“Break The Cycle” is basically Staind at their pinnacle. The album is flawless and each track is a hit. Aaron Lewis’ introspective lyrics combined with Mike Mushok’s wall-of-sound guitars build what was easily the best hard-rock album to come out 2001. The band explored more acoustic elements than before and the song-writing was put up front a bit more. Obviously, at the time, many fans brushed Staind off as sell-outs, which, in hindsight, I think everyone is realizing just how ridiculous that is — especially when you consider the two biggest hits here (“It’s Been A While” and “Outside”) were kicking around in Lewis’ head before Staind got signed. Sure, this album isn’t half as aggressive or depressing as it’s predecessor, 1999’s “Dysfunction” (or their indie debut “Tormented”), but it is an overall professional and potent album, that is consistantly solid the whole way through. Acoustic (or partially) ballads (that have now become a staple of the band) make up about a third of this album. “It’s Been A while” is already a modern rock classic, along with a studio version of “Outside” (original live version from the “Family Values 1999″ disc) and “Epiphany,” a touching song, dedicated to the fans. “Waste” is another fan dedicated song, but this one is more aggressive and is directed towards an individual fan who committed suicide. After being approached by the kid’s Mother, Aaron Lewis penned this song. By closely listening to the song, a positive message is revealed, and marks one of the most mature moments of Staind’s career. “Open Your Eyes” is a song about various global problems (i.e. pollution, homelessness, drugs…) while straight-out rockers like “Pressure” and “For You” tend to dwell on more familiar subjects. Some people may label this album or the band as “whiners,” and it is true, there is quite a bit of self-pity in Staind’s music, but the material is handled well and Aaron Lewis writes mature lyrics, that seem to be somewhat more constructive than that of his peers. Overall, everytime I listen to this album, I walk away feeling good, rather than beat down by the world. Which is exactly what music like this should do. Aside from this album, having seen Staind live, I can honestly say they have my full respect. I saw them on one of the coldest nights of this past winter. We had to wait outside for the doors to open (sold out, mind you) in the freezing cold of negative 25 degrees (with some wind to boot). It was pretty cold inside the venue too. But once Staind hit the stage, things actually seemed to warm up. It may sound corny, but their live show (and their music in general) sucks you in. For the hour or more they played, they put all their energy into it made the audience share the experience. Staind are a truly gifted band, and this is their best recording so far. I recommend it to anyone who loves music.