A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

2001 – Part 4.4: Staind – Break The Cycle

Aaron Lewis has been in the news recently. He is touring in the U.S for his “Frayed At Both Ends” Country album, getting criticized for playing the same song at a gig twice and a few months ago he released a song called “Am I The Only One” in which he expressed his political views and questioned the patriotism of Bruce Springsteen.

Music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz didn’t like it and Lefsetz called out Lewis and his label boss Scott Borchetta. However Borchetta in an open letter back to Lefsetz, said that even though Lewis and Borchetta have opposing political views, Borchetta is not going to cancel or drop Aaron Lewis.

Moving away from “Politics 2021”, back in the early 2000’s, Lewis was busy writing and recording “Break the Cycle”, the third studio album by Staind. Released through Elektra and Flip Records in 2001, it is Staind’s most successful album to date, and it was the album that broke them into the mainstream.

Supported by Fred Durst who signed them to his Flip Records label originally, they had the fortunate or maybe unfortunate tag as Durst prodigies. The debut album, “Tormented” was ignored by the press, but Elektra wanted a piece of the action and “Dysfunction” is the result of major label support.

Then came “Break The Cycle”.

At 28 years of age, Aaron Lewis had lived and experienced enough sadness and happiness to put his life and thoughts into his lyrics.

A total of 5 singles were released from this album, “It’s Been Awhile”, “Fade”, “Outside”, “For You” and “Epiphany”, all of which did reasonably well.

On a side note, the album did cost $800K to make and Elektra along with Flip Records, just weren’t sure they would even get close to recouping.

But in its first three weeks, it sold over a million copies in the U.S. Currently it is certified 5x Platinum for U.S sales. In Canada and New Zealand it was certified 2x Platinum and in the U.K it was certified Platinum. In Australia and Sweden it was certified Gold.

And the label is still saying that Staind owe em money.

The band for the album is Aaron Lewis on Lead vocals and Rhythm guitar, Mike Mushok is on Lead Guitar, Johnny April is on Bass and Jon Wysocki on Drums.

Open Your Eyes

It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde. The lush strummed lightly dirty electric guitar which is the verse riff and part of the intro is calm and beautiful.

The riff that kicks in with the natural harmonics and downtuned riffing is aggressive and ugly. Sonically they just don’t go but the jarring difference works this time around.

Pressure

Written by Staind and producer Josh Abraham.

It has metal like riffs and a verse that is very Grunge like.

Fade

One of their best songs.

The bass groove is great and the way the guitar decorates the spaces shows the skills of Mike Mushok.

And of course, Aaron Lewis is more than capable of crafting and carrying a vocal melody.

It’s Been Awhile

I suppose this was the song that got a lot of people to check out Staind and at 194.497 million streams on Spotify it’s remained in the conversation and the various playlists.

Change

A huge metal like riff starts it off before the clean tone verses kick in.

The Pre-Chorus or is it the Chorus, feels like it could come from a Bush song.

Can’t Believe

Not a favourite. It sounds like the vocals are screamed through a loudspeaker and it does nothing for me.

Epiphany

An Aaron Lewis cut, as the acoustic guitar is prominent with a haunting vocal melody.

Suffer

It’s a hard rock riff however the down tuning and phrasing makes it sound like it isn’t.

Warm Safe Place

It’s just down-tuned too much, that the riff sounds like a muddled mess.

For You

My favourite track on the album.

That opening riff is good enough to challenge some of the best metal riffs from the 80’s.

Outside

Lewis again brings his acoustic guitar and melodies to the table.

The song has 95.057 million streams on Spotify.

Waste

A simple drum groove starts it off, almost jazz blues like. A clean tone guitar plays the riff and Lewis delivers his emotive vocal melody.

In the Chorus, the distorted guitar dynamic kicks in before it moves back to the subdued clean tone verses.

Take It

Another killer riff to start it off.

If there is a problem with the album, it’s the down tuning. On some songs it is excessive, to the point that it sounds muddled. But when they get it right, the songs elevate themselves and the slower acoustic pieces add a lot of variety.

Regardless of political alliances, Aaron Lewis does have a great voice. There are YouTube videos in which he covers “Black” by Pearl Jam and “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger live.

Lyrically, he’s copped a lot of flak for his lyrics to the point that people have called em depressive, but then again, no one said that life is all sunshine, happiness and smiling selfies in exotic locations.

Press play on this and start with “For You”.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Digital Summer

“Breaking Point” came out in 2012.

It comes on the back of a Kickstarter campaign to fan fund the album and tour. Like many successful fan funded projects, they surpassed their initial goal of $25,000.

