Alt-rock heavyweights Staind are back with their seventh studio album, and have taken things in a decidedly darker/heavier direction not seen since the self-released “Tormented”. That album was released only a year after the band’s formation and was a bit rough in some respects. In comparison, this album is heavy, polished, and melodic, while abrasive in all the right ways.
Though Staind has become known in recent years for its mainstream rock hits like “Believe” or “It’s Been Awhile”, there are no such ballad-type songs on this album. Aaron Lewis’ vocals alternate from beautiful and melodic to forceful and screamed, in keeping with the basic formula that has led to the band’s success over the years (over 15 million albums sold). The guitar work is particularly notable on this album as well, as Mike Mushok lets it rip frequently with hair-melting guitar solos that evoke the spirits of past Alice in Chains – type guitarwork.
It is interesting to see just how focused the band seems to be on this release despite the internal tensions that rose in the band during the recording process. According to frontman Lewis in an interview with Alternative Addiction, “By the end of the first month [of recording] we weren’t even recording in the same places anymore.”
Much of the tension arose from Lewis having his attention divided between working on the new Staind album and the release of his solo album, the country-themed acoustic EP “Town-Line”, released earlier this year. Tensions were high, and by the time the new Staind album was finished, drummer Jon Wysocki left the band, and guitarist Mushok and Lewis weren’t speaking. “By the end of it, Mike didn’t want to hear the vocal tracks I was laying down… he almost didn’t finish. We were at the end of our proverbial rope.” Still, Lewis speculates that the tension may have had its positive side. “Sometimes my creative moments come at times of duress. I don’t think this record would have turned out as well if all that stuff wasn’t going on.”
The album kicks off with a bass line reminiscent of the song “Mudshovel” with the first track “Eyes Wide Open”. The tone is set early, with Mushok’s heavy guitar accenting Lewis’ alternated sung and screamed vocal delivery. The album’s lead single “Not Again” is next, following up the first song with dark aural landscapes and moody melodies. Throughout the record, Staind is determined to play with as much fire as possible – certainly an appeal to the band’s earliest fans.
Staind even incorporates some elements of its “Nu-Metal” history in the album’s fourth track “Wannabe”, with alternated rhymed and sung vocals. That song was reportedly created for a rumored collaboration with Snoop Dogg that ended up being cut from the album. The song admittedly feels a bit out of place when put up next to the other songs on the album, but it is at the very least an ‘interesting’ 3:48.
Fortunately, the rest of the tracks on the album are more like a cross between the fire of “Eyes Wide Open” and the vocal harmonies of “Failing”, save for the final track, “Something to Remind You”. The latter song is surely one that we’ll be hearing on the radio before long, for better or worse (radio loves those sappy songs..)
Gene’s Must-Listen tracks from “Staind”
2. Eyes Wide Open
3. Not Again