Breaking Benjamin are nothing if not consistent. Phobia finds them picking up exactly where they left off with 2004's We Are Not Alone, mixing heavy hard rock dynamics with a moody demeanor that never slips into full-on dejection, thanks in part to their proficient grasp of the accessible melody and ever-rousing chorus. Darkness permeates Phobia's tracks (bookended by a useless intro and outro), but the quartet always remembers the silver lining hanging in its oft-cloudy skies. Songs like "Until the End" exhibit this resilient attitude, affirming that while life can be tough, "Why give up? Why give in?…So I will go on until the end." Breaking Benjamin mix urgent up-front vocals with dense underside riffing ("The Diary of Jane," "Topless"), while still being able to effortlessly pull off songs with vulnerable edges ("Here We Are," "Breath"). This is heard even more in the gentle acoustic version of "The Diary of Jane" not listed on the back cover; it sounds natural and not just like a strained bonus novelty -- featuring Dropping Daylight's Sebastian Davin, the version may even be better than the original. As is often the case, certain tracks work out much better than others, as in the tough angst of "Dance with the Devil" versus the forced warbling of "Unknown Soldier." The main problem with the guys has always been that while everything is pulled off capably, there isn't always much to distinguish them from the rest of the post-grunge/alt-metal pack or really, each of their songs from one another. But what Breaking Benjamin lack in distinctiveness, they make up in a certain charm that makes them 100 times more appealing than most of their testosterone-clogged peers. Phobia will not win over any skeptics still holding out on the band, but for those already happily settled in the Benjamin camp, it makes for another satisfying listen.
by Corey Apar