Profile of Breaking Benjamin

Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin. Miikka Skaffari-FilmMagic-GettyImages

Breaking Benjamin have quietly become one of mainstream rock’s most popular new bands of the late ‘00s. Drawing comparisons to everyone from Linkin Park to Chevelle to Korn to Tool, this Pennsylvania quartet combine metal-edged guitars with confessional lyrics to produce accessible radio-rock.

Breaking Benjamin Origins

Breaking Benjamin came together around the dawn of the 21st century. Frontman Benjamin Burnley and drummer Jeremy Hummel were in a band together, and they were soon joined by guitarist Aaron Fink and bassist Mark James, who were previously part of the group Lifer.

The band played around the Pennsylvania area, attracting the attention of local radio. A self-made EP started making the rounds in 2001, and soon Breaking Benjamin were signed to Hollywood Records.

A Gift for Catchy Songs

Breaking Benjamin hit the ground running with their 2002 debut, Saturate. Even at this early stage of their career, Burnley’s vocals and songwriting evoked the angst-heavy urgency of Seattle bands like Nirvana while at the same time following the post-grunge formula of streamlining that aggression into insanely catchy songs. Saturate wasn’t terribly original, but it did suggest that Breaking Benjamin knew how to follow a successful commercial template.

Going Platinum

Breaking Benjamin had an even bigger hit with their second album, 2004’s We Are Not Alone. Though a darker and more musically ambitious record than Saturate, We Are Not Alone nonetheless targeted radio audiences with the politely alt-metal leanings of songs like “So Cold,” where Burnley aped the unsettling vocal delivery of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan.

We Are Not Alone became Breaking Benjamin’s first platinum album, and even if this quartet weren’t pushing the envelope, they were at least proving themselves to be able sonic craftsmen.

Exposing Their 'Phobia'

Breaking Benjamin upped their game with 2006’s Phobia. Burnley had lost none of his surefire commercial instincts, but his songs’ emotional content was more closely observed this time around, resulting in hits that had a little more heft than the band’s earlier tunes.

Fans continued to embrace Breaking Benjamin, who had a new drummer in Chad Szeliga. Phobia went on to platinum sales and gave the band their first No. 1 hit on the mainstream rock charts with “Breath.”

'Dear Agony'

Breaking Benjamin didn’t return with a new album until the fall of 2009. Dear Agony would be the group’s fourth full-length record and third in a row with producer David Bendeth. The album was released September 29th, 2009, with the first single, “I Will Not Bow,” released in August 2009. "I Will Not Bow" is the band's highest charting single ever reaching No. 40 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.

An Uncertain Future

In the summer of 2011, the band released Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin, their first greatest-hits collection. Unfortunately, the album came out under a dark cloud: Burnley had fired longtime members Fink and James as the band went on hiatus. Szeliga left the band in 2013 over creative differences.

Regrouping with 'Dark Before Dawn'

In 2015 Breaking Benjamin returned with their fifth album, Dark Before Dawn, and a whole new lineup except for singer, guitarist, and songwriter Benjamin Burnley. Guitarists Keith Wallen and Jasen Rauch, bassist Aaron Bruch, and drummer Shaun Foist were added to the band's new recording and touring lineup.

Dark Before Dawn became the band's first album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Lead single "Failure" became their third single to reach No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

Lineup

Benjamin Burnley – vocals, guitar
Keith Wallen – lead guitar
Jasen Rauch – rhythm guitar
Aaron Bruch – bass guitar
Shaun Foist – drums  

Essential Songs

“Polyamorous” (Purchase/Download)
“So Cold” (Purchase/Download)
“Sooner or Later” (Purchase/Download)
“Breath” (Purchase/Download)
“The Diary of Jane” (Purchase/Download)
"Failure" (Purchase/Download)

Discography

Saturate (2002) (Purchase/Download)
We Are Not Alone (2004) (Purchase/Download)
So Cold (EP) (2004) (Purchase/Download)
Phobia (2006) (Purchase/Download)
Dear Agony (2009) (Purchase/Download)
Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin (greatest hits) (2011) (Purchase/Download)
Dark Before Dawn (2015) (Purchase/Download)


(Edited by Bob Schallau)