Breaking Benjamin: Phobia Review

Breaking Benjamin’s 2006 followup to the wildly popular and dark We Are Not Alone is one of the most underrated and irresponsibly criticized albums of modern rock. Despite the thematic, lyrical and compositional progression and maturation on Phobia, the band’s stellar third album was condemned by fans for its departure from the heavier, gritty sound of their past two records. Labeled as “selling out” and “generically mainstream,” this album didn’t garner the critical acclaim it deserved. Because like Green Day’s American Idiot or Linkin Park’s Meteora, Breaking Benjamin’s Phobia represents a superior album that appeals to a larger audience. Not because they sold out or completely abandoned the BLANK style that gained them a fan base in the first place, but because the music’s quality was so good it transcended the smaller confines of the old fan base’s expectations. Regardless of your position on Breaking Benjamin’s former sound, it’d be impossible (and stubborn) to deny how phenomenal Phobia really is. From Benjamin Burnley’s passionate and crystal-clear vocals to guitar riffs brimming with emotion and angst, Breaking Benjamin brings their best effort to date with Phobia.

Standout Tracks

Regardless of whether or not they appreciate Phobia, anyone familiar with Breaking Benjamin knows that “The Diary Of Jane” is one of the finest songs in the band’s entire song catalogue. Burnley’s pensive rhythm guitar and Chad Szeliga’s soft drumming serve as the calm before the storm of Aaron Fink’s blazing power chords, which ignite the song into a dramatic and heartfelt opener. The equivalent amounts of angst, anxiety and passion felt in Burnley’s gruff and simultaneously sweet vocals are echoed through heavy drumming, powerful guitar hooks and Mark Klepaski’s intricately layered bass, establishing the moody and introspective tone for the rest of the album.

Breath” picks up right where “The Diary Of Jane” leaves off, quickly setting an ominously reflective tone through more thickly layered guitar riffs and pounding drums. The tempo drops off for the calmer verses, where Burnley dominates with dulcet high pitches that give the song its sincere and sorrowful vibes, while the chorus erupts into a garage band session of heavy hooks and Burnley’s desperate declarations: “You take the breath right out of me / You left a hole where my heart should be / You gotta fight just to make it through / ‘Cause I will be the death of you.”

Burnley’s brutally honest and revealing introspections continue through the middle portion of Phobia, starting with “Evil Angel,” one of the heavier and gravely despairing songs on the album. As is the case for the majority of the album, Burnley pours his heart and soul out in the vocals and the lyrics, begging for peace from the very same “evil angel” that dons the cover of Phobia (the album was actually named for Burnley’s fear of flying, another reason for the angelic depiction on the album artwork). The raw emotion of Burnley’s requests resonates perfectly through the compelling riffs and intelligent drumming.

The Verdict

Although it breaks with the traditional, heavy sound Breaking Bad established with their first two albums, Phobia is a dark, rousing effort that succeeds for its elevated songwriting, sublimely emotive composition and stellar musicianship. Every single song brings something unique to the table without breaking out of the atmospheric mood of the album as a whole; “Dance With The Devil” reflects Burnley’s and all of mankind’s struggle to resist temptation and evil, “Here We Are” provides a genuine and engaging ballad and “Topless” brings the angry and heavy Breaking Benjamin old fans can fully enjoy. Throughout the album, Burnley’s vocal passion and lyrical honesty steal the spotlight, but Fink’s superb and emotive guitar riffs (especially a wicked intro on “Until The End”) help give each song extra verve and feeling. Fans of Three Days Grace, Sick Puppies, Evans Blue, 10 Years, Rise Against, Disturbed, Trapt, Red, Skillet and Seether will be right at home with this mature and moody brand of rock. Breaking Benjamin may have turned their backs on making every song a heavy, hard rock experience with Phobia, but the result is a dark, engrossing and stirring album that tops anything else in the band’s discography.

Final Score: 10/10

Rank: 1st (four total albums)

Track List

  1. Intro
  2. The Diary Of Jane
  3. Breath
  4. You
  5. Evil Angel
  6. Until The End
  7. Dance With The Devil
  8. Topless
  9. Here We Are
  10. Unknown Soldier
  11. Had Enough
  12. You Fight Me
  13. Outro
  14. The Diary Of Jane (Acoustic)

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  1. #1 by Fli. on September 28, 2012 - 12:40 am

    Hey Dude, i love this album and your review did it justice, Well done!

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