I don’t often review non-prog releases, but I am still a fan of several other genres out there, so I get excited about some of the bands I used to follow in high school. While several alternative rock/metal bands are suddenly releasing new albums this year, I’ve chosen just Sevendust and Breaking Benjamin to cover, though.
I’ve been listening to Sevendust since high school. I honestly wasn’t an enormous fan at the time, as I only owned a couple albums and only really liked a handful of songs. Lately, and especially after Lajon’s involvement with Earthside, my interest was renewed. I’ve been following the development of “All I See Is War” since it was announced, and I could not wait to take the plunge after hearing the two singles.
Yes, the entire album is as good as those singles. If you loved the heaviness of “Dirty” or the gentleness of “Not Original”, you will find even more to love here. Those two songs remain some of my favorites, but I’m also a big fan of the raw nature of “God Bites His Tongue”, the hope of “Risen”, the pure fun of “Medicated”, and the more serious, softer tone of the last few tracks on the album, such as “The Truth”.
So, I have two observations about this album. I’ll keep it short. First, Sevendust is one of the only alternative metal bands that utilizes polyrhythms and syncopation. There are others, but Sevendust has a way of keeping it extremely tight, while also blending it with the gravy vocals from Lajon. Lajon sings his heart out here, and sounds better than ever. Combine that stunning performance with the thundering drums and crunching riffs, and you have a recipe for pure enjoyment. It’s easy to hear and see how much influence this band has had on the rising progressive metal bands in our decade.
The lyrics on “All I See Is War” are also impressive. Lajon recently became a Christian, which doesn’t necessarily mean that his writing should be better, but I will say that it has become more mature. Rather than focusing on bad relationships and that sort of thing, the lyrics address societal problems and inner struggles. This could easily be a result of the band growing up or shifting their audience focus, too. Either way, the lyrics, while not intensely poetic, are solid and deeply meaningful.
Sevendust may have produced their best album yet; that I’ve heard, anyways. Every song has great melody, tight playing, and massive effect. I wish the mix weren’t so brickwalled, but that really isn’t the band’s issue. The music and composition themselves are fantastic.
I’ve also been listening to Breaking Benjamin since high school. Unlike Sevendust, I was actually a huge fan of BB, and I have all their albums. One of my favorite concert experiences was a BB concert that also included Red, Candlebox, and Three Days Grace. With “Ember”, though, I feel like the BB schtick has run its course.
“Ember” represents a band that has no new ideas. Yet again, we get an album that uses all the same lyrics, only scrambled; as well as the same riffs, the same screams, the same intro and outro (how novel), and the same structures. Now, I like BB and their sound is unique, even in alternative rock. However, their sound hasn’t changed an iota since they first starting making music. The result is an album that passes you by, and it’s over before you even realize it. I’m sure the album will make money, but I personally won’t buy it.
Let’s dive slightly deeper here. While the music sounds fine and there are some headbang worthy moments, one thing that really annoys me on this album is how filtered Ben’s voice has become. Can he not sing well anymore? What’s the deal here? Why does it sound like he’s singing through a blanket underwater?
That said, I do enjoy a couple tracks. While the whole album is listenable and “solid”, I find that “Save Yourself” has the energy and vocal hooks of early BB albums, and so I really like it. “Blood” is a perfectly fine track with some strong moments and lyrics. The best song, like “Ashes of Eden” on their previous album, is the ballad. “The Dark of You” is a rather emotional and beautiful ballad with some great lyrics. I would absolutely love a full album of BB ballads, to be honest.
Overall, the album is okay with all the typical BB sounds and lyrics. It’s mostly forgettable because it lacks the nostalgia of the older albums, but also lacks the innovation, maturity, and new sounds I was hoping to hear. Diehard BB fans will love it. Casual fans will give it a pass.
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Find Breaking Benjamin online: