Sound — 6
Although the album has it's share of strong, radio-friendly tracks, the title of Staind's sixth album is unfortunately fitting. If you've heard any number of Staind's big singles on the radio, you probably know their signature sound: slow, sometimes acoustic intro that leads into a soft first verse which then proceeds into a crashing, sing-along chorus, all complemented with self-obsessed, brooding lyrics. If that's what you're looking for with Staind, nothing more or less, then this album is right up your alley. The album's opener, "This is It," begins with a drum kick that leads into a big, heavily distorted guitar riff, which immediately falls back so that Aaron Lewis's voice can step in for the first verse. As always, the first single must appear within the first three to four tracks of the album, and in this case, it's track 3, "Believe." A good song in it's own right, but it sounds almost as if Staind is actually afraid to take risks and try something new. it's as if they've found their place in the gigantic music industry, have been greeted with some pretty good success for it, and are now afraid to let go of it in fear that they might be rejected. By track five or six, it becomes obvious that the "Dysfunction-era" Staind is a thing of the past. Nearly ever song on this album would've been called a "ballad" if one of them was placed on Break The Cycle or Dysfunction.
Lyrics — 8
The good news is: Aaron Lewis, a husband and father of three daughters, has matured, no longer whining about his troubled childhood (as much as he used to, anyway) or his lack of social skills. The bad news is, the new, mature Aaron gets a little boring at times. He does try some new sounds with his matured lyricism: "Tangled Up In You," written for his wife, is a very soft, sensitive song, that almost has a country feel to it with its use of a slide guitar. And "The Corner" sounds like it's backed with a church choir. This adds a bit of color to an album that is otherwise as gray as a thunderstorm. Vocally, it's amazing that Aaron's persistent smoking habit hasn't caught up to him yet, because he's as strong as always with his singing.
Overall Impression — 7
This albums, in a nutshell, is typical Staind. It's a step in no particular direction, just another album. If I could compare this to a previous work, it's probably closer to 14 Shades of Gray than anything else. Don't expect to headbang or mosh to any of the tracks here. This is the sound of a band doing what they do best and making little effort to shock or surprise anyone. If you expect anything more than catchy, thoughtful modern rock, look elsewhere.