Staind - Break the Cycle (2001)Release ID: 8102
In the early noughties I recall me and my peers laughing at the aping of Staind by the band Bowling for Soup who took to mocking the constant misery of their lyrics and depressive outlook on life. I recall they had imitated Aaron sat on a toilet in one of their videos that was on regular rotation back then on various music channels. Fast-forward some twenty years and if I am honest this miserable and melancholic tone to the vocals and overly emotional lyrical content that epitomised the bands message is still a challenge to sit through. I am not knocking the balls it takes to write your deepest feelings and pour your heart out over (seemingly endless) tracks. To say this was a cathartic experience for Aaron and co is probably selling it short, however there are limits to my patience levels today that are much shorter than the tether I had for this two decades ago.
What does save Break the Cycle (and therefore - ironically - breaks this depressive almost monotonous cycle) is the crisp and yet sufficiently crushing music that accompanies the vocals. If you think for one minute that Staind are/were just all about Aaron Lewis then you are not listening hard enough to Break the Cycle. Throughout the album the rumble, twang, climb and drop of Johnny April is like some bastardised prog workout set against a backdrop of nu-metal/post-grunge that rounded out the true depth of the songs more than Aaron's eyebrow ring ever could. The riffs that get deployed on tracks such as Fade are so melodic it almost overwhelming how effective they are. At the same time there are tracks like For You were the attack is much more basic in terms of approach, hitting a repetitive and driving riff that suits the brooding aggression of the song. I would say that my only real criticism of the instrumentation is just the flat and tepid nature of the drums; clearly the levels of attention devoted to their input were not that detailed in terms of consideration for their importance to the sound overall.
Sadly, I have heard Outside and It's Been A While more times than I have me draw my own breath and they are now prime skip-fodder as I listen through. That withstanding, Break the Cycle has held up well for an album that belongs in a genre that is for me personally more or less long forgotten. Nostalgia aside, there are still some good moments on here (beyond the "hits") that kept the attention sufficiently enough for me to complete this review at least. I am a little too old and grizzled to cope with its sentimental and emotional depths nowadays but I accept that at the time this was exactly what this type of music was written to deliver to an eager and equally emotional audience.