Almost every Creed tune shines with a kind of velvet luster; from one perspective, their songs are decently packaged bits of muscle rock. But move your head just a little, look at it from a slightly different angle, and the songs easily morph into dull patches of formulaic arena-rock, which is largely the case with Weathered, the band's much ballyhooed follow-up to their 1999 offering, Human Clay.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the band claimed Weathered would be "the heaviest, most intense music we've ever written", and sure enough, the album opens with "Bullets", a noisy, aggressive track where frontman Scott Stapp screams his way through lyrics like "Look at me / Look at me / At least look at me when you shoot a bullet / Through my head". (After cringing your way through the song, you're more likely to want to put a bullet through your speakers, if anything.)
In reality, Creed works best when it isn't trying so hard to be "heavy", especially on the song's where Mark Tremonti swelling guitar blasts aren't competing with Stapp's vocals. Tremonti has publicly admitted that many of the riffs on this album came from soundcheck jams while on tour, and -- at least in this case -- that's not such a good thing. Tremonti's contribution to the album ranges from inconsistent and distracting ("Bullets") to downright annoying and show-offy, especially in "Don't Stop Dancing", which features misplaced, early '80s-inspired guitar solos.
While Weathered is flecked with imperfections, the album still manages to offer some fairly serviceable rock. Tracks like the album's first single, "My Sacrifice", and the radio-ready "Who's Got my Back?" allow Stapp's strained vocals to shine through in all their grunge-tinged glory, as he growls his way around feelings of loss and redemption. In fact, it is the band's ability to craft songs in these primitive, primary colors of insecurity, fear and depression that have generated such a determined fan base, despite the scowls and indifferent shrugs of the critics.
Creed does manage to provide a few surprises this time around: look for Bo Taylor, a Cherokee Indian vocalist, to chant a prayer at the beginning of "Who's Got My Back" as well as the Tallahassee Boys Choir (accompanied by Stapp's sister Amie, natch) singing backup on "Don't Stop Dancing". Both Taylor and the boys choir are comfortable supplements to Stapp's vocals, who, as one critic noted, "sings every note as if it were his last".
But its just that kind of intensity that gives Creed fans a hard-on. That, and Strapp's ability to view himself -- and the band -- without so much as a glimmer of self-induced humor or irony, allowing them to produce tedious, ordinary songs that, depending on how close you're looking, can easily double as charismatic rock anthems.