And once the deadline passed, the band had received over $50,000.

They used the money to get outside producers to work on the album (and you notice the sound improvement immediately), to pay for a larger marketing campaign to promote the album and to finance a longer tour around the U.S.

Forget You

It features Clint Lowery, the lead guitarist from Sevendust.

It’s a great opener, more heavy rock than the “alternative metal” branding.

Check out the intro riff.

Now that I’m sober
I’m finally making up my mind
I can see who you really are

The great awakening from the haze.

Shut your mouth, I’m done listening to you
It’s over, it’s over, I’ve had enough were through
I’m taking back the person that I used to be
Before these scars, before your lies so FUCK you, forget you, goodbye

There’s no love there. A perfect F U.

And finally we get a lead break spotlight in the Digital Summer catalogue.

Breaking Point

A Disturbed like riff starts off the title track.

Stand up, just look at me
And tell me what you see
Besides a man on the brink of insanity

Growing up on the 80’s themes of standing up for yourself and living on a prayer or the story songs like rat-tailed Jimmy and a Chevy with primered flames, the 90’s changed those themes to be more personal, full of self-doubt, depression and a certain darkness.

And it continued even in movies.

The Michael Douglas pic, “Falling Down”, shows a man on the brink of insanity and what happens when he falls off the brink.

Cut Me Open

I like the way this starts, with the electronics and the clean tone arpeggio riff.

But this time I realize from the bottom there’s no place left to go

There is a saying that when you hit rock bottom the only way is up.

But sometimes, there is no place left to go. And the lyrics definitely bring back memories of “Down In A Hole” from Alice In Chains. Great song but the topic is heavy.

Fight Til I Fall

It reminds me of Seether.

Nothing to lose when you’ve lost it all
To the death I will fight till I fall

This is when a person is most dangerous. When they have nothing to lose.

The QR code would take you straight to the lyrics on their website.

Broken Halo

There is this U2 vibe in the verses which I like and the Arena Rock Chorus would not be out of place on a Shinedown album.

You’re my favourite addiction
The perfect complication
You’re my favourite addiction
My sick and twisted medication

My favourite addiction is music. It’s always music. It doesn’t matter how I feel, music is always there for me, unconditionally loving me.

Come On

It’s an aggressive song, reminding more of Breaking Benjamin than anything else.

In relation to themes, Skid Row had “Piece Of Me” and Digital Summer has “Come On” and “Fight Till I Fall”.

Come on, come on if you survive this round
Step it up or you’ll be going down

It’s very Ivan Moody like who was always looking at taking someone on in his lyrics.

War Against Myself

Why can’t you see that I’m at war against myself
For once could I fight someone else

We are our own worst enemies. We would ponder a simple mistake forever.

Dance In The Fire

I like the Intro as it reminds me of songs that New Order write.

And we dance in the fire
And we laugh at the flames and never learn
With no cares for tomorrow
Cause tonight we just love how it burns

It’s not as bad as “She Goes Down” from the Crue or Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” or how Springsteen is looking for some action while dancing in the dark, but it’s a song about getting laid.

Overdose

An intro similar to “Dance In The Fire” kicks off this song.

You’re like an overdose with no antidote
I’ve fallen victim far too many times

The sins of lust and the damage left behind when the lust and fire ends.

Wanted To Love You

This is a great ballad and the vocal delivery is excellent.

As if they’re paved into the sidewalks
These city streets reflect my thoughts and moments

When you walk the streets of your hometown your whole life, every pavement step and street corner contains a memory.

I’ve wanted to love you, for so long I need to
It’s the only thing left that my heart knows to do

You can hear the pain in the voice, the emotion is very Aaron Lewis like. Musically I like how the piano plays over a foundation of electronic noises and repeating guitar lines.

Broken Halo (Acoustic)

An acoustic version acts as a bonus track.

Instead of 16 songs, we get 10 this time around.

For an unsigned and truly independent band, this is a slick addition to the alternative metal movement.

The tour they had with 12 Stones had a shitty Agent and in some cities, cancellations ensured.

However Digital Summer still arrived at those cities and spread the word to their fans that they are in town to meet and greet.

And they did this by taking time off from their day jobs as firefighters, paramedics, producers and teachers.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Digital Summer – Cause And Effect

Sometimes a band comes across your ears that you just like.

Digital Summer is one such band. They fuse a combination of other styles, but it’s delivered in a way, which is easily assessable and executed with a high degree of technicality.

It was the “Counting The Hours” release in 2010 that got me interested. And I was on board for the fan funding campaign on the “Breaking Point” album and the reason why I got their CDs and other gear all signed.

