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** Creed, “Human Clay,” Wind-Up. Creed is the biggest-selling band you’ve never heard of. The Florida quartet was one of 1998’s unlikeliest grass-roots success stories, a band that legitimized that old saw about achievement being 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.

Its self-released debut album, “My Own Prison,” was a heavy metal pastiche cobbled together from second-hand riffs and stylistic flourishes, but the band worked hard to get the word out through relentless touring, landed a few radio hits and eventually sold more than 4 million copies. Like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Creed has concocted a winning formula and dares not deviate from it, lest it result in lost market share. For fans of the band, “Human Clay” (in stores Tuesday) will ring reassuringly familiar.

Much of the album is grunge twice-removed. The songs sound less like knockoffs of such standard-bearers as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains than they do facsimiles of Seven Mary Three and Stone Temple Pilots. On tracks such as “Are You Ready?,” “Beautiful” and “What If,” loud guitars lurch and lumber while singer Scott Stapp emotes in a gravel-throated rasp that echoes STP’s Scott Weiland. Other tracks--”Wrong Way,” “Faceless Man”--are puffed up with ominous portent, like Metallica without the bite. No matter--while the media homes in on Korn and Rage Against the Machine, Creed could well outsell them all.



Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.