By now, we expect certain things from a Living Colour album: arty, if bludgeoning, speed metal, hyperspace guitar blasts and solos from Vernon Reid, exhortative lyrics about social ills and barriers delivered with a roaring bellow by lead singer Corey Glover. But where those elements once had their charm and power derived in part from the normally irrelevant fact that the members of Living Colour are black Stain, the group's third album, is mostly belabored and strident.
We should have heard it coming: The group's last album, Time's Up, was a tangled knot of overarranged hardcore and self-righteous rhetoric that dragged the group down with it. This time around, the band sounds even more burdened. In ''Postman,'' Glover compares himself with Christ without a noticeable trace of humor, while other songs lash out at obvious targets like self-serving charity givers, parasites, and ''that stupid TV.''
The music is similarly bellicose: A few robust songs emerge from the murk (the hooky ''Never Satisfied,'' the antiprejudice ''Wall,'' and the spacey, almost free-form ''Nothingness''), but most of the record is a suffocating avalanche of clubfooted riffing that even Metallica has left behind. (The cover itself depicting a woman, her shaved head encased in a spiked steel cage is the type of dunderheaded image that's standard issue for bad metal albums.) Sure, the world is a screwed-up place filled with intolerant morons, but what happened to the lively, spunky, and essentially good-humored band of Living Colour's debut, Vivid? Stain doesn't flow; it clots. C-