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“Rock And Roll Never Forgets” – by heartland-honcho BOB SEGER – is a phrase/song that frontman AARON LEWIS might learn from in his 21st century schizoid quest to side-step from nu-metal to new country. Nevertheless, Aaron’s steadfast work with multi-platinum STAIND captured the hearts and minds of a trusting American collegiate, added to the fact that not many post-millennium/post-grunge acts could boast major hit singles among three consecutive No.1 albums.
Formed in Springfield, Massachusetts, officially in November 1995, Aaron had met fellow guitarist Mike Mushok a few years back at a Xmas party in New England. As time wore on, the pair hooked up with drummer Jon Wysocki and an unknown bassist, until Johnny April became their 4-string plucker after rehearsals turned into local gigs at the Club Infinity, from February ’96 onwards.
In November, the quartet self-financed a debut album, TORMENTED {*5}; its title pretty much giving the game away as to their miserabilist nu-metal approach. Very much in the mold of PANTERA, FAITH NO MORE and the like, further copies from Yap ‘Em Records circulated around ticket holders at early gigs. A loosely-based concept CD – represented by Satanic cover art to die for! – dealing with pain, angst, depression and suicide, there was no incline as to the sounds STAIND developed, with the exception of an embryonic take of `Mudshuvel’ (sic).
Spurred on by healthy sales, the band jumped at the chance to play on the same bill as LIMP BIZKIT, in late 1997. While that band’s ubiquitous lead singer, Fred Durst, initially took umbridge to STAIND’s aforementioned quasi-Satanic sleeve artwork, an impassioned performance on the night persuaded him they were worthy of his new label. After trying and failing to contact Durst by phone, the group travelled to a LIMP BIZKIT gig and left a new demo tape for the man’s perusal. He was again suitably impressed and soon STAIND were cutting their major label debut for the Elektra-backed Flip imprint with Terry Date at the production helm, alongside Durst.
DYSFUNCTION {*6} arrived in spring ‘99, pulling few punches and even less surprises with a solid if uninspiring set of treacle-thick post-grunge. The uber-morose record went down a storm nevertheless, spawning three sizeable rock radio hits in `Just Go’, a re-vamped `Mudshovel’ and `Home’. Opening salvo, `Suffocate’, was as jolly as it was going to get, and for many, the grinding part-song/part-scream was too intense and almost the spit of KORN or ALICE IN CHAINS.
Subsequent tours with KID ROCK, KORN and the Bizkits followed, and STAIND were duly named as the headline act for MTV’s “Return of the Rock” jaunt. Amid the media circus and general mayhem, a third album, BREAK THE CYCLE {*6}, appeared in May 2001; the record hitting No.1 in the States (and in Britain), but earning short shrift from the likes of Kerrang! Ditto the breakthrough Top 10 single, `It’s Been Awhile’, which resonating with the global buying public, if not fussy critics. Durst, meanwhile, featured on the other hit track, `Outside’, whilst `Fade’ and `For You’ exhumed some sort of nu-metal glory.
2003’s 14 SHADES OF GREY {*6} – chart-topper numero deux – meditated upon the success of singles `Price To Play’ and `So Far Away’, putting the spotlight on Lewis’ angst-ridden navel-gazing rather than the crunching dynamics with which STAIND made their name. The self-explanatory CHAPTER V (2005) {*5} was a shoe-in No.1; compulsory listening for the post-grunge CREED/STONE TEMPLE PILOTS crowd who still hadn’t gotten over the genre’s demise. Only a few bars into opener, `Run Away’, Aaron was castigating himself for being “dead inside”, thus setting the regulatory troubled tone for the rest of the album, which included failed singles `Right Here’ and `King Of All Excuses’. Laying off the acoustic guitars which had brushed a relatively sunnier glaze over their previous album, STAIND grinched and churned their way through a set overlight on hooks.
Following on from a “Singles” compilation in 2006 – which incidentally stalled outside the Top 40! – STAIND mellowed with melodious sixth set, the Top 3 only THE ILLUSION OF PROGRESS (2008) {*5}. Whether a sarcastic title in protest to their many mockers or a stubbornly delusional attempt at something witty, the posturing poor-man’s post-grunge act were again chanelling their love and hostility in equal measures by way of introspective clumsy cliched cuts such as `Believe’, `The Way I Am’, `Save Me’, `Break Away’, and so on, and so on.
Their second album for Atlantic Records (Roadrunner overseas), Aaron and Co couldn’t come up with a title, so the boring eponymous STAIND (2011) {*6} suited both the band and the music within its grinding grooves. As a result of a recording schedule that basically kept the players in different parts of the country (mmm… country), Wyscoki decided to abandon ship after laying down most tracks up to May that year. In his place came drum technician Sal Giancarelli (Will Hunt on tour-only), but despite reverting to testosterone stodge, the Top 5 album itself only managed to ooze a handful of axe-grinding metal, including `Eyes Wide Open’, `Not Again’ and `Wannabe’ (the latter a duet between Aaron and SNOOP DOGG!).
Released on the specialist label, Armoury, LIVE FROM MOHEGAN SUN (2012) {*5} basically cherry-picked their back catalogue, while AARON LEWIS had already plotted his shocking shift into GARTH BROOKS land. If loyal fans were still following this route into country, everyone else was ready again to stick the fork in “The Road” (2012), and the wooden stake into the “Sinner” set (2016). Rock and roll was dying a death, and LEWIS and a lad named STEVEN TYLER were helping with the hammering down of the nails. STAIND, meanwhile, stated they were on an indefinite hiatus. Good luck and lots of prayers would be needed when and if they ever reconvene.
© MC Strong 2002-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Sep2016

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