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Staind’s latest effort retreads beaten path

Bob Costa | Thursday, September 1, 2005

When Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst ushered Staind onto the national music stage in the late nineties with inclusion on the Bizkit-fronted “Family Values” tours and albums, he made Staind lead singer Aaron Lewis a hero to angry nu-metal fans who saw the band as the second coming of Alice in Chains.

The subsequent success of Staind’s breakthrough album “Break The Cycle” in 2001 yielded not only an expanded fan-base and radio hits (“It’s Been Awhile” and “Outside”) but also numerous copycats in the alt-metal genre. Since then, radio has been proliferated by Staind rip-offs like Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd and 3 Doors Down. That’s enough maudlin lyrics and heavy guitar riffs posing as serious alternative rock to make Eddie Vedder puke.

Yet on Staind’s recently released album “Chapter V,” the band does nothing to revitalize a genre that was really just a revitalization of grunge. Staind sticks to the same formula used on “Break The Cycle” and their 2003 album, “14 Shades of Grey.” Even with a wife and two children, Lewis sounds like the same disgruntled twenty-something reading out of his diary. Lewis’ lyrics are extremely personal, and the man keeps grudges with old lovers like Nixon kept enemies – he can’t seem to let go and embraces the chip on his shoulder. It fuels his music, but at times truly limits the band from moving past the wallowing of their vocalist and songwriter.

The album’s third track, “Paper Jesus,” is a brooding and heavy nu metal nugget that you’ll only enjoy if you can handle the repetitive thrashing of Staind’s detuned electric guitars, which pulsate with fury rather than rhythm. It’s a nice break from the rest of the album, which sometimes seems like “The Aaron Lewis Band” instead of a cohesive rock outfit.

Another factor that diminishes the power of “Chapter V” is that it is just too slick in its production values. This is a band that gained notoriety for releasing a live and acoustic song (“Outside” featuring Fred Durst) to the radio that was gritty and sweltering in its own simplicity.

At their core, these guys can’t balance being Metallica-lite or Nirvana gone metal. They need to be raw, surging through albums and concerts with a miserable intensity. That intensity is heard on certain tracks of “Chapter V,” specifically the ballad “Take This” and “Schizophrenic Conversations,” a swelling rocker that positions Lewis in a comfortable lyrical position – talking to himself.

Lewis is a talented vocalist, a fact that even the limited range of his songwriting can’t diminish. On “Everything Changes,” Staind fans will want to raise their cell phones or lighters during a show. The band turns down the volume for a bit, letting Lewis sing instead of yelling to be heard over the noise. Since “Chapter V” is presumed to be just the fifth chapter in not only Staind’s career but in the never-ending saga of Aaron Lewis’ depression, fans can only hope by the next chapter, the man finds some redemption.

As music fans witness acts like Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and Cold fall out of relevance, one has to wonder whether this may be the last of Staind. “Chapter V” is an album made for the true believers in nu-metal angst. If you don’t buy into the precepts of the genre, the album is just an unoriginal take on one man’s sorrow and recognizable three-chord changes.