Breaking Benjamin – Aurora (2020)

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Breaking Benjamin have recently released Aurora, an album featuring one new track, and a collection of their past material reimagined as acoustic songs.

This is a formula that quite a few bands have done in the past.  Sometimes it works (Sevendusts “Southside Double Wide”) and sometimes the results are not as good (Bon Jovi “This Left Feels Right”).  Aurora mostly falls into the category of one that works.

Now, I have to make it clear that I’m not overly familiar with Breaking Benjamin.  I certainly know of the band, but I don’t own any albums, nor have I seen them live.  Maybe that’s why I have an appreciation for this record.  I have no attachment to the original versions.

From the opening of “So Cold”, it’s clear that this isn’t a hastily thrown together project.  Breaking Benjamin have carefully adapted these songs in to these new versions.  So Cold is the song that launched Benjamin’s career, so it’s fitting that this is the intro here.

“Failure” features Red’s Michael Barnes, which is a little nod to Breaking Benjamin’s past, as guitarist, Jansen Rauch was a founding member of Red.  This song features some incredible bass playing, and really works well in this new format.

“Far Away” is the only completely new track, and it features Scooter Ward from Cold, who is himself, a huge influence on Benjamin’s vocalist, Benjamin Burnley.  The two vocalists perform together, in what is a gentle highlight among this collection.

“Angels Fall” opens with some excellent string arrangement, and features a fantastic groove.  “Red Cold River” features a guest shot from Underoaths Spencer Chamberlain, and although it differs from its electrified original, it is just as well suited to this format.  The heaviness still resonates through the acoustic structure, and it proves to be another highlight.

“Tourniquet” features some very interesting arrangements that kept me completely engaged.  There’s a lot to take in under the surface.  It’s also one of the strongest vocal performances on offer.  Really cool stuff.  While in the case of “Dance With the Devil”, it’s a far more simplistic approach, but no less effective.  Having former Three Days Grace singer, Adam Gontier, add a little something to the track doesn’t hurt it either.

Next up is “Never Again”, which is one of the Breaking Benjamin songs that I’m most familiar with.  Again, the acoustic treatment works well, and the accents that are given to this song in the form of pianos and strings are completely perfect.

“Torn in Two” reminds me of Days of the New a little bit.  That band played a unique form of acoustic metal, and this track definitely has a chunky “metal” vibe running through the main riff.  The chorus is a different animal though.  Vibrant, with vocals that soar.

Former Flyleaf singer, Lacey Sturm, drops in for a guest spot on the closing number, “Dear Agony”, and the addition of her vocals alone make this another standout track.  She is an exceptional vocalist, underrated completely.  Her voice really compliments Burnley’s and adds a depth to this track that is unique.  It’s a fantastic way to close out the album.

So, as I said earlier, I was never overly familiar with the band, but as I listened through Aurora, I sought out the tracks in their original form, and you could now say that I’m a fan.

This is a very well crafted record.

8/10

Shayne McGowan.

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