Stardog Champion consists of former Breaking Benjamin bassist Mark Klepaski and guitarist Aaron Fink, along with non ex-Breaking Benjamin members Nick Coyle (lead vocals) and drummer Josh Karis (originally from Leroy Justice). Coyle, Fink and Klepaski were all in the band Lifer together, before Fink and Klepaski decided to join Breaking Benjamin, a high-profile alternative metal band, which they remained members of for about 10 years. Lifer only released one studio album, Lifer, which came out in 2001. The establishment of Stardog Champion in 2011 came after a highly publicized dispute between the former members of Breaking Benjamin (Fink and Klepaski) and the bands frontman, Benjamin Burnley.
And yes, the Stardog Champion name is a nod to the Mother Love Bone song of the same name.
Between all the members of Stardog Champion and their involvement in various bands, they have collectively sold more than 4 million albums worldwide. Stardog Champion released their debut EP, Exhale, in April 2013, with Breaking Benjamin fans possibly anticipating a rebirth of the disbanded group. Grammy-nominated Neal Avron (Switchfoot, Everclear, Linkin Park) produced the album.
At the same time as the release of the album, they also released a music video for the first single, When We Fall. It’s been making rounds on the Internet. Someone clearly knew what they were doing when they picked it as a single release. When We Fall could see some commercial success with its highly polished radio ready rock sound.
Those looking for something sounding a little less commercial will appreciate the song Aphrodite, which is eerie, intense and incorporates unique bass lines. The Switch is the EP’s ballad, but it’s nothing to get excited about; it just sounds like an afterthought, as though they felt the need to throw a ballad on the album.
For those expecting the replacement for Breaking Benjamin, Stardog Champion and in particular their EP, is not comparable. This first EP will not quite transition them to the status of a Breaking Benjamin. Something is missing. And while they have the competence from their past experience to outshine other bands in this genre, the work on Exhale does not stand out above others. It almost comes off as too polished. There is not yet the grittiness that real rock is about. But Stardog Champion’s experience and potential makes you want to see where they will go with their music next.
Watch the video for When We Fall
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