Sound — 8
There's been plenty of buzz about what to expect from P.O.D.'s new album now that original guitarist Marcos Curiel has reclaimed his place in the band. The last few albums without Curiel have been met with lukewarm reactions, so it's safe to say that there were plenty of fans who had high expectations for the band's latest release When Angels & Serpents Dance. Curiel definitely adds a distinct sound to the record that almost has a Santana feel at times, but it's actually the addition of guest artists Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies), Page Hamilton (Helmet), and the Melody Makers that truly takes the album in unique, surprising directions. When Angels & Serpents Dance marks P.O.D.'s 7th studio album, and it's definitely one of the most musically eclectic among the bunch. The nu-metal title still is somewhat appropriate, but it's impossible to pigeonhole them that easily with the new material. Addicted is an all-around strong traditional rock track with a nice low guitar range that pulls you in immediately. Curiel makes a memorable re-introduction into the band with a skilled solo, and vocalist Sonny Sandoval sounds equally as strong -- even taking on a bit of Mike Muir's trademark vocal style at times. Kaliforn-Eye-A (not wild about the title) is actually the track that Muir appears on, and it's one of the strongest on the album. It begins with a John Frusciante-like funky guitar intro, but it takes plenty of turns during the course of the song. About halfway through it morphs into a typical rock track, but by the end it could very easily be mistaken for a Suicidal Tendencies song, abrupt tempo changes and all. The band experiments with a variety of styles, and it's that mix that keeps things moving on the album. Reggae is the driving force of I'll Be Ready (which features the Marley sisters aka The Melody Makers), while It Can't Rain Everyday is more of a nod to Santana. Page Hamilton's appearance on God Forbid is actually a bit overpowering and definitely transforms everything into a Helmet song, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The band does fall into the trap of getting a bit repetitive in some tracks (End Of The World goes on excruciatingly long), but there are enough interesting moments throughout the 13-track CD to allow a few flaws.
Lyrics — 9
P.O.D. still remains one of the more popular bands in the Christian music scene, but the band is careful not to go overboard with overt, in-your-face religious messages. Instead we get a series of poetic, metaphorical songs that are extremely well-written, regardless of the religious element. The title track has amazing imagery with lyrics like, Maliciously, creeping, flowing; Righteous, moral, and just; Deceitful creature is crawling; The guardian is flying; The dance is breathing; Who's leading? It's a pretty interesting take on the path we take in life, regardless of what religion you subscribe to in your life.
Overall Impression — 8
Curiel makes his mark in song after song on the first album he's been on since 2003. The guitarist at times has truly a Santana-inspired delivery, particularly in the beautiful instrumental Roman Empire. At other times his guitar almost has a darker, Black Sabbath feel, which makes for a nice contrast. P.O.D. should continue to give Curiel the spotlight, whether that means more instrumental tracks or extended intros/solos. At times the band slips into the generic zone (Shine With Me is just a little too lackluster when compared with the rest of the album), but things pick up not long after. While it can be argued that Mike Muir, Page Hamilton, and even the Melody Makers completely overtake the tracks on which they appear, there is still enough of P.O.D.'s presence to hear the difference in styles. In any case, the guests were nothing but a positive move on the part of P.O.D., who prove they are much more than just a nu-metal band on the album.