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Creed

+ {Scott Stapp}


Yet another band to emerge from the post-grunge scene, CREED had all the correct credentials to make it big in the arena-centric alt-rock world of the late 90s; but Messrs Vedder, Staley and Weiland had no fears about their mantle being taken by the oft-slammed Scott Stapp and Co. Employing a spiritual and searching aspect into their power-ballad sound through Stapp’s religious upbringing (his step-father was a Pentecostal minister), CREED managed to seduce millions of Americans into their hard-rock lair. Weathering a storm of dissatisfaction from non-acolytes of their rather derivative first two sets (1999’s sophomore, “Human Clay”, strolled all the way to the top in both the US and Canada), CREED rose up the metal ranks despite all the fuss and flak.
Formed 1995, in Tallahassee, Florida, singer Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti (classmates from high school) hooked up with rhythm section, Brian Marshall (bass) and Scott Phillips (drums). Toying with the idea of maintaining the name of Naked Toddler, but thankfully opting for CREED, by way of Marshall’s former outfit, Maddox Creed, the band was duly spotted by Jeff Hanson, who signed them to his management/promotions operation; a producer was found in John Kurzweg.
Now a year or two into their career, CREED released their self-financed debut set, MY OWN PRISON (1997) {*6}, which sold its initial batch of 6,000 copies for the Blue Collar label, and made the major sit up and take note. Impressed by Stapp and Co’s arena-styled trappings, Diana Meltzer put it to the big wigs at Wind-Up Records (through Epic) to come up with a contract; with a fresh producer, Ron Saint Germain, all parties agreed to remix the album for a re-release that August. PEARL JAM-mers, STONE TEMPLE PILOT-ers and ALICE IN CHAINS-ers were eager to either love or loathe CREED’s sonic grinders such as `Torn’, `One’ and the title track, but their faceless un-originality drew a blank for other punters.
“Grunge was not dead!” was the claim of their teen-metal followers, although CREED themselves denied they were part of that or any genre, and were just a basic rock’n’roll band – basic being the key word. “Prison” started a steady rise up the charts, finally peaking at No.22 almost a year later, although Britain had to wait until early ‘99 to get its first taste of million-sellers CREED. By which point, grunge had certainly been well and truly buried.
Meanwhile, back in the States, the glum-rockers were just about to serve up a second helping in the shape of HUMAN CLAY (1999) {*7} – a difficult but improved second album indeed that nevertheless topped the chart. Buoyed by the massive Top 10 success of the set’s most distinctive dirge, `Higher’ (its subsequent UK B-side showcased a cover of ALICE COOPER’s `I’m Eighteen’), the multi-platinum album at least garnered some praise for the likes of `Are You Ready?’ and the sentimental No.1, `With Arms Wide Open’.
Proving that earnestness would indeed get you everywhere, CREED – without Marshall – were back with another helping of stadium dirge in the form of WEATHERED (2001) {*5}. Indicating that their inimitably American rawk might be twisting the arm of an angst-ridden Brit youth, the record nudged into the Top 50, while, of course, cleaning up in the States (No.1). This time around, it was down to power-driven brooding ballads, `My Sacrifice’ and `One Last Breath’, to take up the flak on an otherwise pedestrian set.
By 2004, CREED – back with Marshall, but without Stapp – had evolved into the more overtly metallic ALTER BRIDGE, fronted by ex-Mayfield Four bellower Myles Kennedy. Not abandoning their grunge heritage completely, their inaugural set “One Day Remains” (2004) cracked the Top 5. The solo SCOTT STAPP bided his time before the release of his own Top 20 album, THE GREAT DIVIDE (2005) {*4}.
The record’s simplistic approach suggested that the man was less willing to abandon his CREED sound of old, taking in a solid back-up of Aristedes Rincon (lead guitar), John Curry (rhythm guitar), Mitch Burman (bass) and Mark Archer (drums). Although it was said to be inspired by Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion Of The Christ, one thinks this was tempered by stalwart producers Kurzweg and Saint Germain. Self-indulgent and channelling the long-missed Jim Morrison (CREED had once covered The DOORS’ `Riders On The Storm’), there was certainly a wholesome rock sound on a handful of the tracks, including the hard-edged `Fight Song’, `You Will Soar’ and the title piece.
Meanwhile, CREED, who’d released a “Greatest Hits” set in 2005, had most definitely split, the remaining members, especially Marshall, happy to continue as ALTER BRIDGE. Then, out of the blue in 2009, there was plans afoot to reignite the original CREED; Marshall, incidentally, had vowed never to work with the once-wayward Stapp again. But with lyrics by Stapp and music by Tremonti, the reunion tour turned into bona fide fourth album, FULL CIRCLE (2009) {*5}. Debuting just off the top spot, the Howard Benson-produced record amassed initial sales, but only metal eyes could see the merit in the likes of minor hits, `Overcome’, `Rain’ and `A Thousand Faces’.
SCOTT STAPP waited until the fall of 2013 and yet another CREED hiatus to find his feet again under a solo banner. PROOF OF LIFE {*6} didn’t break into the Top 100, but the loosely-based song cycle album did show a lighter, power-ballad manifesto – tinted with country-rawk – that suggested he was discovering his faith once again. `New Day Coming’, `Dying To Live’, `Who I Am’ and `Jesus Was A Rockstar’ (rather than a “crossmaker” no doubt), Scott’s yearning to be worshipped like a wayward disciple of God was presumably his cry for help and redemption; ditto opening piece, `Slow Suicide’.
When the equally troubled SCOTT WEILAND (then of metallic supergroup ART OF ANARCHY) met his maker in December 2015, there was only one singer to call upon, and that was sojourner Scott. In 2017, the outfit eased back into contention with sophomore set, “The Madness”, but it was clear this that was not a match made in heaven.
Free to explore other avenues within the boundaries of his third solo set, SCOTT STAPP dispatched THE SPACE BETWEEN THE SHADOWS (2019) {*6}. Too many of his protagonist peers had bitten the dust; not least CHRIS CORNELL, Chester Bennington and the aforesaid WEILAND, so in twisting in anthemic metal to some lighter-fuelled fodder, Scott had found a formula that suited him. But still he floundered out with the Top 100; fickle fans forsaking some of his best work for yonks by way of `World I Used To Know’ (a political minefield), `Purpose For Pain’, `Survivor’ and the calm-before-the-storm, `Heaven In Me’; the latter a throwback to the classic-rock-ballad 80s; or was that the 70s?
© MC Strong 2000-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Oct2013-Jul2019

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