- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
You know you're impacting the culture when your latest CD release is delayed in order for MTV to launch an entire week of promotion around it. In fact, the Christian rock quartet is a regular staple on that network's Total Request Live program, and has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine and on the television program Politically Incorrect, allowing the band to expose a bit of their heart as well as their music. With hit singles that have topped the charts over artists ranging from Britney Spears to Marilyn Manson, it's obvious the guys have earned the widespread credibility they deserve.
But any "warrior" (i.e. P.O.D. fan) who's tracked P.O.D.'s success over the years can tell you that the band's current level of fame and success hasn't come easily. The group paid their dues in the underground Christian hard music scene, recording three albums for the independent label Rescue Records. Their fourth project, with Tooth and Nail Records, released just before the guys signed with mainstream conglomerate Atlantic Records, a label that's overseen success stories such as Tori Amos, Hootie and the Blowfish, Phil Collins, and Stone Temple Pilots. The label looked at the band's rigorous touring schedule, songwriting development, and ever-evolving charisma, and deemed them on the verge of becoming even more popular. After Atlantic's release of the Southtown CD, P.O.D. joined with Sevendust, Korn, and the Ozzfest tour to criss cross the country several times, eventually working their way up to headlining status, with Project 86 as an opening act.
All of this adds up to the band's latest effort, Satellite, being one of the year's most highly anticipated albums in the alternative market, and after hearing just the first three songs on Satellite, I can confirm that all the hype is justified. P.O.D. truly has come up with some of the best songs of their career, thanks in part to veteran hard-rock producer Howard Benson, who surpasses the superior production on Southtown with this project. The opening song, "Set It Off," is followed by "Alive" and "Boom," all of which I predit will hit #1 on the mainstream radio charts and will linger on TRL for weeks on end. The sheer in-your-face power of P.O.D. on "Set It Off" meshes their fierce screams, piercing guitars, and undeniably catchy hooks. You wouldn't think they could top this opening song, but in fact they do with the pulsating "Alive." This, as well as the other tracks on Satellite, are instantly more memorable than those found on the Southtown project. For instance, "Alive" shows P.O.D taking a melodic twist, chanting the line "I feel so alive/For the very first time/ I can't deny you" in regards to the group's faith. The equally electrifying "Boom" follows that track with a concert-friendly chorus I remember from their Cornerstone Festival 2001 performance.
Other robust jams include the title cut, "Anything Right," and "Masterpiece Conspiracy." Although each of those tracks are spread out throughout the disc, they rival the mighty sounds of the opening sequence and also have the chance to hit the airwaves. P.O.D. is very resourceful about mixing up the pace and sequencing on Satellite in order to keep listeners interested. Perhaps the best examples of their varying sounds come in "Youth of the Nation," a reggae-inspired jam that features a children's choir at the end, and "Thinking About Forever," the disc's acoustic ballad. P.O.D.'s versatility especially shines on "Thinking About Forever," which incorporates an acoustic guitar pattern, haunting keyboard loop, and a mild urban groove, calling to mind the likes of Staind or Tantric. Lyrically, it's the disc's boldest message, chronicling a person's struggle over the death of a loved one. However, P.O.D. points out how having someone close to us die can also bring us closer to God and our hope of eternal salvation. One line boasts the poignant thought, "Now I know what it means to live for someone else," referring to a person living his or her life for God rather than the things of this world.
The album is near perfect, except for the bombastic roar of "Without Jah, Nothin," an odd cross of shrieking, unintelligible vocals, and loud noise during the first half with an out-of-place reggae portion during the second part, amplified by a Jamaican-styled rap. The tune is sure to cause many to scratch their heads, and may have been included as a parody of industry peers, such as From Zero and Bad Brains (a band also produced by Benson).
Aside from that particular track and a few frivolous interludes ("Celestial" and "Guitarras de Amor") P.O.D. has outdone themselves, proving they'll be a force to reckon with for quite some time. The fact that Satellite is being shipped to retail in a 600,000 quantity (i.e. "shipping over gold") proves that the music industry at large is fully supporting this release. P.O.D. does things right when it comes to using their music to be an effective ministry tool. They make sure their artform is the best it can be before incorporating faith into their songs, rather than trying to witness their beliefs with a sound that's not up to par with the rest of the music business. Hopefully more bands in the Christian market can follow P.O.D's example of high quality and creativity, rather than trying to save the world with lyrics of hope set to music of second-rate quality.