Tormented (Staind album)

Tormented is the debut studio album by the American rock band Staind, self-released in 1996. In 1993, Staind vocalist Aaron Lewis and Staind guitarist Mike Mushok met each other at a Christmas party in the New England area. Mushok brought drummer Jon Wysocki into the fold and Lewis had a connection with a bass guitarist who later left, starting the early lineup. Staind was originally a cover band, covering songs by bands like Deftones, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Korn, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Helmet, and Stone Temple Pilots. Shortly after bassist Johnny April joined, Staind officially formed in Springfield, Massachusetts on November 24, 1995. Touring in the Northeast United States helped Staind obtain a cult following.

Cover art featuring a barbie doll on a crucifix, a knife impaling a Bible, and a rosary hanging from the nose of a face sticking out of a buried person's nose.
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 29, 1996 (1996-11-29)
Staind chronology

Tormented was self-released on November 29, 1996. Promoting Tormented, Staind played gigs throughout New England with bands such as God Lives Underwater, Gwar, and Kilgore. Tormented helped get Staind a record deal with Limp Bizkit vocalist Fred Durst and the record label Flip Records. Durst was initially appalled when he saw the album's graphic cover art, but signed Staind after being impressed with the band's performance.

Tormented received minor attention after its release, selling at least a few thousand copies. Critical reception was positive towards the heaviness and aggression of Tormented, but was negative towards the album's production. Described as a grunge-influenced alternative metal and heavy metal album by critics, Tormented is somewhat of a concept album that tells the story of a depressed person who eventually commits suicide. The album contains an early version of "Mudshovel", named "Mudshuvel", the breakthrough song which would give Staind mainstream popularity in 1999.

Background and recordingEdit

In 1993, Staind vocalist Aaron Lewis and Staind guitarist Mike Mushok met at a Christmas party in Springfield, Massachusetts.[1] Mushok brought drummer Jon Wysocki into the band and Lewis had a connection with a bass guitar player who later left, completing the early lineup of the band in early 1995.[2] Originally, Staind went by the name Stain, but changed the name to Staind after the band found out the moniker already had been claimed by another group.[3] Staind originally covered songs by bands such as Korn, Tool, Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Deftones, and Helmet.[4][5] The band played their first gig in February 1995.[6] The band officially formed in Springfield, Massachusetts on November 24, 1995,[2] after Johnny April joined the same month replacing the original bassist.[7] By 1996, Staind obtained the $2,500 they needed for recording Tormented.[1] While Tormented was being written and recorded, Lewis reportedly was going through the throes of the breakup of a four-year relationship.[8] Extensive touring in the Northeast United States helped Staind acquire an underground following.[2] In a 2008 interview, Lewis elaborated on the motivation for the musical style featured on Tormented:

The closest we ever came to being a heavy metal band was on our very first record, Tormented. On that, we were trying to fit into the Boston hardcore scene. That was what we had to work with at the time. We didn't have a record deal. We didn't have anything going on. In order to try to compete in some way in the Boston hardcore music scene, we wrote a really heavy record, and our roots for that heaviness were metal. It's never been that since. Even Dysfunction was a huge step away from Tormented.[9]

Music and lyricsEdit

Lewis said that he did not "have it very good as a kid".[10]

The songs on Tormented are about topics such as pain, animosity, suicide and depression. Author Tommy Udo wrote: "Tormented is one long rush of hardcore brat-rage, a 900mph scream of a man smashing his head against a wall with frustration".[11] According to Rockzone, Tormented "revealed the raw feelings of a band whose front man Aaron Lewis captivated the minds and souls of teenagers and young adults tired of the vanity that has overcome life."[12] Described as alternative metal by AllMusic,[13] Tormented is also somewhat of a concept album that tells the story of a depressed person who eventually commits suicide.[14] This is hinted by the spoken-word line, "it's been like this forever... no more... I hate my fucking life", followed by the sound of a gun being cocked before the first song, "Tolerate";[15] this thematic device returns with the line "there's nothing left for me" and then the sound of a gunshot immediately after the song "Four Walls" and before the hidden track "Funeral".[16]

The lyrics on Tormented are influenced by Staind frontman Aaron Lewis' life. Lewis spoke about it, saying: "My life, up to a point was shit. But I've come a long way. I grew up in a trailer park in Vermont. That was the shit I got out of me in Tormented and Dysfunction, and tailing into Break the Cycle. But the title, Break the Cycle, says it all."[17] The lyrics on Tormented have created controversy, with lyrics to songs like "Tolerate" and "Four Walls" showing themes of violence and antisocial values.[7] AllMusic described Tormented as "grittier and more raw than" Staind's "subsequent releases".[13] The album's music, which features singing and screaming,[13] has been compared to that of the heavy metal band Pantera.[18]

According to the Lollipop, Staind combine grunge-influenced hooks with heavy metal-style drums and guitars. Describing the vocals on Tormented, Lollipop elaborated: "Vocally, it may seem odd to say a band can have the passionate trembling of, ya know, those Seattle bands, yet have a desperate howl that is rather Kornesque."[19] According to Allmusic, Tormented shows influences from Tool, Faith No More, and Pantera.[13] In 2008, Staind guitarist Mike Mushok expressed his lack of appreciation for Tormented: "We have a lot of fans who say, 'I love Tormented.' I'm like, 'Have you ever listened to it? Because I can't.'"[20] Despite being an intense heavy metal album, Tormented's song "Four Walls" is rather soft.[9] While Tormented has been described as alternative metal and heavy metal by critics, the album's songs "Come Again"[21] and "Mudshuvel"[22] are both considered nu metal songs.

