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Dark Before Dawn by Breaking Benjamin
Of all of the artists I love, Breaking Benjamin has made the list of those songs that I can never forget. Breaking Benjamin had been one of my favorite artists for a few years now and I have a small collection of some of their songs which I love. From “I Will Not Bow” to “Diary of Jane” and my overall favorite, “Until the End”. I absolutely love the voice and message behind Breaking Benjamin. While we crack and maybe break, we’re never completely broken unless we allow ourselves to be, and they share this story of unconquerable will and determination through love and doing what’s right again in their newest album, Dark Before Dawn.
DARK: Dark is a low tense song. A man in the back-ground is talking about our emotions and how we respond to things like fear, anger, and aggression, his voice fades as the song picks up. The mood is suspenseful; an unnerving, steady beat intensifies with some electric and quiet harmonizing. It’s a short song of suspense and uneasiness and leads into the album.
FAILURE: One of my personal favorites from the album, Failure also starts of somewhat suspenseful, trademark of Breaking Benjamin. The singer goes on to describe how difficult it is to fail and how the world seems to think that once we’ve failed, we’re done, there’s no hope and that we’re useless. They almost personify Failure as a complete re-boot, destroying everything and sending us back beyond Start to a point from which we can’t recover. “Tired of feeling lost, tired of letting go / Tear the whole world down, tear the whole world down / Failure.” In the second verse the singer explains that failure doesn’t mean we’re useless, it means we can learn from our mistakes and get back up on our feet and try again. “Drive the cloud away / We will fall from last to none / The dark before the dawn, the war will carry on / Look for the light that leads me home.” Failure isn’t the end; we can bury the past and move on with hope in the future.
ANGELS FALL: Another of my favorites, Angels starts out a little heavier and darker than you might expect from the title, but it builds a base for the determined tone of the song. The singer begins to tell how they’ve been fighting something, but can’t overcome it and are ready to give in. They just don’t have the strength to carry on and need to surrender. Then begins a powerful chorus about how to carry on; using a metaphor of an angel with broken wings and how they still try to press on, they will too. In the second verse the singer is gaining confidence and determination, despite having given his all, and the dark still remains, he presses forward and beautifully illustrates the determination of a soul who cannot be broken. “When Angels fall with broken wings / I can’t give up, I can’t give in / When all is lost and daylight ends / I’ll carry you and we will live forever.” It’s a beautiful and touching song of living in a world such as this, how we need to be strong and what fuels our strength. The courage and strength of youth and how we refuse to be taken over, our determination to make this world a better place, a place we know it can become.
BREAKING THE SILENCE: A tense mood prevails through this song; and it has the heavier aspect that gives Breaking Benjamin their trademark sound. It’s another song of giving in to the evil all around us; “Fake plastic life full of wasted years / The lost inside, diabolic fear,” we’re surrounded by suppression and are constantly told who to be and what to be. The singer says he refuses to do so. “Hate kills this world but it won’t kill me…Hope drains this world but it won’t drain me.” How even though he’s outnumbered he wants to do what’s right and will face the oppressing evil around him. He is breaking the silence of submission to what’s wrong and speaking out for what he believes.
HOLLOW: This one starts out softer with some guitar and vocals, and picks up the drums after a moment. This song is all about the hollow feeling we get inside when we are broken. When our heart, mind and will are broken and we’ve sold our souls just to end the suffering. This song is about a story of mis-placed trust and love and how they were eventually betrayed. They know that they’re being killed by the evil they trusted, but the trust persists and it drains them as they are stabbed in the back again and again. “Love left me hollow / I’m with you in the end / Cold, crippled and shallow / Don’t leave me here again.” The danger of breaking and becoming hollow, if we do break, we should leave a way, a light for others to try and continue fighting for what’s right where we left off.
CLOSE TO HEAVEN: This one I had a really hard time writing up a review for. The message is really hidden under a lot of imagery and metaphors, but here’s what I took from it. The singer has been mis-led and lost his way and he’s ready to admit his weaknesses as he nears either a physical or spiritual death. “So I’ll stay unforgiven / And I’ll keep love together / And I’ll be yours forever / I’ll sleep close to Heaven.” The story is about someone who’s made a lot of mistakes in his life but is ready to recognize his mistakes. He knows he’s done things wrong and so he feels unforgiven, he’ll remember the love he had of what was right and he submits himself to judgment and moves forward with a clean conscience and believes that he’ll “sleep close to heaven”.
BURY ME ALIVE: Another song that was pretty difficult to decipher. The singer’s voice starts out as low and weak, like that of a wounded soldier left behind, which in a sense for the story of the song, he is. A soldier lost and left to die on the field of battle, the battle between right and wrong and he was left behind. He’s in pain and was left to fade and asks to be buried alive, hence the title of the song. The song seems dark at first glance, but then I heard this part of the chorus, “Light the way and let me go, (suffocate inside) / I will break and watch you crawl / Bury me alive!” While the song is a bit dark, it’s also a reward for those who have valiantly fought; to be let go of the pain and suffering and to go to the Light and Peace; the escape from the continuous struggle.
NEVER AGAIN: After the past few songs being darker and showing how difficult and consuming the struggle really is, the mood lightens a little and there’s a slight spark of hope introduced in this song. The song starts from the soldier stand-point again, the battle is hard and they’re beginning to see the evil beauty and how compelling the way of their enemies is and the soldier demands to be shown what’s left, to know why he’s still fighting, why it’s still worth it. They’re reminded that they’re trying to make the world better and that they’re fighting for those they love and that no matter how hard it is now “We’ll make it through / We’ll make it through / Never again, never again / Time will not take the life from me.” And their courage and hope is renewed. At the climax of the song, they say “And after this world is out of reach / Sober and silent, fading and violent / Hopeless I fight to fall between / Never surrender, out of the embers / Save a space inside for me.” It’s a re-birth of hope and determination and how the soldier again believes in what he fights for and will never let time try his faith again.
THE GREAT DIVIDE: This song is coming from the other side. Not from the perspective of the soldiers, of us as we struggle on through life, but rather of our Guardian Angels and the Angels in Disguise, our friends and family, as they encourage us to press on, even when we’re spent, they know who and what we can become and want us to reach that potential. “So I’ll wait for you / As I keep your faith alive / And I’ll pray for you / As we cross the Great Divide.” They are with us through this war of Good and Evil, and will be with us even in the thick of battle. And when we get ready to give up and conform to what we have fought against, they continue to pray and wait for us, and will even break for us to open up the sky and Heaven to remind us what we fight for. At the end of the song, they resign and die, but reminded and firmly rooted in their cause of righteousness.
ASHES OF EDEN: Stands with “Failure” and “Angels Fall” as my top 3 favorites of the album. “Ashes of Eden” Is very different from the rest of the songs so far in the sense of the actual music, it’s much lighter and quieter than the other songs, the tone of the singer is quiet, a little lost and pleading for answers, yet at a strange peace. The story returns to that of a soldier who is wounded and dying on the field and is wondering about what waits for him on the other side. He knows that he’s dying and wonders if the faithful will be rewarded and deems himself unworthy of any reward because of his lack of faith as seen in some of the other songs through-out the album. He asks for assurance and peace and is given comfort in his final hours, and when it comes time for him to leave the struggle, he says: “Are you with me after all / Why can’t I hear you / Are you with me through it all / Then why can’t I feel you / Stay with me don’t let me go / Because there’s nothing left at all / Stay with me don’t let me go / Until the Ashes of Eden fall.” He feels the surrounding darkness and realizes that he is leaving his life and the battle and resigns himself to this fate with a new-found peace that he was never abandoned and that he never left what was true and knowing that he did his best. The song ends with a beautiful medley and blend that goes something like this. “Heaven above me, take my hand / Shine until there’s nothing left but you / Heaven above me, take my hand (Don’t let go!)”
DEFEATED: Takes the view of the last soldiers of the fight, the Final Battle. They’ve withstood the challenge and burden of war and now they’re lost and defeated, still struggling to fight for what they believe. They have nothing left to believe in and stand alone, forgotten and alone, but trying not to be defeated. The second verse illustrates their frustration and how they’re ready to be defeated: “Stripped away, we rise above it all, forgotten and betrayed / We all fall down, the pain goes on / No better than before, still broken and afraid / We all fall down, the pain goes on.” What was the point of fighting? Nothing was gained, they’re no better than they were before and they feel betrayed. Finally they realize that they still have purpose and will fight until the end. “I’m falling to pieces (pained and used) / I know what I need, and it’s not you / it’s not you / As I fight for one last prayer, I keep holding on / No love to believe in / As I drag the Devil down / I will stand alone / No longer defeated.”
DAWN: The 12-track album comes full-circle with their appropriately named conclusion. This track is an instrumental, like its complementary introduction and completes the meaning of the overall story of the album. In the dark before the dawn, we feel forgotten and betrayed, and a lone and afraid, but then comes the dawn. The song perfectly takes the visual and mental peace the sunrise brings and put it into a soothing and unforgettable instrumental that reminds us that there will always be darkness, but that it will always be followed by the dawn of light and hope.