For a veteran radio rock band producing a heady concept album may seem strange, but San Diego’s P.O.D. has made a career of making left turns seem right. They have been able to shift chameleon-like from their early days as So-Cal hardcore punks, to Nu Metal, to active rock torchbearers while still writing big hits. When you are a band at this level, the choice to make a concept album at this stage of the game is a curious move, but a welcome one.
Following a day in the life of the main protagonist, with all the moral choices a person has to make daily, The Awakening (T-Boy/Universal) is tied together with little vignettes in the form of the intros and outros of tracks. Some of the acting is hammy in places, but in the context of the album, it works. Without being too preachy, the long running Christian act continues to ply its faith through lyrics firmly on each track. Opening with the posi-rock of ‘Am I Awake’, the track sets the tone. I expect arena rock ready hit single ‘This Goes Out To You’ to be heard in the PA system of every NFL stadium this fall. It’s an homage to the SoCal lifestyle the band grew up with and their fans.
The broody ‘Rise of NWO’ is going to be a hit with the bro in your life that follows Facebook groups and Reddit threads about The Illuminati, and False Flag nuts. The track is heavy and features Sonny Sandoval’s deft rhyming. Marcus Curiel, along with help from drummer Wuv Bernardo have done some of the best guitar work in the history of the band on The Awakening. ‘Criminal Conversations’ features In This Moment’s Maria Brink in the lens of an adulterous relationship. Musically the ballad works, and I can see it being a hit with fans, but I wasn’t crazy about the collabo. One exciting thing about the album is the band reconnects with its punk roots on ‘Speed Demon’ and ‘Revolución,’ which features Lou Koller from Sick Of It All. The most surprising track on the album is ‘Want It All’. In addition to the heart tugging vocals and lyrics covering the “why are we all here” stuff, it is a slick Jazzy tune, complete with smokey horns and vibraphone parts that chill you way out.
The Awakening feels like a comeback album for a band that didn’t need to make one. It’s cool to see them challenge themselves and their listeners at a time when many other bands just mail it in.