Sound: After the death of original vocalist Dave Williams, Drowning Pool seemed to go through frontman after frontman in an attempt to recapture the same chemistry heard in songs like "Bodies." The guys in Drowning Pool are back with another new vocalist for their latest CD Full Circle, and here's a word to the wise: This one's a keeper. Vocalist Ryan McCombs undoubtedly will be able to do justice to the band's previous material, but he also has a range that at times has a striking similarity to Alice In Chains' Layne Staley. "Full Circle" was produced by Ben Schigel, DJ Ashba, and even Nikki Sixx, and there is definitely a sleeker and more thought-out sound to the record. The band actually even took the unplugged approach on many of it's songs like Alice In Chains, but Drowning Pool usually speeds things up before you can call any track on "Full Circle" entirely acoustic.
The album starts off with the high-energy title track Full Circle, although it doesn't feature as much riff work as you might hope an opening song might have. There is some very nice double bass pedal that pops up at the end of the song, which builds upon the song's energy. While Full Circle isn't the best representation of the CD, there are several songs that make up for it by the time you listen to the 13th track. When it comes down to it, the tracks that do incorporate the unplugged aspect into the mix are usually the ones that make the biggest impression.
Songs like "Reborn" and "Paralyzed" are just a couple of the tracks that start off with acoustic guitar work from C.J. Pierce, who does a phenomenal job and will hopefully consider recording a completely unplugged album in the future. Reborn is the standout, just by fact that it adds some unique instrumentation along the way. Besides Pierce's lead guitar lines being played between the verse and chorus, there is also a very cool breakdown that features tribal-like percussion from Mike Luce. Paralyzed takes it time in terms of building intensity, but it gradually becomes a full-on rock song by it's close.
Enough can't be said about Ryan McCombs' vocals on "Full Circle." While he never made a huge breakthrough with SOiL, it's obvious that he's found his niche with Drowning Pool. The man can sound eerily like original vocalist Dave Williams at times, but then at other times he morphs into a Layne Staley type of vocal. It makes for an interesting listen, particularly when his vocals are doubled. His voice is strong enough to stand on its own, but hearing it doubled (and perhaps even tripled) is extremely effective.
It should be mentioned that the band's single "Soldiers" has an interesting back story. There's a breakdown halfway through that features the snare prominently, and originally McCombs was going to make a patriotic speech over it. According to Pierce, the movie company responsible for the Patton thought it bared too close a resemblance to a certain scene in the film. Long story short, there is no longer a speech - McCombs only sings a very brief line before entering into the final section of the song. If you do catch Drowning Pool live, it's possible that you might be able to catch a bit of the original version, pro-American speech and all. // 9
Lyrics: The band wrote Soldiers for the men and women serving in the Middle East, and the quartet deserves credit for taking that risk. With all of the anti-war and anti-Bush sentiment out there, it's becoming rare to hear a generally positive message sent out to the soldiers. McCombs sings, "On your feet! Who's with me? Lock tide, hold steady, there it goes stand ready; There is no compromise; Your pain you're worth your sacrifice." The band has apparently been a source of inspiration for the troops, so to write a song about them (and work with the USO no less) is very cool on their part. // 8
Overall Impression: Along with the original songs on "Full Circle," listeners are also treated to Drowning Pool's rendition of "Rebel Yell." If you're a fan of the Billy Idol original, then you're not likely to think recording the track was necessary in all honesty. The band doesn't add a whole lot to the song, but at the same time they don't desecrate it, either. Drowning Pool saved "Rebel Yell" for it's closing track, and it does have the energy to hold that position down well.
The latest incarnation of Drowning Pool should likely be respected by old and new fans alike. There is a softened aspect to some of the songs, particularly with the amount of acoustic work done on "Full Circle," but that's one of the best things about the album. The band rarely lets a song go too far without adding in electric guitar and bass, although they didn't need to. It would have been nice to hear at least 1 song go all the way through without any rise in the tempo. In any case, Drowning Pool has a satisfying set of songs that prove they made the 100 percent correct decision in taking on frontman Ryan McCombs. // 9