They are from Phoenix, Arizona, formed in 2006. Up until this day, they have remained independent and unsigned, while still getting radio airplay and building a fan base. They are a great story to read about.

“Cause And Effect” came out in 2007 and the band for the album is Kyle Winterstein on vocals, Ian Winterstein and Johnmark Cenfield on Guitar, Anthony Hernandez on Bass and Chris Carlson on Drums.

I’ve seen em labeled as Post Grunge, Hard Rock, Alternative Metal, Post Rock, Nu-Metal, Modern Rock and Alternative Rock.

To me it’s all Rock And Metal.

Disconnect

A Nu Metal like intro (think Godsmack) gives way to a heavy and melodic verse (think Staind) and an AOR Chorus (think Fuel). And I love it.

There must be a way to cut the cord.

So much harder to do these days as we live in a society which thrives on connection.

I reject this reality

Social media is a one size fits all approach. You either comply with the regulations the providers have or you get booted from the service or your smart enough to have never joined in the first place.

Crash

This one reminds me so much of Staind and I like it.

Press play on this for the Chorus.

When life crashes down around you

What do we do next?

Pick ourselves up and start again or find someone to blame and go one like nothing happened.

Suffocate

Press play for the mood and feeling in the verse.

The Chorus feels like a Seether Chorus with Fuel added in for spice.

What would you do with the whole world / Rolled in your hands? / I’d like to watch it burn

The best way to sum up the darkness when your feeling down and depressed.

Now Or Never

If you like Three Days Grace and Seether, then you’ll like this.

Vocally in the verses, Kyle Winterstein comes across like Aaron Lewis.

Lyrically it’s got that 80s attitude of don’t look back to the past because if you want to change your life, the door is open but you’ll need to act fast as opportunities don’t last forever.

So don’t hesitate because it’s now or never.

Broken

Arpeggios start the song and then distorted guitars kick in.

Its aggressive and Three Days Grace/Fuel definitely cones to mind.

So break my wings and watch me fall / Cause I’m broken

A true way to describe a feeling post relationship break up.

One More Day

A clean tone strummed riff that reminds me of Incubus starts everything off.

But press play for the Chorus and allow the emotion and the mood take you away.

Just tryin to make it one more day

You can tattoo this as a slogan.

Like how Art Of Dying had the Chorus hook of “if I can get through this, I can get through anything”.

That’s life in a nutshell. Trying to make it one more day.

Chasing Tomorrow

Press play for the Chorus which brings memories of Hoobastank’s debut album which I’m a big fan of.

I cut myself / Made a brand new scar today

The scar is a reminder of a time and a place so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

Sick Inside

It feels like a Heavy Rock cut with a bit of Tool like grooves in the Intro.

And check out the super melodic Chorus which Staind would be proud off.

YOU! / Everything you do / MAKES ME SO SICK INSIDE

A lot of rage as the writer wishes they never met their partner.

This Time

A piano melody plays briefly before the guitars crash in. This song is a favorite as well as it reminds me of Breaking Benjamin.

I don’t care what it takes this time / I’ll do anything to make things right / The hardest day of my whole damn life / Was the day that I said goodbye

From the rage in the previous song to the emotion of loss in this one.

Whatever It Takes

It sounds like a Bush cut and I like it.

And this one is back to theme of doing whatever it takes to get someone out of their life.

Love And Tragedy

The song begins with a feed backing guitar with the use of an eBow to keep the notes sustaining.

Then a digital delay The Edge like progression kicks in and I’m all in.

Press play on this especially for the Chorus.

Violent cries of love and tragedy

There is a target to Kyle’s anger and you hear it.

Sxxxoxxxe

The album closer is like a soundtrack song, with a haunting piano, sampled voices and drums and a vocal line processed through a tremolo effect.

Throughout it, you hear guitars feed backing.

And then a vocal melody kicks in without any effects, repeating “just to suffocate with me”.

If you haven’t heard em, get cranking.

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Music, My Stories

The Record Vault: Music As A Weapon

The Disturbed Record Vault series is almost at an end.

“Music as a Weapon” is a series of concert tours created by Disturbed. All up this tour did the rounds seven different times.

In 2001, the first edition featured Disturbed, Drowning Pool, Adema, Stereomud and Systematic.

In 2003, which is also the tour captured on the CD, it featured Disturbed, Chevelle, Taproot and Unloco.

In 2006, the tour featured Disturbed, Stone Sour, Flyleaf and Nonpoint.

In 2008, the tour came to Australia and New Zealand which I caught. It featured Disturbed, P.O.D., Alter Bridge, Redline and Behind Crimson Eyes.

