- Murdered Love
- Lost in Forever
- West Coast Rock Steady
- Babylon the Murderer
- On Fire
- Bad Boy
- Panic & Run
- I am
P.O.D. has a tale to tell about dizzying success and dismal let-down. Having become the breakout band of 2001 with the release of Satellite on September 11th (yes THAT Sept. 11th), P.O.D. would catapult to international fame. For a while, it seemed like the boys could do no wrong having hit song after hit song and becoming the most heavily featured artist on movies like Any Given Sunday, The Matrix Reloaded, and… Little Nicky.
Having achieved more success than a lot of bands are even able to dream about (let alone those that openly proclaim their faith in Jesus) and after going multi-platinum a few times over, one would have expected P.O.D. to ride this momentum all the way into the history books. However, after notoriously being given the run-around by their label, P.O.D. seemed to shrink to the background. In the eleven years between Satellite and the upcoming Murdered Love, the boys at P.O.D. released a few great but critically ignored albums. Even the return of original guitarist Marcos Curiel didn’t seem to be the reinvention of the band that many were hoping for.
Having taken a break as a band for a while., lead singer Sonny Sandoval helped start the Whosoever movement, a group (including Brian “Head” Welch and Lacey from Flyleaf, to name a few) that go across the country sharing the Gospel message to the younger and harder-core youth that are often overlooked by many ministries. He also kept himself very busy making some powerful appearances on an incredible variety of albums by the likes of Lecrae, War of Ages, Kirk Franklin and Toby Mac, and most recently on new label-mate For Today’s powerhouse album Immortal.
Perhaps it’s that back story that best encapsulates the aura of Murdered Love. Having parted ways with disinterested labels and getting back to their roots, P.O.D. are set to release an album that may best be described as honoring the past as it looks to the future. In regards to honoring the past, Murdered Love seems to have an element of each of the various forms and genres P.O.D. has become known for. In the same album you have songs like “Eyez” and “On fire” which bring back elements of the band’s Snuff the Punk rapcore days, songs like “Beautiful” which incorporates just enough of that reggae-punk flavor of Payable on Death, still leaving room for the straight-up hip-hop laced styles found on the band’s greatest album to date, Testify.
On top of that, many of the songs on this album feel like the spiritual successor to one of P.O.D.’s past jams. “West Coast Rock Steady” feels like it was written directly after the boys wrapped “Kaliforn-eye-a,” only replacing members of Suicidal Tendencies with Cyprus Hill. “Lost in Forever” feels like a culmination of both the styling of “Goodbye for Now” and the message of “Thinking about Forever.” “Beautiful” not only hits some of the styling of the sadly underrated Payable on Death album, but feels like a direct continuation of songs like “It Can’t Rain Every Day.” Then there is my favorite example as “Babylon the Murderer” seems to pick right up where “Breathe Babylon” left off so many wonderful years ago.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Murdered Love is just a canned rehash of all of their past works. This is not the case at all. What you get coming into this album is the feel of those past influences finally unleashed on a hopeful future. To put it another way, you finally feel like P.O.D. has really found the freedom they lost over the years in this new venture with Razor and Tie.
But is the new album perfect? Not at all. One of the biggest detractors for me was the contrast between the outright worship-filled passion in some tracks when compared to others which seemed to just muddle around a bit in banality. The biggest divide I could show in this would be the huge difference between the title track and the song “Bad boy.” “Murdered love” is a powerful and devastating look at the day Christ hung on the cross. The passion behind Sonny’s voice echoes as he shifts from screaming “they day that they murdered love” to an honest and emotional cry where he repeats the words of the penitent thief.
Contrast this with “Bad boy” which feels not only out of place on this album, but also as a P.O.D. song in general. This is not to assume that every song has to be about Christ directly (or indirectly), but “Bad Boy” comes across as a complete waste on the album. Not only is it weird for a happily married man to be singing “I’m a bad boy, but I like good girls,” but the song dabbles in some sexual themes while using language and verbiage that could have been chosen more wisely and gotten the same point across. The heart of the song, I know, is all about praising those women in life who make us better men. The execution on this, however is lacking severely.
As for the rest of the album, “Lost in Forever,” “Murdered Love,” and “Higher” seem to hit all the right paces to become instant hits. “On Fire,” the first track released in demo form, is certainly much better on the album than it was as a demo. The production values seem to have been improved greatly, but the song itself is rather repetitive and lacking that extra something which would make it a hit-level song. Finally, songs like “Eyez” and “Panic & Run” are just right in the middle, neither great nor bad, but neither are they mere filler.
Notably missing from my preview copy is the song “I Am,” which closes out the album. Those who have read our exclusive interview with Sonny, know why this is “notable.” P.O.D. seems to have one thing on each album that brings controversy. In the past, this has most often been centered on the album artwork. This was especially true for The Fundamental Elements of Southtown and Payable on Death (though the artwork on this new album is unlikely to inspire controversy, I can’t help but think of Invader Zim whenever I see it).
Any fan familiar with the special edition release of Testify (in the artist’s commentary portion) will see that the matter surrounding “I Am” is nothing the band hasn’t thought through in the past. As a fan of the band and their ministry, I feel that it was discerning to remove a particular element from the song, but merely “blurring” it out can leave the same effect in the listener’s mind as having it there. Though P.O.D. has typically landed on the right side of discernment in the past, this track may push some boundaries and be a little uncomfortable. Sonny talks about it being “an honest look” at who God is, who man is, and confusion over what comes in the middle on the metro lyrics preview. I’ll be interested to hear the full song when the album releases, but again feel that other words could be used to produce the same effect more wisely.
Overall: P.O.D. is back with an album that honors the many years of “Hard Knocks” that have come before while also making a statement that perhaps the best is still yet to come. Murdered Love is a worthy addition to the discography of one of the most prolific bands to come from the streets of San Diego. It has that “big” sound that P.O.D. has always brought to their albums and conveys passion, depth, and insight into both the mercies of God and the struggles of man. Fans should definitely pick it up and give it a listen, but those who haven’t connected with P.O.D’s style in the past are not likely to be won over by this new album, either.
RIYL: Blindside, Project 86, Thousand Foot Krutch.