P.O.D. – Murdered Love

Posted: July 10, 2012 in Music

If you’ve seen my rock band t-shirt collection, you would know instantly that I’m not a huge fan of Christian music, and turned off even more by Christian hard rock. Hard rock and heavy metal is for the degenerates of the world – satan lovin’, beer swilling bastards of society that are connected spiritually by loud guitars and screaming at the devil. Creed? Fuck ’em, Switchfoot? Save it for the youth group after church.

Yet, admittedly, I have always been intrigued by California’s P.O.D. who – despite their love for Jaweh (who I think is actually Jesus) – has always combined elements of metal, rap, reggae, and rock into catchy track after track, but maybe even the Lord almighty didn’t necessarily agree. The band has seen its share of complications and controversies over the last 15 years. Let’s get to the history lesson…

We first heard of P.O.D. (short for Payable On Death) with their debut album, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, which kicked us two great singles “Southtown”  and “Rock the Party (Off the Hook)”. In 2001, on the same day as the 9/11 attacks, P.O.D. released the follow-up album, Satellite. The album’s first single, “Alive,” vaulted itself to to the top of the rock charts, and still – almost no one knew they were a Christian band.

The album’s second single, “Youth of the Nation,” was influenced in part by the school shootings at a high school in Columbine, Colorado (which was very close to my heart). The album went on to become RIAA-certified triple platinum, and thrusted the band to the forefront of the alternative metal scene.

Lineup changes followed. In 2003, guitarist Marcos Curiel left the band due to his side project, the Accident Experiment and “spiritual differences.” However, Marcos claims that he was actually kicked out of the band. Curiel was replaced by Jason Truby, former member of Christian thrash/death metal band Living Sacrifice. Also that year, they released their third mainstream album, Payable on Death, which went on to sell over one million copies worldwide.

Testify was released January 24, 2006, and was a mild success. By now, the “masses” had become aware of their religious undertones, and it segregated the fanbase pretty strongly. With good reason, I guess. It seemed weird to me, personally, to thump P.O.D. tracks when partying hard and doing things that the church probably frowned upon (which I do. A lot.)

After nearly a year of touring to support Testify, the band announced that Jason Truby had left the band. The member he replaced, Marcos Curiel, was asked to rejoin, having settled a two-year-old lawsuit over unpaid royalties. But the good vibes didn’t last long.

After the release of the original-lineup “reunion” album When Angels & Serpents Dance, Marcos Curiel left the band again. The album pretty much stunk it up, and this was only the beginning of the problem. On March 25, 2011, P.O.D. filed a lawsuit against their record label, Tennessee-based christian label INO Records, in U.S. District Court in Nashville claiming that the company breached its contract by preventing the group from recording their next album.

According to a statement issued by P.O.D.’s Nashville-based attorney John R. Jacobson, the agreement with INO included two option periods in which the label was required to advance $400,000 for each contracted album. INO released the first album When Angels & Serpents Dance in 2008. In November of 2010, P.O.D. advised INO it was prepared to begin recording the second album, but INO has so far refused to pay the advance.

INO Records specializes in contemporary Christian music. Distributed by Sony Records, Epic Records, and Columbia Records, INO has been owned by Integrity Media since 2002. According to L.A.-based publicists the Brookes Company, P.O.D. tried to negotiate with INO Records in what was called an amicable effort to have the record company honor its contractual commitments. When both sides reached an impasse, P.O.D. proceeded with litigation.

Without a label or a ton of funding, they began recording some new tracks amidst the lawsuit with INO (which is still in the courts). With almost an album’s worth of tracks, the band inked a multi-album, worldwide deal with Razor & Tie in late 2011 and – finally – the band was back to business as usual.

Which brings us current, and to the P.O.D.’s 8th album – Murdered Love.

“Eyez” kicks things of hard enough, with some backing vocals from Hatebreed main-chestpounder Jamey Jasta, and a return to the crunch, guitar-heavy thump that put P.O.D. on the map. The trend continues with “Murdered Love” which, while laying on heavy the message of the death of Christ (meh) ends up turning the lyrics around into something a little more personal and a little less biblical. It’s heavy and melodic, and hints at the possibility of P.O.D. finally being back on the right track after all these years.

