Sound — 7
P.O.D. were formed in 1992 as a Christian metal band with reggae and punk influences, with a lot of their early material incorporating rap - making the band's earlier material being rap metal or nu metal. Despite the commercial ceiling that most Christian bands face, P.O.D. has been extremely successful - especially in the mid to late '90s, when the band's music videos become very popular on MTV during TRL and also on the MTV2 station. The band experienced some drama in 2003 when Marcos Curiel left the band with the band stating he left to pursue other interests while Marcos stated that in actuality the band had kicked him out. Marcos rejoined the band in late 2006, when his replacement, Jason Truby, left P.O.D. to pursue a solo career. "The Awakening" is the band's 10th studio album and contains 10 tracks with an approximate runtime of 45 minutes. The album was produced by Howard Benson and tells the story of a protagonist battling his personal demons, which is a common theme with some of the band's other albums.
The album opens up with the track, "Am I Awake," which heavily features audio samples of speeches and newscasts, and eventually moves to a heavy riff with a lot of groove and a sing-a-long chorus. "This Goes Out to You" has a kind of grunge metal intro, but with the meat of the music and lyrics being much more like the band's previous nu metal style from their earlier days. The track ends with a skit where the protagonist receives a call where he is asked by a mysterious voice "are you ready?" "Rise of NWO" opens up with some brief audio samples and a weird demon voice, then a melody with a vaguely eastern/ middle-eastern vibe to it, and the lyrics come in as rapped vocals with Sonny ending a lot of his lines with a slight vibrato that reminds me of Busta Rhymes early material. The "breakdown" on "Rise of NWO," or whatever you call it - it isn't a solo, was very interesting. "Criminal Conversations" starts out with a skit with the protagonist talking to a love interest on the phone while she sends her husband off to work and plans to drop her kids off with her husband's parents. This track features Maria Brink from In This Moment as a guest vocalist. The song seems to mostly be about being manipulated by a female love interest. Maria Brink's vocals are instantly recognizable, as her vocals are very distinctive here as they are with her band, In This Moment. "Somebody's Trying to Kill Me" begins with a skit with the protagonist meeting a religious mentor where he argues that God can't help him and that someone is trying to kill him. This is mostly a slower track, but it has a lot of intensity, with the lines "Somebody is trying to kill me/ Or is this all in my mind" dominating the track. "Get Down" opens with a nice grungy opening riff, and stays pretty heavy throughout the track. "Speed Demon" starts out with a skit with a dude (the protagonist?) stealing a car, and then the track is just a fast rocker and very straightforward with predictable lyrics about "living life in the fast lane." The song ends with the protagonist being arrested. The next track, "Want It All," starts out with a short skit with the protagonist being released from jail and provided his court date. The music on this one is fairly surprising, with a strong jazz vibe to it, sounding really a lot like Phish performing jazz. "Revolucion" starts out with some monologue "Take what you want/ Give in/ Answer to no one/ Give in to yourselves/ Do what you want/ Give in to us/ Answer to us/ Surrender/ Abandon self" and such. This track has guest lyrics from hardcore punk vocalist, Lou Koller of Sick of It All. The album closes out with the title track, "The Awakening," which opens with 2 skits, the first with the protagonist finding a lost boy and helping reunite him with his father, and the second skit has the protagonist going to his father, who is very confrontational, and telling his father he forgives him. Musically, "The Awakening" has a very positive outlook, with lyrics about getting to a place where you can make the decision to heal yourself or remain broken. I don't always like albums that are pushing a religious of philosophical agenda, but this album was palatable.
Lyrics — 7
Sonny Sandoval is a solid vocalist, especially for the style of the band where he often has to rap or sing, or even produce reggae-styled vocals. The rest of the band provides solid backing vocals. I appreciated Maria Brink's contributions as a guest vocalist on "Criminal Conversations," but I feel like she could have been used to much greater effect with a little bit of creativity. Lou Koller's guest vocals on "Revolucion" were solid punk rock vocals, and he isn't somebody I was very aware of previously, but I feel motivated to check out his band, Sick of It All, after hearing him. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from "This Goes Out to You": "I've been around so many places/ Identical odds a million faces/ Ups and downs traditional phases/ And I I I I/ I ain't gonna change still youth of the nation/ Four corners of the world positive vibration/ And stereo beats were our foundations/ And I I I I/ Hey you/ This goes out to you/ For all the things you do/ Hey/ This song goes out to you/ For everything and all that we go through/ All sold out and dedicated/ Block connected street related/ All original never duplicated/And I I I I/ I want you to know my appreciation/ Through all of these years you're an inspiration/ In honor of you it's a celebration." I think lyrically I have to comment on the skits and everything, too, and I think it definitely helps to make this an interesting album to listen to from start to finish, but it kind of hurts the album for those who prefer to listen to individual songs and don't care about the album's continuity, etc.
Overall Impression — 6
This was a pretty enjoyable experience to listen to, with some of that being due to the narrative of the album and the skits, but the songs were solid enough. Being completely honest, I remember the skits and narrative better than any specific songs on the album. You can draw your own conclusions from that statement. I really enjoyed "Want It All," "Revolucion," "Criminal Conversations," and "Rise of NOW." I didn't really dislike any of the tracks, but there are definitely a few weaker tracks on the album.