Staind; Static X

Break the Cycle (Flip/Elektra); Machine (Warner Bros.)

Staind and Static X share more than the first three letters of their names. They are part of the new breed of hard rock that has risen from alternative rock's ashes. Both rely on the sins and successes of their forefathers for inspiration. And both of their debut albums, released in 1999, became slow-build, word-of-mouth hits. But the similarities pretty much end there. From the mutual roots, the two bands branch into different directions: Staind nods toward pensive Nirvana; Static X points to intense Nine Inch Nails.

Staind, a Boston-based foursome mentored by Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, is the more musically subtle band. Break the Cycle, its sophomore album, refers to the misery passed on from generation to generation -- specifically singer Aaron Lewis's family issues. And Cycle is an issues album, Lewis's therapy session for all to hear. "For You" reads like a final confession from child to parent ("I am fucked up because you are"), and on the current single, "It's Been Awhile," he sings, "I cannot blame this on my father." Staind wraps up all this pain in deceivingly melodic packages, sort of like Nirvana's "All Apologies" without the depth. Static X's Machine, a mile-a-minute thrashfest, also has issues. But where Staind's Lewis guides his anguish through unplugged ballads, Static X frontman Wayne Static merely howls, growls, crashes, and burns on his band's second album. The differences between songs such as "Black and White," "This Is Not," and "Cold" are barely distinguishable, and the overload of electronic gadgetry and kerosene vocals hardly disguises the lack of actual songs here. This is metal machine music for postmodern robots.