From mid 1997 through 2002, the Florida-bred band Creed created a benevolent dictatorship over the rock world that few bands could rival. They were everywhere, on radio, sold out concert tours grossing over $70 million through the period, and even headlining Christmas television specials. The sales of 35 million albums worldwide were merely a single indicator of the level of saturation that transpired. With success can come entrapment. Lead singer and songwriter, Scott Stapp spiraled into a descent fed by prescription drugs and alcohol, as camps began to form around band members, blocking communication. An attempt was made to deliver a fourth original album in 2003, but no creative juices flowed by then. “Anything we did didn’t have any life to it,” drummer Scott Phillips relates in the band’s recent DVD. The following year, the official announcement of Creed’s breakup came, and fans were given only a greatest hits compilation as a parting gift.
In April of this year, news broke that Creed was born anew, and working on a new album, with a U. S. tour preceding its release. Full Circle dropped in late October, and the collection clearly indicates Creed is a band re-created rather than reheated. The first two single releases, “Overcome” and “Rain”, are diverse reflections of artistic and personal growth. Mark Tremonti proves he can still generate some of the most powerful, innovative riffs in rock, and Stapp’s lyrics are still deeply reflective and spiritual, but with a heavy dose of accountability and self-acceptance replacing the youthful, rebellious angst of previous albums.
“Bread of Shame” digs at the core lyrically and musically with its vengeful but infectious groove. “A Thousand Faces” allows Tremonti to offer more than slight backing vocals, and the call-response set-up within the poetic lyrics enhances the message of the song to “let it out”. “Suddenly” is a contagious track that dares you not to sing along with its penetrating message to “own up to the sin you bury within”, while the hard-driving “Fear” showcases bassist Brian Marshall’s skills. “Away in Silence” is a haunting, visual reminiscence, likely the first pure love song audiences have heard from this band, with heartfelt vocals synced perfectly with delicate finger picking. The title track drips with southern drawls and bluesy riffs. The gems of the album are “On My Sleeve” and “Time”. These tracks match Stapp’s piercing lyrics and passionate delivery with some epic playing by Tremonti, and especially on “Time”, drummer Scott Phillips shows why he is one of the most underrated rock percussionists.
Creed is a band known for anthems, and Full Circle delivers two at its close. “Good Fight” proudly stands as a talisman, urging hearers to “Fight what you know is wrong”, but asking the universal human question, “Am I stuck somewhere between who I am and who I hope to be?” “The Song You Sing” is a melodic shout-out, giving a reminder that Creed may not be a Darling of critics or rock purists, but they have throngs who indeed sing their songs, and this band “of the people” is ever ready to sing to them again.
Sources: “Creed’s Mark Tremonti on What Went Wrong and How They Righted It” www.noisecreep.com June 12, 2009, Amy Sciarretto.
“Creed is back, really” Ray Waddell, Billboard, July 23, 2009.