Following a rugged but surprisingly enjoyable debut, Breaking Benjamin returns with another heavy album, but for this sophomore effort, the band shows greater poise, variety and musicianship in crafting a superior entry. While the raw hard rock energy of Saturate garnered its fair share of fans, We Are Not Alone is superior in every way: the breakdowns are more refined and well-crafted, the melodies are simply infectious and serve as a much more effective method for balancing out all the aggressive energy and Benjamin Burnley’s vocals are more well-rounded than ever before. Between Burnley’s broad vocal range, Jeremy Hummel’s unrelenting drumming and blazing guitar riffs and bass hooks from Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski, the masterful skill of this band seems limitless, but it’s combined with desperate lyrics, aggressive rhythms and upgraded production values, Breaking Benjamin delivers a timeless album for any hard rock fan to enjoy.
The brooding, heavy rocker “So Cold” opens We Are Not Alone on an aggressive and dark note that sets the atmosphere for the entire album. The quiet, twanging buzz of electric guitar starts it off as a pensive song, but it quickly escalates into a full-fledged headbanger accentuated by pounding drums and pulsating guitar riffs. Burnley’s sweet voice soon turns into gruffer shouts for the steady but heavier chorus. But more impressive is the dramatic bridge which simultaneously builds and unleashes tension for this terrific leadoff’s conclusion.
The buzzing resonance of electric guitars immediately sets “Sooner Or Later” apart from the rest of the album, while a surprisingly catchy chorus proves the band’s ability to balance heavy hooks and enjoyable sing-alongs for hard rock fans. Burnley’s fluctuation between pitch-perfect and coarse vocals is exemplary again, but the vocals shine all the brighter thanks to the amount of angry sincerity and intelligence in the lyrics: “Sooner or later, you’re gonna hate it / Go ahead and throw your life away / Driving me under, leaving me out there / Go ahead and throw your life away.”
Although “Forget It” is pleasant enough, “Rain” easily sets the bar as Breaking Benjamin’s best ballad. The acoustic guitar and Burnley’s crystal-clear voice ring out with clarity as the sound of trickling water enhances the song’s melancholy and contemplative tone. The following “Hidden Track” adds the twist of raising the intensity for a more dramatic rocker, but “Rain” is the superior version if only for the diversity and heartfelt presence it brings to We Are Not Alone.
From the thrashing drums and scaling riffs of “Believe” to the upbeat grooves of the catchy “Simple Design,” Breaking Benjamin offers fans a unique selection of tracks that proves itself to be the band’s most versatile and ultimately enjoyable work yet. The hard rock intensity is still largely intact, but Breaking Benjamin expands their range with more melodies and some infectious choruses that are too enjoyable to ignore. Fans of Three Days Grace, 12 Stones, Sick Puppies, 10 Years, Trapt, Chevelle, Seether and Evans Blue will be right at home with this terrific record, an instrumental one in shaping the face of hard rock and Breaking Benjamin as we know them. From improved composition to the band’s greater exposition of their skill, We Are Not Alone offers a melodic and hard-hitting experience enhanced even further by Burnley’s impressive vocals and songwriting. Saturate was memorable for its raw hard rock feel, but Breaking Benjamin’s sophomore albums hows how much more prolific a touch of melody can be for that enjoyable formula.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Rank: 2nd (four total albums)
- So Cold
- Simple Design
- Break My Fall
- Forget It
- Sooner Or Later
- Hidden Track