Mascot Records[Release date 18.11.18]
After a 26 year existence played out over a fast changing music scene, San Diego’s rap-rock into metal band P.O.D. (Payable On Death) are too long in the tooth to be caged in by any specific label genres.
As a result ‘Circles’ is hotchpotch of rap-rock, metal, electronica, abrasive lyrics and pop, with a significant emphasis on vocals and big riffs, all fuelled by lashings of intensity and counterweighted by catchy hooks.
‘Circles’ is an explosive album that celebrates a collective vibe with an exuberant energy. It’s all grounded by jammed out riffs , surprising grooves and disguised melodies, voiced over different, but interlinked genres.
It’s a riff heavy album on which the relentless bass and drums power their way through 11 breathless tracks.
There’s plenty of rap-rock, hybrid hip-hop and plenty of metal riffs which at times reminds me of Sublime, but it’s all offset by cool dynamics and surprising poppy elements.
Above all, there’s a consistent punk like intensity that makes tracks like ‘Panic Attack’ a musical exercise in evoking the song title. Last year’s single ‘Soundboy Killa’ also bottles lightning, as they seamless combine a rumbling bass driven slice of rap-rock with edgy metal riffs, huge drums, Sonny Sandoval’s relentless vocal and a pregnant pause leading into a booming hook.
They open in uncompromising fashion on the rap-into-metal ‘Rockin’ With The Best’. It makes for an explosive intro, but the quiet-to-loud dynamic and the chanted hook is rather obvious, especially as the rest of the album thrives on a willingness to be adventurous: “Who rocks the party that rocks the party, I rock the party that rocks the party.”
They are unafraid to throw a curve a ball into the mix, as on the homage to their home base of SoCal on the harmony heavy ‘Always Southern California’, while the title track is an unlikely, but captivating melange of rap-rock, over jangling guitar, shuffle drum patterns, and a slight tension building line: “I’m just right here, spinning in circles, I’m spinning in circles, Spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning in circles, Spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning in circles.”
It’s finally resolved by a subsequent rap and a belated vocal collage within a wall of sound.
P.O.D. have teamed up with LA production duo Heavy who have brought a notable poppy element into the mix and it gives the band a new dimension.
Listen to ‘On The Radio’, which combines a heavy duty intro with an angular catchy hook that could almost be Sparks, on a number with relentless drive.
The sub reggae ‘Domino’ is a perfect example of their subtle use of dynamics, cool electronics, spacey guitar and another catchy hook.
They are never too far away from sheer intensity, as on the frenetic ‘Panic Attack’ which combines Sandoval’s manic rap, with electronics, metal and Marcos Curiel’s buzz guitar.
Then there’s the new single ‘Listening For The Silence’, which has a post grungy feel, with a big drum and bass foundation and an electro vocal that could almost be Duran Duran.
It all works so well, simply because of the band’s commitment to making the unlikely range of styles work within their rap-rock and metal backdrop.
‘Circles’ is a brave cross genre album that drags the listener over the coals with the kind of potency that belies the band’s 26 year history.
They book-end a varied and innovative album with ‘Home’, which is effectively a cathartic release and provides a huge end to a powerhouse album.
P.O.D. haven’t so much re-invented themselves as naturally evolved organically. Working with Heavy has enabled them to take step further into musical areas that previously might have been seen as antithetical. As a result ‘Circles’ breaks new ground, rocks hard and contemporizes the band’s sound impressively. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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