There are only a handful of Christian artists that see success when crossing over to the mainstream industry. But Payable on Death, better known as P.O.D., managed to do it almost effortlessly, and a good portion of said success is due to their album The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, which dropped 19 years ago this month.
Taking some influence from secular artists such as Rage Against the Machine and Sublime, P.O.D. incorporated hip-hop style vocals into a metal-driven style of rock and roll often referred to as Nu Metal. Their ability to intertwine the two genres so brilliantly in an album such as The Fundamental Elements of Southtown is what earned them a spot as one of the greatest Christian rock bands of all time, and one of the most revered artists in the genre of Nu Metal.
While Satellite is widely considered their best and most popular album, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown was a pivotal moment for P.O.D. After this album, they began heavily exploring more reggae vocals and lost some of their metal undertones. But this record set the heaviness at the wheel, allowing it to drive almost every moment. Songs such as "Hollywood," "Southtown," and "Rock the Party (Off the Hook)" showcase these elements perfectly. The aggressive track "Lie Down" brings the peak of the album just shy of halfway through, and the tune smacks you straight in the face. The combination of vocals and screams from frontman Sonny Sandoval and lead guitarist Marcos Curiel, along with the band's heavy backing, particularly in the bass and drum fills, made this song the most powerful tune on the album. The band gives you a short break from the grinding guitars and thudding bass grooves with reggae inspired "Set Your Eyes to Zion," but quickly dives right back into the thick of things with a cover of U2's "Bullet the Blue Sky,", "Image," all the way down to the last track of "Outkast."
The Fundamental Elements of Southtown is simultaneously sludgy and tight in aesthetic from start to finish. Unlike their prior albums, P.O.D. managed to craft heavy tracks that were trimmed and polished until this vibe was achieved. This would be the stepping stone leading them to the height of their career with the release of the multi-platinum album Satellite. Critics and temporary fans alike will always revert to Satellite, claiming it to be the band's greatest work. But to the listeners that have stuck with them since the beginning, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown will likely sit just above the rest. Without it, P.O.D. would not have seen the growth of their music in both Christian and mainstream arenas. And unlike many others that turned their back on doing Christian-focused gigs, P.O.D. clung to their roots, continuously coming back to Christian festivals and shows. They became an inspiration for up and coming Christian Nu Metal artists like Pillar, Thousand Foot Krutch, Justified, Falling Up, and 38th Parallel.
While they will always be considered a great artist in the mainstream industry, Christian rockers will remember them as one of the best to ever exist.
Jessi Ellerbe owns a small record store in Florida. She loves music more than anything in this world (except Jesus, of course). If she's not listening to music or working at her store, she's usually out record hunting, going to Disney World, spending time with her boyfriend, hanging out with family or friends, catching up on a favorite TV show, or curling up on the couch and watching a movie.
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