One of the most perplexing questions that critics, fans and record executives have all pondered for decades is who’s going to make it big in the mainstream? It’s really an impossibility to predict as year after year bands seemingly come out of no where and take the rock and metal world by storm with a multi-platinum selling record and a bunch of hit singles.
Despite the fact that the music press and media love to emphasize rags to riches type stories such as these, most bands need time to hone their skills and develop their sound and musicianship. This is a process that can at times take many years of hard work and hard touring and as groups expand their musical horizons, each successive album becomes better than the one that came before it. A perfect example of such a band is the four piece from Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania known as Breaking Benjamin, a group that has progressed from an obscure little town to the mainstream of new rock in only a few short years.
The roots of Breaking Benjamin go back to one man specifically, lead singer and guitarist Benjamin Burley. As a teenager, Burnley developed a huge interest in music, mostly thanks to a steady dose of grunge rock that he grew up with. So in the spirit of Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and so many others, Burnley decided to form a band with his friend Jeremy Hummel around 1998. Local success happened to come relatively quickly for this early incarnation of the band as a steady local following developed in and around Wilkes-Barre.
Despite the local popularity, the group’s lineup was unstable as various lineup changes took place. Finally, the bass and lead guitar roles ended up being filled by two of Burley’s friends, Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski who left their previous band Lifer to join Breaking Benjamin. With the band’s lineup secured, the band recorded a self-titled five song EP which ended up selling all two thousand copies that were pressed. Because of the monster success of the EP, Hollywood Records signed the band to a record deal in 2001 and Breaking Benjamin was on its way to the top.
For the next year after being signed to Hollywood, Burnley and his bandmates worked meticulously on the band’s major label debut. The record was called Saturate and it was released in August, 2002. Despite the huge promise that the group had shown, Saturate was not well received and sales figures were worse than expected. However, the band toured intensely behind the record, winning over some fans all the while fine tuning their immense musical abilities.
This hard work ended up paying off when Breaking Benjamin hit the studio to record Saturate’s follow up. With more experience under their belts, the band’s songwriting took a step to the next level during the recording of their sophomore disc. The album, titled We Are Not Alone, was unleashed in June, 2004 to little fanfare until the lead single “So Cold” began to find its way onto radio station playlists all over North America. This song ended up being the fuel that would propel Breaking Benjamin to the top of the alternative rock world as “So Cold” reached the top of modern rock charts all over the country. We Are Not Alone would go onto reach platinum status and Breaking Benjamin was now one of the most popular post grunge bands in North America.
Following up a tremendously successful album and over a year of solid touring is never easy for any band, but Burley and his bandmates seemed to have accomplished this daunting task with the latest BB album titled Phobia. Although not really a concept record, Phobia confronts issues of fear and anxiety throughout its thirteen tracks. For this, the group’s third album, Burnley challenged himself and his bandmates to write the best music they were capable of. Phobia features the band using new time signatures and different tuning as well as Burnley stretching his vocal capabilities to new heights.
Like all good bands, the group’s sound keeps evolving every record as fans will notice some maturity from We Are Not Alone. So far Phobia has performed very well, debuting at number two on the sales charts and its first single “The Diary Of Jane” was a near number one rock single. To support Phobia, BB has tour dates lined up all the way until the spring with an extensive summer tour likely to follow. All in all things couldn’t be better right now for Benjamin Burnley and his band as his persistence and dedication have certainly paid off in dividends.