ALBUM REVIEW: Breaking Benjamin reimagines the past on acoustic ‘Aurora’

Breaking Benjamin Aurora

Pennsylvania rockers Breaking Benjamin looked to flip the script ahead of the release of their seventh album, Aurora. The band tapped into its ample back catalog to rework nine prior tracks, as well as penning one new tune, for an all-acoustic release. Ben Burnley and company also recruited the help of a number of guests to supply vocals, including Cold’s Scooter Water, former Flyleaf frontwoman Lacey Sturm, Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain and RED’s Michael Barnes.

Breaking Benjamin
Hollywood Records, Jan. 24

Aurora feels much more like a reimagined album rather than strictly an acoustic reworking. Instead of providing quiet intimacy, the songs remain powerful and heavy, even if the instrumentation may be acoustic. The low end rumble of bassist Aaron Bruch and drummer Shaun Foist remains ever-present on many of the songs, with additional flourishes provided by orchestral strings and piano accompaniment.

In many ways, the record is a nod to Breaking Benjamin’s lineage of performing in an acoustic setting on a number of tours throughout its history. Aurora provides the first opportunity for the band to really dig into its acoustic persona on record. The album kicks off with the band’s breakout hit, “So Cold,” with a dark reverberating and percussive intro that leads to a layered guitar attack that’s bolstered by a new orchestral addition. The warlike rhythm of the song make its acoustic transition very natural.

RED’s Barnes makes an appearance on “Failure,” providing vocal harmony on the heavy track. Even the song’s signature double-bass parts remain just as powerful as on the original, with soaring orchestral flourishes taking the track from the quiet layered complexity of a layered acoustic guitar intro.

“Far Away,” the album’s lone new track and best moment, arrives in the form of a duet with Cold frontman Scooter Ward. It opens with a sparse, dark piano part with Burnley and Ward trading lines on the verses before harmonizing on the chorus. The song succeeds in its intimacy. While remaining dark and brooding, it feels more vulnerable. The two singers’ voices are complementary pieces when they sing,”When the broken fall alive/ Let the light take me too/ When the waters turn to fire/ Heaven please, let me through.”

Breaking Benjamin made an interesting choice by selecting mostly heavier material to transpose to acoustic arrangements. The band left several ballads in similar forms as the original versions. “Angel’s Fall” is built on lush guitar playing and vocal melodies while “Red Cold River,” with Chamberlain on vocals, has an unexpected aggression than you’d typically find from an acoustic arrangement. The band took “Tourniquet,” one of the heaviest tracks from 2018’s Ember, and translated it without sacrificing the power of the original. The song builds to a layered attack, incorporating Burnley’s aggressive growl into the chorus.

“Dance with Devil” feels like a perfect fit to get the acoustic treatment. Burnley’s powerful vocals shine on the simple yet poignant chorus, beforetThe album continues with another pair of stripped-down rockers in “Never Again” and the dynamic “Torn in Two.”

Aurora closes with another highlight, the personal “Dear Agony.” The song features vocals from Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm, which creates yet another interesting combination and brings a new energy to the track. The album won’t surprise longtime fans of Breaking Benjamin, but it does provide a foundation for the band to show off its formidable dynamics in new ways.

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(6) Comments

  1. Nathan

    “Dance With The Devil” is supposed to have iconic former Three Days Grace frontman/now Saint Asonia frontman Adam Gontier on the track

  2. Lucas

    Really mate? I am a lifelong Breaking Benjamin fan, I have lyrics and symbols from them tattooed on my body....and I almost hate this album. Sooooo much potential, what could have been - but this is absolute over-produced, lazy re-used vocal, barely acoustic garbage. Honestly the worst thing they have produced and such a major letdown, when the acoustic tracks they have done in the past have been amazing. Get rid of the terrible guest vocalists, the over production (violins on every track??) and just put Ben on a mic with a guitar - the result would have been far more spectacular.

    1. Mike DeWald - Post author

      Hey Lucas! Thanks for reading, I actually agree with a lot of what you're saying here. I liked the guest vocals, but I agree the band could have taken more risks in digging into the acoustic sound. I think that comes through on "Far Away," which sounds like it's meant to be acoustic.

  3. JustJessee

    Congratulations, what you really wanted to hear, instead of what Aurora is, already exists! You just described the original content that Aurora used as basis for a creative exercise rather than putting out another literal "Best Of" album. Now go out there and listen to those original versions of songs that you love and forget that Aurora even exists so that the rest of us can enjoy it for what it is and be happy that the band is invested in their back catalog enough to essentially put out an acoustic remix album in the vein of Reanimation.

    1. Mike DeWald - Post author

      Reanimation is a really solid comparison of what this project is. As I said to another commenter, I'd generally agree - I like the collaborations, but I would have liked to see the band dig deeper into its acoustic influences.

  4. Joe Estrada

    I appreciate the softer tune, almost like a cafe-like vibe, although I do agree With Lucas in that it feels overproduced for something that it’s supposed to be acoustic. Just went to their last concert in DC and Ben can blow the socks out a stadium with just him and a barebones version of any song.

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