Waking Up Rock and Roll
Posted August 26, 2015
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
There have been few hard rock groups in the 21st century as influential in both the Christian and mainstream rock spheres as P.O.D. The reggae-fueled, California-based rockers have been a consistent shaping force through the rapcore movement of the early 2000s to the current day, where they are one of the few veteran groups still sticking to their rock and roll guns in a pop-fueled world. Albums like Satellite, Payable on Death and Testify spawned genre-defining anthems like "Boom," "Alive," "Youth of the Nation," "Will You" and "Goodbye for Now." The frequency of releases has slowed down considerably in the last seven years, but that just leaves the hype that much higher for the group's latest, The Awakening.
P.O.D. frontman and songwriter Sonny Sandoval has revealed that the album is a kind of concept album, sharing in an email to fans "Every song ultimately explores a character dealing with life, making mistakes, fighting, trying. But we also live in a singles-type world, and it works on that level, too." This information brings clarity to the album's structure, with most songs bookended by fragments of dialogue or other sound bites giving us glimpses into individual narratives.
For the most part, these individuals the album follows are facing some kind of life struggle. Opener "Am I Awake" features a subject in a dream-like state of confusion, walking through life wondering "Am I awake, or is this just a dream? / I'm not the same since you went away." "Somebody's Trying to Kill Me" captures paranoia and fear at its most intense, blurring the line between physical and spiritual realities as the anguished lyrics keen "somebody's trying to kill me, or is this all in my mind? Somebody's trying to kill me, I hope I get out alive."
"Criminal Conversations," one of the strongest cuts on the record, unravels the tangled thought processes of a man having an affair (with the other end of the conversation provided by In This Moment's Maria Brink, whose raspy vocals perfectly complement Sonny's). Adrenaline-fueled, guitar-heavy "Speed Demon" starts and ends with audio of someone stealing a car, framing the song with its theme of fast living bordering on the self destructive.
Musically, dedicated fans will recognize in this album a sound closer to Satellite and Testify than 2012's Murdered Love. The reggae influence is more muted, although still present particularly on songs like "Revolucion." Grungy guitar riffs propel many of the songs, with songs like the cultural commentary "Get Down" riding blistering riffs that give the song a hard punch. The final track, "The Awakening," explores a complicated father and son relationship and coming to a place of hard-won forgiveness.
Making a rock record in 2015 is no easy task, but these masters of the craft have pulled it off with apparent ease. The Awakening is the kind of album any P.O.D. fan would hope for, with hints of reggae and rapcore bolstering rugged guitar tones and lyrics unafraid to dig deep and speak clearly. Tackling a concept album with this much of a social commentary element is also risky at best, but The Awakening succeeds largely because it tells difficult stories frankly, without disclaimer or apology. There is no attempt to gloss over anything on this album, be it life's hardest questions or rock and roll's most abrasive grit. All of these things make The Awakening easily one of the strongest rock releases of the year, a must-have for longtime fans and newcomers thirsty for some heavy music with substance.
Song to Download Now:
"Criminal Conversations" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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