The Christian new-metal band P.O.D. stirs an unusual ingredient into its hit single "Alive," complementing the song's crushing riffs with unabashed joy. The result is a left-field guilty pleasure in a mostly dire genre, not to mention a clear counterpoint for much of Weathered, the third album by the bazillion-selling Florida hard-rock group Creed. Like P.O.D., Creed invests its songs with soul-searching spirituality, but the result has been a succession of mirthless dirges, each dragged down by Scott Stapp's windy emoting, which brings to mind the bastard offspring of Eddie Vedder, Alice In Chains' Layne Staley, and Michael Bolton. It's hard to argue with the band's success: The critic-proof Human Clay has sold 10 million copies on the strength of the fatherhood anthem "With Arms Wide Open." But it's harder to imagine even Creed diehards enjoying Weathered's spirit-crushing first half, the low-point of which ("Who's Got My Back?") is a leaden, ponderous spiritual quest that takes a staggering eight and a half minutes and makes Live's worst moments sound like The Lemonheads' best. "Bullets" and "Freedom Fighter" recall no one more than the bleating mook-rock of Seven Mary Three, but Weathered improves dramatically in its second half, as Stapp and company belatedly brighten their sound. The blustery "My Sacrifice" is making the rounds on rock radio, but the disc's standout is the future hit "Hide," which coats its leave-all-this-and-get-away lyrical tropes in big, buzzy pop melodies. Arriving near the end of Weathered, the song is almost as refreshing as P.O.D.'s "Alive," though both benefit immeasurably from diminished standards.

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