A nature to nurture, an instinct to sin / What's underneath the skin you live in? / Betrayed you're an image … Oh precious creation / You will submit, you will give in.
(from "Suddenly")

The not-a-Christian-rock-band Creed was huge in the late 1990s and early 2000s, eventually selling 26 million albums in the U.S. The band's first three studio releases, My Own Prison (1997), Human Clay (1999), and Weathered (2001), spawned such hits as "One," "Higher," "With Arms Wide Open," and "My Sacrifice."

Creed began as a crew of college-age friends making music together, and rose from independent band to full-blown arena rock band after signing with Wind-up Records. Opinions about Creed tend to run hot and cold, with little room for lukewarm. Some called them derivative, and others lambasted frontman Scott Stapp's onstage "Jesus" poses. Rolling Stone called Creed a "ham-handed version of early Pearl Jam."

Love them or hate them, the band reached stratospheric heights. Stapp confirmed the worst successful-yet-tortured-artist stereotypes, however, when he came crashing down in an alcohol-fueled rampage, dragging the multi-platinum-selling band with him. No doubt Stapp's drinking contributed to the band's break-up in 2004, although he says otherwise. "I was moving in one direction musically, and as a guitar player, Mark [Tremonti] wanted to move in another direction," he told Christian Music Today in which he expressed his Christian faith. "That was essentially the reason we broke up."

After the split, Stapp went solo, releasing The Great Divide in 2005, a "flop" that sold fewer than 400,000 copies. The previous year, he'd contributed a track to an album inspired by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

"The [film] basically inspired me to readdress my feelings about love and what true love is," Stapp told MTV.com. "Seeing what Christ did and why he did that, it inspired me to rethink how I love. Basically, I wanted to relearn love."

Apparently, the relearning took time. Stapp's post-Creed antics were well publicized. In 2005, he got into a fight with members of the alternative rock band 311 in a hotel lobby. Then Stapp showed up drunk at a taping of SpikeTV's "Casino Cinema." In 2006, he was arrested for public drunkenness at LAX on the way to his honeymoon; meanwhile, a sex tape recorded in 1999 featuring Stapp, Kid Rock, and several women popped up online. In 2007, Stapp arrived home wasted after all-night partying and threw a glass bottle at his wife. She called 911, and Stapp was charged with assault.

Despite those transgressions, Stapp has sort of resurrected himself—and his old band, which got back together earlier this year. "I'm asking all those who've become disenchanted with the band because of me to allow me to reintroduce myself and, with the other guys, show who we really are," he told the New York Times. Stapp, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall, and drummer Scott Phillips embarked on a 41-city tour in August to promote Creed's fourth studio album, Full Circle. Released on October 27, the album debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top 200, to mixed critical reviews.

In his '04 interview with CT, Stapp had said he's not a Christian artist "because I don't write music to be evangelical." Maybe so, but the 13-track Full Circle (including iTunes pre-order bonus "Silent Teacher"), like Creed's other albums, is replete with spiritual overtones. Assertive and introspective, Full Circle is musically varied, ranging from grungy rock ("Overcome") to hard hitting metal ("Bread of Shame," "Suddenly," and "Fear") to the softer and restrained "Rain," which sounds tailor-made for the Top 40.

At times, Stapp seems to be pleading for redemption, alluding to bad behavior from the past. Some songs are explicit, while others only hint at spiritual elements. The band has no trouble calling sin by its name, a rarity in post-modernity. In "Suddenly," referenced above, Stapp sings a few verses later: "Why are you fighting? / Just stop your denying / Own up to the sin you bury within." (All lyrics on the album are credited to Stapp and Tremonti.)

In the country/rock-flavored title track, "Full Circle," Stapp sings about the cost of rebellion and the renewed hope of second chances: "I've got one foot stuck in heaven and / One boot stuck in hell / I looked at God he winked at me / I made this mess myself."

He picks up the sin theme in the next track, "Time": "You cover yourself, you cover your skin / You cover yourself like you cover your sin / Please untie my hands, I'm a sinner, I'm a man." And in "Away in Silence," he's clearly penitent for his past in pleading with his wife, "Now that I'm picking up the pieces / See the pain that I've caused / I know it's hard to believe in someone / You thought was lost / Don't give up on us / Don't give up on love."

On bonus track "Silent Teacher," Stapp asks the guide to "hold my hand / Lead me to the promise land / Silent teacher please define / This ordinary life, it won't bring me to find it."

Full Circle's spiritual themes are obvious, and the band's reunion is a vivid picture of rebirth and starting over. That certainly seems to be the case for Stapp as he sings on "Away in Silence," "I'm not the man I used to be / I've changed."