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'Breaking Benjamin' breaking the mold

BREAKING BENJAMIN

Pennsylvania post-grunge band Breaking Benjamin will rock the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday (11/27). The band is on a co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch.
BREAKING BENJAMIN Pennsylvania post-grunge band Breaking Benjamin will rock the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday (11/27). The band is on a co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch.

After completing a 2010 tour, Breaking Benjamin appeared to be breaking up.

The post-grunge band was taking a hiatus and being reconfigured. Vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Benjamin Burnley decided he needed a new backing unit so the band could move on.

“It was time for change,” Burnley said by phone from Sacramento. “The change was going to take longer than I ever anticipated.”

“Dark Before Dawn,” released in 2015, was the comeback album, but Burnley wrote the whole thing.

“That album doesn’t reflect how the dynamic has changed in this band,” he said. “This is another version of Breaking Benjamin.”

“Ember,” which dropped in April, moves in a slightly different direction. Burnley relinquished some of his songwriting duties, and the album is a little brawnier than prior projects.

“I think we took a step forward as a band with me stepping back,” Burnley said. “Prior to this album, I was the primary writer and all of the weight was on my shoulders. The guys who were in this band contributed. I don’t want to take anything away from them but I did all of the heavy lifting. Now it’s a breath of fresh air. I loved writing just the vocal part of some of the songs on this album. It was liberating. After all I’ve been through, I couldn’t be happier.”

Burnley had to go to court with two of his ex-bandmates, guitarist Adam Fink and bassist Mark Klepaski, over who has the rights to the moniker “Breaking Benjamin.”

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“It was surreal, since I was fighting over what is literally my own name,” Burnley said. “I won the rights to it. The business side of music can mess things up.”

Bassist Chris Kael of Five Finger Death Punch can relate. “And Justice for None,” the band’s latest album — a play on Metallica’s classic album, “And Justice for All” — was delayed for two years.

“It was finished so long ago,” Kael said by phone from Phoenix. “The album was held up for a crazy amount of time. But now that it’s out, we’re touring behind it and showcasing quite a bit from it. The coolest thing is that we’re having fun with Breaking Benjamin. It’s a feel good tour, which is what we needed after enduring so much trying to get this album out.”

Burnley, 40, is looking ahead.

“I want our next album to be electronic,” he said. “I want to challenge us. I’m with the right group of guys to help take me get to another place. These guys grew up on the same kind of music I did.”

While coming of age during the ’90s, Burnley was influenced by a predictable cluster of rock recording artists.

“It was all about Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Pearl Jam for me,” he said, “but I also liked the Cure and Nine Inch Nails, which have that electronic element to them. Our next album will have an electronic side to it, but it’ll still rock.”

The annual “rock is dead” mantra is belied by the interest in the Breaking Benjamin/Five Finger Death Punch tour, coming to the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday (11/27).

“We’re playing to more people than ever on this tour,” Kael said. “It shows you that there is an audience for rock, which is not going away. The future looks good for bands like ours and Breaking Benjamin. Rock is not going to go away. The fans are loving the rawness of the music, the pyro and the production. Our show is huge.”

Kael, who grew up on KISS, believes bigger is better.

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“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I knew that since I was a kid. I was a huge KISS fan since I was 4 — I knew what I wanted to do since I was 4. I was blown away by Gene Simmons then. I’m 44 now and I’m doing just what I wanted to do when I was a kid. If kids come out to this show and see Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin, I bet they will feel the same way. Rock on.”

GET OUT!

WHAT: Five Finger Death Punch & Breaking Benjamin

WHERE: U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday (11/27)

TICKETS: $40 to $80, plus VIP packages; venue box office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Uscellularcenter.com/events

ONLINE: Fivefingerdeathpunch.com/pages/home and Breakingbenjamin.com

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