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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Benjamin Breaks out Another Depressing Hit

Album Rating: seven disinterested elves

Agony isn’t for everyone, sadly. Life just isn’t fair. Inspired extensively by break ups and unrequited wrongs, Benjamin Burnley and his band of pseudo pariahs found their niche, gravely guitar riffs and gloom. Oh what fun to wallow in pain.

Named after a broken microphone from a 1998 open mic night, where Burnley played – take a guess – Nirvana covers, Breaking Benjamin has been on the fringes of mainstream alt-metal since they released their first single, Polyamorous, in 2002.

Four albums later, in their 2009 release Dear Agony, the single I Will Not Bow made the band more popular than ever, shooting them to number 40 on Billbord’s Hot 100 list. The song also received exposure because it is on the soundtrack for the new Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates. Lately, it’s gotten extensive radio play, and iTunes listeners can’t get enough of it. 2,777 of them gave the album an astonishing five star rating.

Dear Agony may be a bit gloomier than usual, but for the most part Breaking Benjamin’s music is pretty much all the same. Burnley’s hard to resist self-harmonizing vocals, and almost embarrassingly raw honesty apparently sells.

In another eleven misery ridden tracks Burnley aptly expresses the incongruent feelings of teen angst, even though at 31, he is nearly twice as old as the vast majority of his fans. This album, which seems to be written exclusively for people who want to paint their rooms black and who haven’t yet discovered the magic of Prozac, from first strum to string outro bleeds all over everything.

It’s like a guy with a paper cut that won’t put on a band-aid.

The guttural screams over pop-grungy melodies meticulously craft an illusion of anguish with all the nonchalance of a lion with a thorn in its paw. Giddy with pain, Burnley manages to mellow his way into bridges, repeating words like “you’re dead alive” in sorrowful tones. But the choruses pick the pieces up with head splitting consistency.

Perhaps some of these lyrics are direct accounts of Burnley’s struggles with alcoholism. It certainly makes sense since the album cover is a scan of the singer’s alcohol addled brain.

“I’ve suffered permanent brain damage through alcoholism,” Burnley said in a recent interview with Billboard. “I don’t want to say that I’m proud to have stopped, but I’m glad I realized that I wanted to stick around for a while.”

Burnley has been sober for two years, and Dear Agony is his first musical effort since he quit drinking. It seems that the alcohol didn’t make him any better musically, but it certainly accounted for conflict in his lyrics. This album reeks of misery – not a smidgeon of rage to be found.

As long as white suburbanites thirst for affirmation that life is difficult, the music industry will continue to manufacture despair. And muscle heads will always love it. But hopefully after this album Breaking Benjamin at least, will have made enough money to quell their infectious depression.

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010