With the remnants of “nu-metal” scattered among the musical landscape, it would be hard for any band mixing hip-hop and rock to create something relevant. Many have tried and only a few have succeeded to moving on from this style. To come back this late in the decade means you better have a few aces up your sleeve. San Diego’s native sons P.O.D. (also known as Payable On Death) have taken up the task with their latest release due April 8, When Angels and Serpents Dance (INO/Columbia)
Having been a fan since the independent days of Brown and Snuff The Punk (both released on Rescue Records), I have seen the progression from relative unknowns to MTV favorites. Releasing great albums such The Fundamental Elements of Southtown in 1999(Atlantic) and Satellite (Atlantic) in 2001, it seemed that they were destined to stay in green pastures for a long time.
Then the walls came crashing down. With the departure of a founding member (Marcos Curiel), no support from their label and mediocre sales, it would have broken up a ton of other bands. But having been together since 1992, the foundation was strong enough to stop and reevaluate their objectives. After two more releases, they fulfilled their contract with Atlantic Records and were set to go back to independent waters.
What else could happen after all that? Member Jason Truby (who had replaced Curiel in 2003) decided to bow out, leaving a vacancy for a guitar player. It was at this time drummer Noah Bernardo (aka Wuv) began to reach out to Curiel. Could the bridges be repaired ? Apparently, they could. New material was written and then Columbia imprint INO Records came calling.
How do you make a splash back into the music world? Bring in respected artists such as Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, Page Hamilton of Helmet and the Marley Sisters (daughters of famed reggae legend Bob Marley). With notable names like that, I was excited to see the result.
Immediately opening with what will be their first single, “Addicted,” is a breath of fresh air to any P.O.D. fan. Listening to Curiel’s arsenal of riffs come out with new found vigor is exactly what I wanted to hear. With no disrespect to Jason Truby, Curiel brings back that dynamic on guitars that I didn't hear on their last 2 releases.
What I didn’t expect is the following track “Shine With Me” to come out with such a poppy vibe. I mean, they’ve done their part with catchy hooks but this leans more into the pop vein more than any song in their catalog. “It Can’t Rain Everyday” sounds like they are trying to recapture the success of their hit single “Youth of the Nation” Vocalist Sonny Sandoval tells the tale of daily struggles of everyday people. This song brings to mind System of A Down’s “Lonely Day” with more spiritual uplift. Too bad it falls a bit short. At times, the song seems a bit generic and bland. A noteworthy try for sure but nothing memorable.
How do you recover from all that? Bring in Cyco Myko from Suicidal Tendencies to up the ante on the track “Kaliforn-Eye-A.” While I wasn’t too excited about the lyrics as they sounded a bit juvenile at times, it was hearing Mike Muir on vocals that kept my attention. The song itself is simple and it works. The little gem they throw in is going back to the some thrash/hardcore punk with Muir going into a spasm that sounded so good on my stereo.
Always bringing a reggae vibe to each record, “I’ll Be Ready” is a great track that features The Marley Sisters with their angelic background vocals. The best reggae song P.O.D. has done since “Set Your Eyes to Zion” on FEOS and “Ridiculous” on Satellite. It’s great to hear P.O.D. head back into harder waters and what better way than bring in Helmet’s very own Page Hamilton. Sharing vocals with Sandoval, Hamilton adds some needed grit to what is probably the heaviest song on this record.
I will say that P.O.D. has ventured into new terrain as they include the ballad “Tell Me Why.” With its anti-war message, it may turn off some fans with its somewhat preachy message but it's delivered with such sincerity, it works. The record ends with the very anti-climatic “Rise Against.” Very somber sounding, you can hear the maturity in the music. Lyrically, its sounds a bit too simple. Perhaps I was looking for something vaguer that would make you ponder life a bit deeper.
Overall: When Angels and Serpents Dance is a solid rock record. While it does have its filler songs here and there, it’s still good enough to keep the fans happy and make new ones in the process. It’s hard for any band to recapture their glory days on disc but you definitely can say that P.O.D is trying. The only question that remains is whether they can brings these songs to life in concert. When they come back to Dallas, we will certainly find out.