Then comes “Higher”, and honestly it brought me right back to the Satellite days with a softer approach but infectious groove. When the band concentrates on writing a good toe-tapper, they have rarely failed – and this is no exception. It’s bound for rock radio, and surprisingly wasn’t the record’s lead-out single. That prize was given to “Lost In Forever”, and I’m not really sure why. The track is easily the weakest of the opening six (more on that later), yet is supposed to sell the record. It wants to be super heavy and exceptionally poignant, but falls short on both. It isn’t horrible, but it is pretty mundane by P.O.D. standards. Everything is done “pretty good”, but there isn’t any “wow” factor at all – in fact, you keep waiting for it, and it just never happens. But three out of four better-than-average songs out of the gate kept my interest peaked.

P.O.D. – even on the “bad” albums – have always had one off-the-wall track, and we get one on this effort in the form of “West Coast Rock Steady.” Mix up a shout-out to Southtown, some vaudeville piano, a guest appearance from Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog, an off-beat guitar rhythm, and a strong rap presence and you get what – for me – was the most enjoyable track of all of them. After all these years, it’s nice to know the band can still keep coming up with a new idea or two, and this is right on point.

So half way through, and I can say I’m extremely impressed, which was as unexpected as it was short-lived. “Beautiful” dials in a ballad that felt more Smashing Pumpkins-esque than anything else, and no one really gives a shit about Billy Corgan anymore. The ladies will probably dig it, but the lyrics were pretty plain, and bordered on boring. Strike one.

Strike two followed without a bat of the eye, as “Babylon the Murder” was more quasi-rock-reggae that frankly didn’t have any substance at all. Granted, these songs probably mean something to the band and to religious folk, but we’ve already addressed my standpoint there – and I thought this track lacked everything. What frustrates me the most is that the structure lent itself to opportunities at every stanza to “pump it up”, but the band just couldn’t pull it off.

“On Fire” name-drops the mighty Rage Against The Machine in the opening lyrics, and borrows from Tom Morello’s “wah-wah” guitar fuzz, yet abandoned the groove at the chorus for more of a Saliva-styled chant of “stop, drop, roll – I’m on fire.” There is something catchy here – which will inevitably find itself being pumped from stadium speakers or becoming a NASCAR theme song – but it still lacks the punch of anything off the first half of the disc.

Usually when the band mixes up styles, they hit the target, but sometimes they fail miserably. Such is the case with “Bad Boy.” It’s lost somewhere between a bad Skee-Lo rhyme and a over-sampled Snoop Dogg background. It tried to be funky, but ended up – well – skunky. We won’t call it strike three, but it was a pretty lame 2-strike foul ball…

Just when I thought the album was set on finishing up in pathetic style, “Panic and Run” comes on to save the day. With a nice blend of punk and reggae through the first half, I suddenly perked my ears back up. Then they threw in a mosnter death metal fill in the middle and I realized that this was the heaviest, if not the best track on the record.

“I Am” closes things out, and while it isn’t the strongest track on the album may be the most interesting lyrically. I don’t spend a lot of time getting too deep in lyrical content (this is a rock and metal blog, after all), but it’s obvious here that lead singer Sonny Sandoval still has a few questions about the legitimacy of his faith. “If you knew who I am, would you really want to die for me?” is only one of the many thought-provoking messages set forth here – and while I really doubt P.O.D. has any doubt about all that stuff in the clouds, at least they tricked me into listening hard. Another above average track, without a doubt.

And that’s what we’re left contemplating here. Did P.O.D. deliver something great, or something simply just above average? Many will call it their strongest effort in ten years – and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree – but to call it excellent is a stretch. Calling it good is probably the nice way of saying it’s a little above average, but that’s the truth as I see it.

And I hear God likes people who tell the truth…

6.5/10

Tracklist:
01. Eyez (Feat. Jamey Jasta Of Hatebreed)
02. Murdered Love (featuring Sick Jacken of Psycho Realm)
03. Higher
04. Lost In Forever (Scream)
05. West Coast Rock Steady (Feat. Sen Dog Of Cypress Hill)
06. Beautiful
07. Babylon The Murderer
08. On Fire
09. Bad Boy
10. Panic and Run
11. I Am

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Comments
  1. Jeannette Desouza says:

    this is awesome guys keep up the great work on spreading the word of GOD by music

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