At the beginning of the '90s, "metal" was a dirty word. A few bands, such as Metallica, had enough weight to appear as heirs to the metallic crown, but for the most part, it was the province of lightweight pop-metal mavens. How times change. By the end of the decade, metal was ultra-serious, with the typical band tackling somber, even morose, subjects without humor either in their lyrics or music; it was nothing but a constant grind. Staind is very much emblematic of its era, as much as Poison was of its -- which isn't meant to be a slam, actually. It's just that the band's debut album, Dysfunction, is a product of the times. Staind shows a lot of promise on Dysfunction, but you'd forgive a casual observer for thinking that it's an average alt-metal record, because in many ways it is. Unlike Korn or Limp Bizkit (who fervently endorsed Staind, so much so that LB's lead singer, Fred Durst, co-produced the album), Staind doesn't really have a distinct image or musical style, but the band does summarize '90s underground metal, from Alice in Chains to Tool to Korn. This is hookless, solo-less music where the sonic texture serves as coloring for the bleak words. Not necessarily an easy listen for the uninitiated, but anyone who's grown up on alt-metal will find familiar touchstones throughout the record and will be pleased at how the band easily shifts tempos and sonic colorings, while Aaron Lewis actually sings on much of the record. These are subtle pleasures, the kinds that aficionados will appreciate. Other listeners, however, will likely find Dysfunction a little tedious, since there isn't a wide variety of songs on the record, nor is there anything catchy. That, of course, is a signature trait of alt-metal and helps make the record a sign of the times -- but that doesn't mean it's an easy record to enjoy for anyone outside of the cognoscenti.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine