|THE DAILY CARDINAL|
take a step in the right direction
By: Alex Morrell / The Daily Cardinal - April 16, 2008
P.O.D. wisely rely on their unique qualities to rise above the nu-metal clamour.
Payable On Death’s seventh album, _When Angels and Serpents Dance_, marks a step in a different but finally progressive direction for the battle-tested, 15-year hard rock veterans from the “Southtown” (San Ysidro, Calif.). Two subpar studio releases removed from their most celebrated work to date in _Satellite_, P.O.D. reunite with founding guitarist Marcos Curiel more motivated, creative and mature, offering a textured, musically rich collection of tracks with the characteristic spiritual undertones and Latin zest—but this time with the amplifier dialed down a few notches from 11.
It’s been almost seven years since P.O.D.’s epic 2001 album _Satellite_ hit stores the same morning two jetliners hit the World Trade Center towers. _Satellite_ unpredictably but almost fittingly provided a soundtrack to the catastrophe, teeming with tight, emotionally driven rapcore, varying from the somber, spiritually reflective tracks like “Youth of the Nation” and “Thinking About Forever” to the brave, courageous anthems “Alive” and “Satellite.” _Satellite_ somehow fortuitously captured both the dark, foreboding uncertainty as well as the solidarity and call to action pervading the United States, capitalizing on the emotional bond it forged to sell 3 million copies.
One could hardly expect a follow up on par with Satellite, but P.O.D. imperceptibly sabotaged their artistic progress by divesting themself of founding member and lead guitarist Marcos Curiel, releasing consecutive albums (_Payable on Death_ and _Testify_) that floundered with only the intermittent success of singles like “Goodbye for Now.”
_When Angels and Serpents Dance_ may be an overall departure from P.O.D.’s traditional hip-hop/hard-rock fusion, but it focuses on the band’s unique strengths that helped distinguish them from the rest of the angst-addled pack of nu-metal rockers: imaginative, Latin-inspired and free-flowing fret work by Curiel and a positive, spiritually grounded aura of hope.
Frontman Sonny Sandoval trades in his rhyme-spitting swagger—although not entirely—for actual melodic singing, accompanying the proliferation of softer, more measured ballads. The slower tracks don’t carry the album, but they don’t distract or drag it down either. “It Can’t Rain Everyday” offers a positive message proclaiming “Even though you feel all alone / It can’t rain every day / It don’t rain forever,” but it resembles a more tepid reprisal of “Youth of the Nation” with less urgency and emotional impact. Similarly unremarkable is the pleading, acoustic cry against war and suffering “Tell Me Why,” which could benefit from more lyrical and musical originality and variation.
Curiel breathes life into most of the tracks, however, employing catchy hooks to galvanize many of the moderately paced songs like “Rise Against” and “End of the World” as well as heavier tracks like “Shine With Me” and “Addicted.” “Kaliforn-Eye-A,” featuring Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, boasts the nutritional lyric quality of cotton candy, but it rides a cool, California wave of funk-driven guitar riffs before ultimately descending into a thrashing, punk-rock mosh pit, showcasing a taste of P.O.D.’s Bad Brains influence. P.O.D. best resemble their raw, hard-rock music from the ’90s when Curiel unleashes a paroxysm of crunching fretwork in “God Forbid,” one of the hardest P.O.D. tracks to date let alone on the album.
_When Angels and Serpents Dance_ also succeeds in mostly relieving listeners from the faux-reggae vocals and instrumentation that have pervaded recent P.O.D. albums. They proved they could conjure a sun-beaten Caribbean ambiance with past tracks like “Set Your Eyes to Zion” (_The Fundamental Elements of Southtown_) and “Ridiculous” (_Satellite_), but they failed to invigorate subsequent attempts with any originality. Thankfully, they limit their latest album to one reggae-influenced song, “I’ll Be Ready,” a lazy and repetitive piece that still fails to cover any new ground despite the contributions from the Marley Girls.
Although progressive for P.O.D., the album is not without faults. P.O.D. have never honed lyrical prowess like rap-rock wordsmith Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, but the content is not abhorrently bad either. Many of the songs are perhaps too hooky, chorus-focused and overtly plastered with production elements, but Curiel’s soundscape of aesthetically diverse fret play drowns most complaints.
_When Angels and Serpents Dance_ doesn’t pack the emotional punch of _Southtown_ or _Satellite_ and might not outsell either, but the re-emergence of Curiel adds an electric element glaringly absent from P.O.D.’s previous two albums.