In 2009, the tour featured a bigger line up, with Disturbed, Killswitch Engage, Lacuna Coil, Chimaira, Suicide Silence, Spineshank, Crooked X, Bury Your Dead, Born of Osiris and After the Burial.

In 2011, the line-up was Disturbed, Korn, Sevendust, In This Moment and StillWell. It’s also the first time the tour had co-headliners with Disturbed and Korn. The Australia and New Zealand edition had Disturbed, Trivium, As I Lay Dying, Forgiven Rival and These Four Walls.

But back to the “Music as a Weapon II”.

It was recorded at The Aragon in Chicago in 2003, and released in 2004.

The DVD also contains Disturbed’s video for their single “Liberate” and it was Disturbed’s last release with bass guitarist Steve Kmak.

On a different note, it was also Unloco’s final release before splitting up. But vocalist Joey Duenas did form a new band called “Anew Revolution” and released two excellent albums called “Rise” in 2008 and “iMerica” in 2010. But that band is also no more.

“Loading the Weapon” (instrumental)

An instrumental track from Disturbed that is not on any album. I love the mood that this track creates.

“Bound”

It then explodes into “Bound” from the “Believe” album.

“Myself”

This CD was my first exposure to Taproot. The live recording didn’t captivate me to listen any further.

“Dehumanized”

It was written and recorded for the “Believe” album, however it didn’t make the final cut. But it was played live during the “Believe” tour and released as a B side to the “Stricken” single from the “Ten Thousand Fists” album, alongside “Hell”.

And it was finally released on “The Lost Children” album.

“Forfeit”

My first exposure to Chevelle and I was instantly a fan. The live recording isn’t the best, but the Tool like grooves into a concise 4 minute song was of interest to me.

“Fade to Black”

From Disturbed.

A Metallica cover. And how good is the whole intro with the acoustic arpeggios and lead break.

“Empty”

My first exposure to Unloco.

“Sumtimes”

Taproot’s other song on the album. It’s like Staind and the track is more accessible than the previous one. But still not interested.

“Darkness”

From the “Believe” album. The piano and acoustic guitar is haunting. Draiman’s vocal delivery is excellent.

“Bruises”

From “Unloco”. This song was in “The Matrix” movies and various video games.

“Prayer”

From the “Believe” album, the fast staccato riffing in the Intro isn’t as powerful as the album version, but I do like the slight increase in tempo which makes the fast staccato riffing even faster.

And Draiman delivers vocally.

“The Red”

David Draiman makes an appearance with Chevelle. Its pitchy especially when Draiman joins in with the harmonies but that’s what performing live is all about.

“Poem”

Song number three from Taproot. The riff sounded interesting and a bit complex, so from this song, I would go on to check out more Taproot eventually.

“Stupify”

From “The Sickness” album, and Peter Loeffler from Chevelle and Joey Duenas from Unloco make an appearance.

In the end, it’s live with no studio overdubs and very different to the live albums I grew up with, (which were basically re-cut in a studio).

I also like how Disturbed put three unreleased songs on this album.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Disturbed – Immortalized

It’s the last album I purchased and much later than its release date at a discounted price. At the time I was still endeavouring at keeping my Disturbed collection intact.

So “Immortalized” is the comeback album after the hiatus, released on August 21, 2015 by Reprise Records. It’s also the comeback album for “The Guy”, the Disturbed mascot.

Between “Asylum” and “Immortalized”, there is a five year gap. “The Lost Children” doesn’t count here as it was an album of leftover tracks.

One song defines this album and it’s the cover of “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. As soon as it was released as a single it went to Platinum, and by November 2017, it was 3x Platinum and right now its getting close to 4x Platinum.

The album itself was certified Platinum in January 2018. So in an era of no sales, Disturbed is still pulling good numbers.

The band members David Draiman (vocals), Dan Donegan (guitar) and Mike Wengren (drums) perform on the album. Bass player John Moyer was not present, due to working with Adrenaline Mob and Art of Anarchy so Donegan did the bass. But Moyer is still pictured in the booklet.

Kevin Churko is producing and his run of certifications continues similar to Olsen and Werman back in the 80s.

The reviews at the time were not kind to the album with sentences like “It won’t change the minds of those who weren’t fans before” or “Immortalized” is fans-only release as it feeds the target audience”.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing and “The Sound Of Silence” for better or for worse brought in a whole new audience.

“The Eye of the Storm” (Intro)

You hear the sound of a vinyl record starting, all dusty and then a demented tremolo effect arpeggio starts, complemented by a guitar lead.

“Immortalized”

The Intro riff is classic Disturbed.

