Oh, the expectations we have for new music - especially hyped-up music. When original P.O.D. guitarist Marcos Curiel left the band sometime after the foursome's career-defining album Satellite, it seemed like the guys merely scrambled to find a new identity with a sort of indecisiveness as to where to take their sound next. Upon hearing the news that Curiel was back, hope had returned to many original P.O.D. fanboys who had lost interest in the band since his departure.
2007 was supposed to see the release of the anticipated project, When Angels & Serpents Dance, but the album was delayed til April of this year. Why? Who knows, but this only made the anticipation that much greater. After all, this means the band was going to spend more time on it to make it all that much better, right? Sadly, the album opens with what was dubbed early on as its heaviest song, "Addicted," which then, upon hearing it, only informs the listener that the this won't be the P.O.D. album the Southtown and Satellite fans have been yearning for. Instead, When Angels & Serpents Dance serves more as a surprising mix between their previous two albums, Payable On Death and Testify, ultimately threatening to be just as dissatisfying as they were.
P.O.D.'s sound has relied on a heavy rock edge (whether it be hardcore, metal, or straight-up rock) since their debut. Over the years, reggae and Rastafarian influences have seeped in more and more - for better or for worse - and has been something the guys continue to experiment with ("I'll Be Ready" is the latest example). It's just strange to watch a band that does heavier music so well continue to try to pursue musical and songwriting styles that they just can't pull of nearly as successfully. And on When Angels & Serpents Dance, there are really only a few moments where things pick up. P.O.D. seems to forsake the melodic for the more dissonant at times as well, like on the somewhat sloppily delivered "Addicted," or on the sometimes groovy and otherwise messy "Kaliforn-Eye-A" (like "California"... get it?). But there isn't really a song on the album that feels strong from beginning to end. Curiel offers a tasty riff and a strong opening on "Condescending," while the chorus just doesn't live up to what precedes it. "It Can't Rain Everyday" is a rock ballad that feels much too much like a sequel to "Youth Of The Nation" to stand apart on its own. "End Of The World" has its classic P.O.D. moments but seems to lose steam before its conclusion. By the time the closer "Rise Against" rolls around, it's just time to switch albums. Perhaps the band is just past their prime, but after revisiting what's arguably their best work from years ago, it just seems like the passion and energy has been lost. Maybe songs like the home state anthem "Kaliforn-Eye-A" are an attempt to regain some of that youthful fire, but the new material just doesn't have it. It seems all that more obvious when Sonny makes a little nod to the chorus of "Alive" in the album opener "Addicted" that their best is really behind them. Of course, we don't need a Satellite II here, and don't expect that, but when you just know these guys are capable of better, a record like this just has that feel that they aren't even really trying anymore.
As if all of this just isn't disappointing enough, the band's Christian music fans will be surprised to find Suicidal Tendencies' vocalist Mike Muir toss in a pointless "I don't give a d*mn who you know!" as he 'contributes' obnoxious commentary throughout the already rather obnoxious and silly "Kaliforn-Eye-A." While it isn't the band uttering the mild obscenity, it's a wonder how this got past the censors on a label like INO Records - home to MercyMe, Sara Groves, Derek Webb - and was given the "OK" by the band. It's hard to imagine this record ever making the Christian bookstore shelves a decade ago for that one line alone (fans will remember how just the odd Southtown cover art caused quite a stir when it released in 1999).
After many spins of the album, it's unfortunate that the sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction brought on by the whole of the latest P.O.D. effort, When Angels & Serpents Dance, continues to linger. The record does offer a few decent cuts like "Shine With Me," the title track, and the thought-provoking "Tell Me Why," however. And diehard fans are likely to still find lots more to like about this record - from the return of Curiel's screams in the background to a signature instrumental interlude ("Roman Empire") to just thirteen new cuts of any kind featuring the original four San Diego natives. While this reviewer will likely be mis-branded a hater for saying it, the feeling cannot be shaken - When Angels & Serpents Dance was not worth the wait.- PReview date: 2/14/08; Review date: 4/6/08, written by John DiBiase
Record Label: INO / Columbia Records
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