as the anthem for deconstructing what the world deems as “failing”. The band believes “It’s okay to fail”, as stated on their social media pages. Up until “Hollow”, the LP’s tracks highlight the persona’s struggle with despair/evil, with the evil winning thus far. After “Hollow”-the turning point-, the album’s persona fights and wins the battle with his evil within, as sung on the final track “Defeated”. In my opinion, both albums beautifully paint an epic fight between good and evil.
Sonically, both albums are brilliant, setting high standards for hard rock music. What makes RED’s Of Beauty and Rage great is its use of music dynamics; the album knows how to magnify the heaviest parts and how to sweeten the softest parts of their songs. Just listen to “The Ever” or “Shadow and Soul” if you are unsure of what I mean; these songs are fortissimo & pianissimo at their finest. In my opinion, the best songs on the record are “Yours Again”-a personal favorite of RED’s lead singer-, “Gravity Lies”-a great hype song-, and “Shadow & Soul”-the poster boy of the phrase “a musical journey”. On the other side, what makes Breaking Benjamin’s Dark before Dawn great is that almost every song will get stuck in your head. “The Great Divide” perfectly mashes the sound of a power ballad and that of a hard rock song to create an album gem; “Never Again” captures the iconic Breaking Benjamin guitar riffs and drum rolls found on their previous smash single “Diary of Jane”; and “Ashes of Eden” soothes your soul as Burley ardently seeks relief with every note he sings.
Both albums are groundbreaking for the rock genre, but both albums have their flaws. Breaking Benjamin’s Dark Before Dawn has many exceptional songs, but two of the twelve fall flat [in my opinion]. Sonically, “Bury Me Alive” rocks hard, but I just can’t find the passion & catchiness in the chaos that I find in every other song on the record. “Breaking the Silence” is growing on me, but in my opinion, the track is a subpar Linkin Park esque track that Linkin Park could play much better. On the other end, because RED’s Of Beauty and Rage is a musical journey which must be listened to from start to finish, it does not have many ready-for-radio singles. Additionally, the brilliance of the album lies in playing it from start to end which is almost impossible to do in today’s microwave society. Of Beauty and Rage also suffers from what I call the “Filler Effect”: create many incredible tracks that it feels “ok” to throw in a couple of “decent” songs to complete the album. “Take Me Over” and “Fight to Forget” are the result of my perceived “Filler Effect”; they are subpar-in my opinion-to the standouts on this album.
Wholistically, RED’s Of Beauty and Rage and Breaking Benjamin’s Dark Before Dawn are outstanding hard rock LPs which will become classics in due time, but their respective flaws bar them from being the best of what 2015 had to offer.
Cop RED’s 5th full length project here: https://itunes.apple.com/…/a…/of-beauty-and-rage/id961259509
& purchase Breaking Benjamin’s 5th record here: https://itunes.apple.com/…/alb…/dark-before-dawn/id975950518