Sound: When you take a look at Drowning Pool's history, the quartet has seen its share of shake-ups and sadness since forming in 1996. Between the death of vocalist Dave Williams and record label issues, Drowning Pool is a band that has in many ways been the underdogs that you rooted for to see succeed. The band's decision to add vocalist Ryan McCombs (who has now been a member longer than Williams) was truly the wisest move it could make, and there was an immediate musical chemistry that continues to work in 2010. Drowning Pool's latest self-titled release apparently was a product of a more rigorous studio schedule, and the resulting product is one that is particularly radio savvy. Many (if not all) tracks stand out as being single-worthy thanks to a bevy of hummable choruses. While there might not be many musical surprises in terms of thinking outside of the box, the band's fourth studio record is still highly listenable.
If you plan on purchasing the new CD, try to get your hands on the Limited Edition, which includes a behind-the-scenes DVD. Seeing the band interviewed about the making of the album gives the CD a much more personal side, particularly when you learn that McCombs' father passed away during the sessions. The track Over My Head takes on a whole different meaning because of that death, and for the listener it feels all the more honest. Apparently the band was put through a much more strenuous recording process with producer Kato Khandwala and engineer Dan Korneff, and the album does come across comes across as polished without losing the aggressive nature so prevalent in many of the tracks.
During the DVD, the members of Drowning Pool do express that they feel the new CD propelled them to new musical ground. There's no doubt that are masters of their genre, but the tracks don't venture too far out of the musical realm within they've been working in for the past few years. Songs like Feel Like I Do, Children of the Gun, and Horns Up follow the same infectious, anthemic formula that necessitates crowds raising their hands and singing/shouting along. Guitarist C.J. Pierce's tones are amazing through it all, and in Horns Up he delivers a technically impressive solo that adds a bit more flavor to the mix. King Zero takes a distinctively refreshing turn as well when it delves into a more Middle-Eastern-oriented musical section.
Introspection is the key in most of the slower material, and as was mentioned earlier, Over My Head suddenly takes on a much more intense meaning with the knowledge of McCombs' father passing. One of the most engaging tracks among both the ballads and the rock tunes is More Than Worthless. It builds beautifully and features nice touches like drummer Mike Luce's militaristic snare and ethereal guitar work, both which enhance McComb's consistently powerful vocals. // 8
Lyrics: There is a relatable quality about Drowning Pool's songs that will likely appeal to a general audience. The tracks don't necessarily get overly deep or poetic, but that's not why Drowning Pool gained popularity with a song like Bodies in the first place. Besides the few ballads, the rock tracks are inspiring and in-your-face at the same time. The single Feel Like I Do is the prime example that sets the standard for most of the songs with lyrics like, My eyes are open wide and I; Learned to hate what I found, yeah; The love, the hate, regret; We all have it. It's true that it's a fairly predictable approach, but it also doesn't alienate their established fan base. // 7
Overall Impression: If you judge a record by how easily/quickly you can hum along with its musical content, then Drowning Pool's self-titled CD is a winner. After about two lessons, it was hard to not sing along with a great many of the choruses and that should at the very least make the record label happy. The ensemble works well together and McCombs' ability to transition from crooning to growling is one of the biggest selling points. The main issue is that the CD does feel like it is a safe move in Drowning Pool's career path. Of course, after all of their ups and downs, you can't fault a band for wanting job security. The quartet can rest easy, as its new CD should receive heavy airplay rotation. // 7