Review by Greg Maki
With recent years seeing a resurgence in nu metal, it’s no surprise that one of the most successful bands of that late-’90s/early-2000s era has re-emerged, as well. It’s easy now to overlook just how massive Staind was, given its inactivity for the majority of the past decade. Hitting at the tail-end of a time when music fans still bought physical products en masse, the band’s breakthrough album, “Break the Cycle” (2001), went five times platinum (that’s 5 million copies sold). The smash single “It’s Been Awhile” spent an astonishing 20 weeks at number one on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart. That song and “Outside,” another big hit from around the same time, took the band away from its darker, more aggressive origins, a direction it continued to explore throughout its next handful of records before bringing some of the heavy back for 2011’s self-titled affair.
There’s been no new Staind music since then, but the band reunited in 2019 for a few festival performances and a hometown reunion show at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, captured on the new release “Live: It’s Been Awhile.” The 15-song set finds the quartet—vocalist/rhythm guitarist Aaron Lewis, lead guitarist Mike Mushok, bassist Johnny April and drummer Sal Giancarelli—in fine, energetic form. It sounds like a band that’s been touring consistently, not one that hadn’t played a single show in the preceding five years. The set list strikes an effective balance between hit singles known by casual fans and deeper—and much heavier—album tracks that most die-hards probably are seeking.
Lewis has spent the recent past touring and recording as a country artist, and with that outlet for his singer-songwriter side, he seems to revel in the opportunity to unleash his aggression with Staind. He also lets the music do all the talking, eschewing the politics that often pop up in his solo material. Standout tracks include “Crawl” and “Raw,” a pair of barn burners from 1999’s “Dysfunction,” and a quartet of songs from the 2011 album, easily the band’s least successful major label release from a commercial view but one that seems to be a favorite among the band members; only “Break the Cycle” has as many entries in the set list.
The performances throughout the album are faithful to the original recordings, so nothing here is likely to change whatever opinion you’ve had of Staind for the past however many years. The re-commitment to its heavier roots is encouraging and hopefully a sign of things to come should the band create new material.
Yap’em/Alchemy Recordings – May 7, 2021 (digital)/June 25, 2021 (physical)