Review Summary: Their beliefs may not be universal but their passion is.
Lets face it. Nu-metal was bad.
A gaggle of lunk-heads rising up from Kurt Cobain’s ashes like a sh*tty phoenix, bypassing the emotional anguish lying at the heart of grunge and heading straight for the distortion pedals.
Lets face it. Christian music is bad.
Religion had a good run musically, heavenly inspiration is the basis for history’s greatest composers, but CCM is constantly two steps behind, insufferably bland or both. Right now a suburban mom is plunking a CD of god-sponsored dubstep on some poor tween’s desk.
But combining the two makes perfect sense. Nu-metal lends Christianity a much-needed shot of energy while the Christianity gives nu-metal a reason to be aggressive beyond getting grounded from the computer. Plus, when P.O.D’s Satellite
was released it felt relevant. Nu-metal was clogging the airwaves with a sound so annoying it made anyone musically discerning pine for silence. As someone who was raised in a private Christan school it was, well, a godsend. My parents allowed me relative freedom in my musical selections, trusting my judgment, and I stayed on the straight and narrow. We had a subscription to Focus on the Family’s Plugged In magazine that detailed the objectionable material in new music releases. I obsessed over every issue as a peek into a culture I couldn’t participate in. I knew all about the naughty stuff in Hail to the Thief
(“a measured, sleepy sound that might narcotize teens, but sure won’t do anything to inspire them”) long before I heard it. So when Satellite
got a passing grade I had all I needed to get my parents to pick it up for me from Best Buy.
P.O.D. on the pulled off the tricky balancing act between message and music perfectly. Unlike many Christian bands that flirt with the mainstream (Paramore, Underoath, Switchfoot) they never shied away from what they were, they were a Christian metal band operating in a genre that desperately needed some optimism. Opener “Set it Off” features front man Sonny Sandoval crying out “Let your spirit fly!” over a massive guitar chug. Heart on sleeve lyrics like these crops all over the album but the band leans into them so hard you can’t help but be swept up in their passion. “Alive”s call to seize the day sounded spectacular on modern rock channels full of angst and it still packs a wallop. “I think I can fly!” sings Sonny, it may read corny but it sounds positively epic on record.
Sonny Sandoval might just be the best nu-metal MC ever. A dubious title to be sure but when he’s unleashing tricky rhyme schemes on “Set it Off” or pulling off Rasta flavored flow switches on “Ridiculous” his styles are certainly superior to the typical half assed bars spewed from the genre. On album highlight “Youth of the Nation” he personifies a school-shooting victim with the kind of confused reasons a juvenile might come up with for why a classmate would murder him (“Maybe for a moment he forgot who he was, or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged”). Guitarist Marcos Curiel often forgoes power chord riffing to lace tracks with an Edge inspired atmospheric rip. His ominous guitar lines on “Youth of the Nation” carve out miles of space and put a knot of terror in the stomach.
The album falters when Sonny over utilizes his weak singing voice. “Ghetto” and “Thinking About Forever” are both tuneless ballads that crush the albums momentum. Elsewhere, “Without Jah, Nothing” is a bit of silly hardcore thrashing that sounds like it’s going to be interrupted by mom bringing down some snacks. At 52 minutes the album is too long, axing a few of the redundant cuts and slower numbers would have done wonders for the records pacing.
P.O.D. are an example of right place, right, albeit unfortunate, time. Their breakthrough record, Satellite
was released on September 11, 2001 and it’s epic tidal wave of hope and love was what people needed. Despite a few flimsy tracks and being 10 minutes too long it has held up admirably. It’s deft blend of nu-metal rage and reggae grooves creates a record that burns with passion, one that can be felt by the devote fanatic and godless heathen alike.