Release, promotion, and receptionEdit

Release, promotion and salesEdit

Self-released on November 29, 1996,[13][23][24] Tormented was launched with a record-release party which drew at least 900 people,[25] with many obtaining the album.[24] Being distributed to local record stores and at concerts, 2,000 copies of Tormented were sold within a year[3] and Tormented was later available on Staind's website.[26] Tormented had only sold a few thousand copies by 2002.[4] Promoting the release of Tormented, Staind played gigs throughout New England with bands such as God Lives Underwater, Gwar, and Kilgore.[23]

Critical receptionEdit

Anthony Tognazzini of AllMusic gave the album a very positive review, writing: "[Tormented] shows a band with its alternative metal heart in the right place [...] Despite some spotty production, this impressive debut unleashes a band whose amps are overloaded, and whose aim is deadly. The original version of "Mudshuvel" (which later appeared on Dysfunction) is one of several highlights."[13] In 1997, Steven Woltasek of CMJ New Music Report wrote: "For those of you that don't know, wake up and look around for the debut release from Staind entitled Tormented ".[27] In the book Brave Nu World, author Tommy Udo wrote: "To go back now and listen to Staind's 1996 debut, Tormented, back to back with Break The Cycle is like listening to another band".[11] Scott Hefflon of the Lollipop wrote: "Staind are savvy, street-smart, and dammit, they rock. Their studio debut, tOrmenteD, shows either a natural knack for milking the most out of a crunchy guitar, or they had some good coaching."[19] The Northeast Performer wrote: "Staind's musicianship is striking, and their live performance takes their recorded material one step further: pushing the envelope, ripping up the envelope, then jumping up and down all over the envelope til there ain't a damn thing left".[28] Andrew Blackie of PopMatters wrote about Tormented: "It’s disarming how heavy" Staind "were in those days, how screaming misery ... over harsh, sololess distortions made them sound more like the protégé of Pantera than the descendants of Alice in Chains they do today."[29]


Durst directed four Staind videos.[30]

The album is known for its graphic cover art. The cover depicts a bloody Barbie doll on a crucifix with nails hanging from a plastic frame, a buried person with a rosary protruding from the person's nose, and a knife impaling a Bible.[31][32] On October 23, 1997, when Staind met Limp Bizkit vocalist Fred Durst at the Webster Theater in Hartford, Connecticut,[2][23] Tormented's album cover appalled Durst so much that he attempted to remove Staind from a concert bill shortly before their performance. Durst thought that Staind were Theistic Satanists.[23][32][33] Despite his attempts to stop the band from performing, Durst eventually changed his mind and allowed Staind to perform.[32] After hearing Staind perform, Durst was so impressed that he signed them to Flip Records[33][34] by February 1998.[24] Durst produced Staind's second album Dysfunction (1999).[35]

Back cover of Tormented

Mushok said he "tried to get" Durst "to calm down", explaining to Durst that the cover art was meant to portray someone "who seemed normal going through a difficult time". Mushok said the cover art represents "someone who had lost belief in everything". According to Mushok, the cover art was not meant to be a religious thing. Mushok said the cover art "came out" as a religious thing "because the Bible was the most shocking image."[36] Lewis said that the album cover "was twisted and demented and it totally did what it was supposed to do, which is shock the hell out of [Durst]". Lewis then said nonetheless, Durst "didn't find it shocking in an amusing way. It definitely grabbed your attention. That was the point of it."[37] Lewis also has said about Tormented's album cover: "That artwork depicted where I was at in my life," Lewis says. "I had lost faith in everything, from religion to love to life."[1] Staind reportedly thought later that the album cover for Tormented was naïve.[36] According to Mushok, Staind "had to move back the CD release party because four different places would not print the CD cover".[36] Tormented also has artwork that shows the album's titles in smeared blood similar to the Charles Manson tradition. Backwards letters are also used on the song titles.[7]

Live performances and post-TormentedEdit

The Tormented track "Mudshuvel" was re-recorded and renamed "Mudshovel" as a radio-friendly version and the re-recorded version was released in 1999 as the third single for Staind's second studio album Dysfunction.[13] It became the band's breakthrough single and the most popular song from their second studio album, ranking on the Mainstream Rock chart for 28 weeks where it peaked at number 10 in November 1999.[38] The Tormented track "Come Again" is on Staind's 2006 singles compilation.[39] "Come Again" also appears on a three-song sampler which was both free and available for fans who pre-ordered Staind's 2005 studio album Chapter V.[40] The Tormented track "See Thru" was re-recorded for the 2002 soundtrack album NASCAR on Fox: Crank It Up.[41] For a long time, Staind have not played many songs from Tormented except for "Tolerate", "Come Again", and "Break".[42]

Track listingEdit

2."Come Again"3:48
7."See Thru"4:28
9."No One's Kind"4:47
10."Self Destruct"3:36
11."Four Walls" ("Four Walls" ends at 5:28. Following 8:02 seconds of silence, the hidden track "Funeral" begins at 13:30.[16])33:10
Total length:73:31


Credits are adapted from AllMusic.[43]

  • Aaron Lewis – lead vocals
  • Mike Mushok – guitar, backing vocals
  • Johnny April – bass, backing vocals
  • Jon Wysocki – drums



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