Staind are a Massachusetts quartet identified with the alt-metal
(or nu-metal) movement. The band formed in 1995 with Aaron Lewis on vocals, Johnny April on bass, Mike Mushok
on guitar, and Jon Wysocki on drums. Though Staind incorporate the harsh textures of metal in their music, the most popular Staind songs feature stripped-down, often acoustic arrangements augmented by Lewis’s sensitive lyrics about relationships and his battles with his demons.
When Staind Met Fred Durst:
Staind self-released its debut, entitled Tormented
, in 1996. Now something of a collector’s item, Tormented
paved the way for Staind to connect with Fred Durst, frontman for Limp Bizkit
. Durst was reportedly turned off by Tormented
’s cover art, which included a depiction of a bloody cross, but he was impressed enough with Staind’s music to help them get a deal with Limp Bizkit’s label, Flip Records.
Searching for a Personality:
Just two months before Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other
would usher in the nu-metal movement, Staind released their major-label debut, Dysfunction
, in April 1999. A brooding record, Dysfunction
didn’t have much of a personality beyond its heavy riffs and Lewis’s anguished groans. The singles were typical ‘90s alt-metal, except for “Home,” which possessed a more introspective, vulnerable side, suggesting the path Staind would take to success in the 21st century.
Becoming Superstars With "It's Been Awhile":
had gone platinum, but 2001’s Break the Cycle
catapulted the band into the mainstream. Still musically harsh in places, Break the Cycle
differed from earlier Staind releases in its willingness to pursue melodic songs with sensitive, therapeutic lyrics. Going five-times platinum in the U.S., Break the Cycle
cemented its place among listeners with “It’s Been Awhile,”
a pop ballad about addiction and regret. Another ballad from the album, “Outside,” was a huge hit as well. Staind perhaps lost some credibility among hardcore metal fans, but the band’s gift for tuneful songs assured them superstar status.
A Humdrum Follow-Up:
Released two years later, 14 Shades of Grey was in some ways a victim of Break the Cycle’s breakthrough success. Largely abandoning the darkness of earlier releases for more modest ballads in the vein of “It’s Been Awhile,” 14 Shades of Grey caught Staind moving away from metal almost entirely, morphing into a melodic rock band. Not surprisingly, 14 Shades of Grey’s biggest single was “So Far Away,” a hopeful ballad that felt like an optimistic response to the angst eating away at “It’s Been Awhile.” Overall though, the album too closely tried to mimic the sonic strategy of Break the Cycle, to diminishing results.
'Chapter V' and 'The Illusion of Progress':
Staind’s fifth album, appropriately titled Chapter V
, came out in 2005. As had become their custom now, the album’s biggest smash was a ballad, “Right Here.” While Chapter V
attained platinum status, Staind’s brand of sensitive angst no longer had the commercial clout it had once enjoyed. The band returned with The Illusion of Progress
in August 2008. Predictably, the first single was a romantic ballad, “Believe.”
Getting Back to Basics:
On September 13, 2011, the band released their seventh album, which was self-titled. Staind was seen as a way for the group to regain their rock edge after years of cultivating chart success thanks to ballads. Their 2011 album also saw the exit of longtime drummer Jon Wysocki, who jumped ship after the record’s completion.
Current Staind Members:
Johnny April – bass
Aaron Lewis – vocals
Essential Staind Album:
The Singles: 1996-2006
Like it or not, Staind’s musical legacy will be their ability to make acoustic ballads palatable to a mainstream rock audience. The Singles
isn’t something you’d put on when you feel like rattling your apartment windows, but it’s a consistently tuneful survey of Staind’s emotional high points. Angrier tracks like “Mudshovel” also make the cut, but this best-of is largely a showcase for lead singer Aaron Lewis’s pained vocals, allowing him plenty of space to present his tortured psyche over pretty melodies.
Break the Cycle
14 Shades of Grey
The Singles: 1996-2006
(greatest hits) (2006)
The Illusion of Progress