You may or may not know this, but producer/songwriter Howard Benson was likely behind the boards for at least one of your favorite albums of all time. Want proof? Monster breakout records by My Chemical Romance (Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge), the All-American Rejects (Move Along) and even Daughtry (Daughtry) were all produced by Benson. In addition, Benson has been nominated for and has won various Grammys for his contributions to other major albums.
However, many of his greatest production work sadly fell through the mainstream cracks. Here are 10 examples that you should listen to right now.
Blindside – Silence
In a perfect world, Blindside’s flawless major-label debut Silence would have taken the post-hardcore band to similar domestic domination heights that the Used and Story Of The Year rose to in the early 2000s. Yet, it just wasn’t the case for the Swedish quartet. Maybe the band were too Christian for the mainstream and too secular for the religious crowd. Whatever the case may be, this almost-20-year-old LP deserves a spot on the pantheon of 21st-century screamo and needs far more vocal love.
Hawthorne Heights – Skeletons
There are several theories as to why Hawthorne Heights’ lone Wind-Up Records release (and fourth album) Skeletons didn’t take the band to greater heights than they had reached over the course of their first two records. One reason may have been that the LP wasn’t released shortly after the sharp momentum from their second record, If Only You Were Lonely, and its follow-up Fragile Future came out in 2008 to more of a whimper than its predecessors. While Fragile Future was great in its own right, it wasn’t as consistent as the band’s other records, and many HH fans may have moved onto other acts. Few bands encountered more legal troubles and tragedies than Hawthorne Heights, so it’s time to bring these Skeletons out of the closet.
Hoobastank – Every Man For Himself
One thing that Benson excels at is recording vocals. That may be the understatement of the century, but the lead vocals and layered harmonies that are on Every Man For Himself, Hoobastank’s first album released after their blockbuster LP The Reason, are more than worthy of great acclaim. Grit, sweetness and badassery are on display vocally and throughout the instrumentation, which gets to shine in an admirable fashion over the course of 13 extremely diverse tracks.
Mae – Singularity
This addition may be singularly the most divisive LP mentioned in this piece, but the songs are far too good to get caught up in scene drama from over a decade ago. Sure, Mae’s lone major-label outing Singularity was far more straightforward than its two Tooth & Nail Records predecessors, but you can’t fault the band for trying something different with their major-label resources. Sadly, the band broke up shortly after this album, but happily, they’ve released more EPs and LPs since reforming in 2013.
Relient K – Five Score And Seven Years Ago
Relient K’s Five Score And Seven Years Ago deserves at least 107 more objective listens. The super-cool LP opens with an a cappella barbershop quartet-like vocal harmony (“Pleading the Fifth (A Cappella)”) that Benson perfectly captured and goes right into one of the band’s heavier and angrier songs (“Come Right Out And Say It”). We’re still quite surprised that the sugary and melodic “Must Have Done Something Right” wasn’t as much of a radio hit as Mmhmm’s “Be My Escape.” Make it your significant other’s ringtone today.
Single File – Common Struggles
The catchy-as-fuck pop-rock act known Single File deserved so much better. Never heard of them? Well, you’re proving our point. Outside of their home base of Colorado where the power trio had a minor radio hit with “Zombies Ate My Neighbors,” the band didn’t have a huge fanbase. We believe that their lone major-label outing Common Struggles should have changed that. If you had the chance to catch the band at a random Warped Tour date or on tour with Saves The Day, you’re incredibly lucky.
Sound The Alarm – Stay Inside
Speaking of acts that should’ve been bigger, check out Sound The Alarm, who sound like a perfect combination of scene darlings Matchbook Romance and radio-rock warriors Switchfoot. Fun fact: Benson’s then-teenage daughter Harley turned him onto Sound The Alarm, who promptly helped get the band a major-label record deal and handled production on their full-length LP, Stay Inside. We still think that the band would exist today if they had a different video for “Suffocating.”
The Starting Line – Direction
Superfans of the Starting Line swear by Direction, the band’s last full-length of new material, but others outside of the scene likely can’t name one song from it. It’s a shame as the almost too catchy “Island” should have topped the singles charts, and the more ballad-y “Something Left To Give” could have been in about a thousand mid-2000s movies. Hopefully you caught the band playing a livestream of this record in full in December 2020.
Vendetta Red – Sisters Of The Red Death
The term concept album rarely gets utilized this century, and it’s quite a damned shame. Forever deviating from the norm, Vendetta Red created a perfect example of what a concept record should be in 2005 with Benson. Sisters Of The Red Death is about nuclear war, and sadly, the band destructed in a similar manner a year later and split up. Thankfully, they’re back with new material (2018’s Quinceañera).
Zebrahead – Waste Of Mind
If 311 and Pennywise had a rap-rock baby, it would not only be cute as fuck, but it would sound like Zebrahead’s 1998 major-label debut, Waste Of Mind. Surprisingly huge in Japan and with more of a cult indie following in America, this fun record needs to be streamed and sold much more stateside. The band put on one of the more entertaining live shows in the scene, and Benson captured their energy perfectly for this record and several other full-lengths from the band. Here’s to 13 more albums from Zebrahead!