On a good wicket but don't push it next time
After surviving the dreaded sophomore curse two years ago with We Are Not Alone, Pennsylvanian based four-piece act Breaking Benjamin are back with a new look (Ex-Switched drummer Chad Szeliga has replaced Jeremy Hummel, and joins vocalist/guitarist Ben Burnley, lead guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark James Klepaski and drummer) and a new album in Phobia.
As you would expect, Breaking Benjamin aren't about to fool around too much with the formula that made We Are Not Alone a huge success, but then they needn't have to if the first single from the album, The Diary Of Jane, is any indication of what's in store within the eleven tracks on offer (Excluding the rather pointless sound effect pieces Intro and Outro that bookend the album). Boasting a slightly heavier sound, a stronger drum presence and a ballsy vocal performance from Burnley, The Diary Of Jane is heavy serving from the word go, without forsaking the huge melodic hooks that are essential to Breaking Benjamin's core sound.
Breath is a worthy follow up anthem sounding track that again retains the same heaviness of the opener with a slight Tool influence being heard in the quieter moments of the verses, while You is a ready made heavy ballad that's sure to get the lighters ablaze amongst concert goes. Unfortunately, things start to go a little wayward from this point on.
The Staind like power ballad Evil Angel comes a little too quick off the back of You to prop up the lull it creates, while the lyrics on Until The End simply sound cliché, rendering the song as nothing more than a throwaway at best. Dance With The Devil (Featuring Sebastian Davin of Dropping Daylight on backing vocals), Had Enough and Topless are passable up-tempo heavy numbers that attempt to liven things up a little (Although they're hardly what you would call challenging in the riff department), but once again, the band revert to heavy ballad territory with the sickly sweet Here We Are and the marginally stronger Unknown Soldier. The only real departure from what is normally expected from Breaking Benjamin turns up in the closing number You Fight Me, where piano (Provided by Davin) is woven in around beats to a heavier sounding track, which in all honesty doesn't quite work all that well, finishing up the album on a weak note.
Initial sales of Phobia have already reaffirmed Breaking Benjamin's position once again as one of the big players in today's heavy rock scene, but unless there's a change of tact next time around, many will look back upon Phobia as the high point in Breaking Benjamin's career before it all started to sound the same.
(Hollywood Records/E.M.I. Music Australia)