Breaking Benjamin: By the Numbers

Originally published in Guitar World, January 2010

Breaking Benjamin's Aaron Fink explains his approach to the band's latest record, Dear Agony.

Like many metal guitarists of his generation, Aaron Fink of Breaking Benjamin has mad love for the work of Zakk Wylde. When it comes to his own playing, though, Fink aspires to a somewhat less flashy model. “I like a solo that you can sing back,” he says, “like what Kurt Cobain did in Nirvana. His solo a lot of the time was just the chorus melody, simple shit like that. I consider writing a solo the same as writing the entire song. It has to be memorable.”

Fink meets that goal throughout Dear Agony, Breaking Benjamin’s fourth studio full-length. It’s a consistently tuneful alt-metal effort with a hook-per-pound ratio comparable to that of Razorblade Suitcase by Bush. The hooks have paid off, too: when it was released this past September, Dear Agony debuted at Number Four on Billboard’s album chart, snuggled between the latest from Mariah Carey and the reunited Alice in Chains.

“I think we’ve made enough records now that we kind of have the sound of our band down,” says Fink, who’s joined in the Pennsylvania foursome by singer-guitarist Benjamin Burnley, bassist Mark Klepaski and drummer Chad Szeliga. “We know what works for us, and we’re not really interested in experimenting or straying from that original formula. What we are interested in is writing another batch of great songs.”

A lack of experimentation doesn’t mean a lack of technique, Fink insists. “On this record there are lots of cool inside-out riffs where Ben and I twist them up the second time around,” he says. Thanks in part to its placement in the Bruce Willis sci-fi flick Surrogates, “I Will Not Bow,” the new album’s lead single, has earned the band some crossover traction. But Fink and his bandmates are too interested in those heavy riffs to care much about courting the pop world. “Personally I’d rather be Number One at active radio than Number 50 at Top 40,” he says, with a laugh. “Or Number 40, I guess I should say.”

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