Believe it or not, Staind was at one time one of the most promising metal bands in the country. Their 1999 sophomore album, Dysfunction, integrated the pummeling, heavy sound of bands like Pantera with nu-metal’s focus on laying bare emotional pain (courtesy of singer Aaron Lewis).
Then came huge hits “Outside” and “It’s Been Awhile,” whiny power ballads with neutered pseudo-grunge guitar work. And so Staind quickly morphed into a tame, radio-friendly hard-rock band, churning out the same sludgy mid-tempo laments over and over again. They’ve helpfully titled their latest album The Illusion of Progress to indicate just how much more of the same to expect, and indeed it might as well be a carbon copy of 2005’s Chapter V.
“You’ll never change the way I am,” Lewis sings on “The Way I Am,” and boy is he right. Once again, song titles like “Save Me,” “Lost Along the Way” and “Raining Again” tell you all you need to know about the epically dull angst on display, and even guitarist Mike Mushok’s solos sound lethargic this time around. Lewis does get a gospel chorus to back him up on “The Corner,” but rather than making him sound soulful, it just highlights the absurdity of his bottomless self-pity. The album closes with “Nothing Left to Say”; now that would be progress.
The bottom line: *1/2