“Secure a legacy that will never die, be immortalized”

What kind of legacy is up to you?

“The Vengeful One”

It reminds me of “Louder Than Hell” from Motley Crue. And I like it.

The drum groove sets the pace and then one of my favourite riffs on the album just explodes the same way it does on “Louder Than Hell”.

Pure head banging bliss.

“The rabid media plays their role / Stoking the flames of war to no surprise / Only too eager to sell their souls / For the apocalypse must be televised”

There are no views for happy moments. Chaos, death and destruction gets people glued to their screens.

“Open Your Eyes”

It’s catchy and easily digestible.

This song has John Feldmann (from the band Goldfinger, plus he has a history of writing and producing other artists like Papa Roach, Black Veil Brides, 5 Seconds Of Summer) and Nick Furlong (another songwriter who has worked with Papa Roach, Good Charlotte, All Time Low, 5 Seconds Of Summer) as co-writers, along with Draiman, Donegan and Wengren.

But regardless of the songwriters, it’s still a Disturbed cut, through and through.

You’re hypnotized, demoralized
Believe every line that they sell you
Start channelling whatever will remains
Discern from what’s fiction and what is true

Open your eyes

People need to read more critically and research different point of views. But with social media being such a massive force of nature, it’s very easy to surround yourself in an echo chamber, hearing the same thing, over and over and over again, until you believe it is true and you refuse to see another point of view, which could be true.

“The Light”

A hard rock song, reminding me of “My Hero” from Foo Fighters in certain sections.

And how good is the vocal melody in the Chorus. Pure AOR Melodic Rock.

Four punch knockout combo right there.

“What Are You Waiting For”

I wasn’t surprised that they had a cut that sounded like Five Finger Death Punch on the album. The track is also co-written with John Feldman.

The lead break has a lot of the Digitech Whammy Pedal effects.

“You’re Mine”

The electronic element is back, then again, Draiman’s side project “Device” did sound like this.

“Who”

The riff is a derivative of “Indestructible” and the gang vocal chants are here.

“Save Our Last Goodbye”

It starts off with a person leaving messages on a phone.

The heavy songs were getting derivative at this point in time although I still enjoy listening to em, just to hear what Draiman does with the vocal melodies, or if there is a guitar lead or an interlude that makes me bang the head.

And this song from 3.07 has this Judas Priest like riff in the Interlude which definitely gets the head banging.

In the last minute, it breaks down to a piano and Draiman’s falsetto before building up again.

By the end of it, the person is still calling the number to leave a message and the number is no longer active.

“Fire It Up”

I feel like they started off with an idea to do a song like “We Will Rock You” but once it went through the Disturbed blender, it ended up sounding like “Fire It Up” and if anything it feels like a Godsmack track, with the lyrical line, “when I fire it up, it feels alright”.

“The Sound of Silence”

My brother was singing this song on the day he died from a brain aneurysm and he’s not even a Disturbed fan, but he heard the song on a TV show and it stuck with him.

And I didn’t really care about this song or this version, but a life experience has changed that.

“Never Wrong”

It’s a throwback to the debut album, with a repeating lyrical line done in the Draiman drawl.

“Who Taught You How to Hate”

A great title.

A long time ago I came across a quote like “a child’s life is like a blank sheet of paper, which every person leaves a mark on”.

So how did that child grow up to hate?

Now for the bonus tracks, “Tyrant”, “Legion Of Monsters” and “The Brave And The Bold”.

“Tyrant”

I like the lead break.

“Legion of Monsters”

Inspired by a Rolling Stone article on the Boston Marathon Bomber. It’s angry and energetic.

“The Brave and the Bold”

I like the Blues Rock riff to start off the song. The Chorus is pure Disturbed and the lead break is excellent as there are a lot of Randy Rhoads type licks chucked in and I like it.

For comeback albums, it was well received and while the reviewers said the album is for hard-core fans only, this album actually grew Disturbed’s fan base.

In Australia, Canada and the U.S, the album went to Number 1. In Austria, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K, it was a Top 10 album. In Belgium, Holland and Portugal it was a Top 20 album.

For certifications, it was certified Platinum in Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway and the U.S. It was certified Gold in Austria, New Zealand, Sweden and the U.K.

The “Immortalized” tour was earning on average $200K in B level cities (using California as a guide, San Diego is classed as a B level city) and about $400K in A Level cities (like Los Angeles) a night.

Good or bad, acoustic guitar songs would become very prominent on the next album “Evolution” released in 2018.

The touring cycle was done and the bad was starting a trek of shows to commemorate “The Sickness” 20 year Anniversary before COVID-19 put a halt to proceedings.

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