Multi-platinum rock band Breaking Benjamin released their seventh studio album late January via Hollywood Records titled Aurora. The record is a reimagined acoustic album comprised of nine tracks from Breaking Benjamin’s seemingly endless catalog of chart-topping hits and one new song titled Far Away, featuring Scooter Ward from the band Cold. The album seems to bring a perfect circle to what Breaking Benjamin has been striving to accomplish since the return from their six-year hiatus. Beginning with the release of Dark Before Dawn in 2015, Ember in 2018 and now Aurora in 2020, the distinct correlation between the albums in juxtaposition with the resurrection of songs like So Cold, Dance With The Devil and Dear Agony is undeniably signifying that the dawn has finally arrived. What is unique about Aurora is that Breaking Benjamin managed to add new elements, including guest vocals by Ward, Adam Gontier (Saint Asonia, ex-vocalist Three Days Grace), Michael Barnes (Red), Spencer Chamberlain (Underoath) and powerful soprano vocalist Lacey Sturm (Flyleaf). This is not your stereotypical acoustic record at all.
Benjamin Burnley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Keith Wallen (guitar), Aaron Bruch (bass), Jasen Rauch (lead guitar), and Shaun Foist (drums) begin the album with So Cold, one of the hit singles from their 2004 album We Are Not Alone. While it may appear at times from a listener’s standpoint that the vocals have been recycled from the original recording, there is a distinct difference in Burnley’s tone and emotion while still conveying the urgency from the original recording.
The orchestra infused version of Failure features Michael Barnes, lead vocalist for RED. The dueling vocals between Burnley and Barnes permeate the most powerful moments. At times it seems as though the drums are excessively louder than the other instruments and overpower Burnley’s vocals (a common theme in this album), but ultimately it’s nicely done, and Breaking Benjamin remained true to the elements of the song fans love most. Third on the album is the only new track titled Far Away, which features Scooter Ward. Opening with the hauntingly eerie piano chords is a song that gives off a similar vibe to The Dark Of You from Breaking Benjamin’s Ember album. It is a beautiful and euphoric addition to an anthology of hits. Angels Fall lures you in with a gothic violin intro that transcends into a dramatic reverie. In some ways, this version is better than the one heard on Dark Before Dawn, but in others, the drums seem to be noticeably stronger than the other fragments of the song. Overall it is equally as inviting through Burnley’s extremely personal lyrics and passionate voice.
Considering how Ember was the heaviest album Breaking Benjamin has made, the acoustic version of Red Cold River and Tourniquet still holds onto the melodic intensity of the original versions. Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain adds a harmonious sound replacing the screaming vocals that Burnley projects on its debut album. Three Days Grace former frontman Adam Gontier joins Burnley for Dance With The Devil, and it is nothing short of spectacular. Gontier’s high range melodies flourish alongside Burnley and create an unforgettable dynamic. Never Again and Torn In Two don’t include any guest appearances, but the reconceived versions hold their own, and the intermittent orchestra is a nice touch.
Not since 2011, when Valora joined Breaking Benjamin for a remake of their track Blow Me Away has the band recorded with a female vocalist. When the announcement that former Flyleaf frontwoman Lacey Sturm would be joining Burnley on Aurora for Dear Agony, there was no doubt that this was going to be the highlight of the album. Sturm’s powerful soprano fuels the song’s painfully raw lyrics and harmonizes effortlessly with Burnley. While the song is undoubtedly a masterpiece, it may have been better if Sturm had sung the entire second verse but it works. Ultimately, Burnley and Sturm have a musical chemistry that is unforgettable, and the delivery once again played on every emotion. Hopefully, they will collaborate again in the future.
The insatiable craving for more music by Breaking Benjamin may not have been completely satisfied with Aurora, but it will surely tide fans over until they can write new music. Aurora was not intended to be the next step of their journey but rather an album that solidifies how far they have come. In an interview, Burnley said “This album is a celebration of our incredible fans; for those who have been there since hearing So Cold for the first time in 2004, and the new ones who have joined us on this amazing journey along the way. We’ve always shared a unique emotional connection to our music with our fans, and this album attributes to those dark times and euphoric ones. From wherever you joined along the road to Aurora, this one is for you. Thank you.”