Nearly 25 years ago, an upstart California-based nu metal band introduced a brand of rock fusing hip-hop, reggae, punk and metal along with Latin influences of lead singer Sonny Sandoval and longtime band mates Marcos Curiel and Wuv Bernardo. The rockers dropped early hit singles such as “Southtown,” “Alive” and “Youth Of the Nation.”
Fast forward to 2018, and P.O.D. is releasing their tenth studio album and first since The Awakening in 2015. In the trailer for the album, Sandoval talks about how they are inspired to continue to make music by fans who have approached the band about their impact while discussing the vibe on the new tracks.
Circles kicks off with a booming reminder that we’re listening to 25-year veterans of the rock industry. “Rockin’ With the Best” feels like P.O.D. is planting their flag firmly in the ground and staking their claim as the life of the party, ready to take on all newcomers. One of the best lyrics on this track is also a reminder of the technological advancements of the music industry since P.O.D. debuted in January 1994: “As good as it gets from past to present tense / MP3s on iPhones to tapes in cassette decks.”
“Always Southern California” is a catchy yet laid back tune that doubles as a reflective tribute to the place from which P.O.D. hails.
The title track checks in like an anthem for the streets, blending hip-hop verses with those famous Latin-infused harmonies on the chorus. “Circles” is an account of the vicious cycle of addiction, how pain can be temporarily masked but the high is never enough. “I hear you like the tough love / Then push turns to shove ‘cause / You could be my next buzz / When will it be enough ‘cause / I’m just right here spinning in circles.”
“Panic Attack” is among the headbangers sure to be a favorite for rockheads. Traa Daniels drops a steady bass line before transitioning into a filtered rap thrown down by Sonny Sandoval. This fast paced, heavy song examines what it is like for someone who is going through moments of extreme anxiety, battling to overcome the “50 million voices.”
Another tune that provides additional insight into the state of the industry is “On the Radio,” which asks why rock and roll isn’t played on the radio, even though the band still feels the love from fans everywhere they go. Though this track may not receive a lot of air play, listeners will be cranking it on their stereo systems. Feel good tracks like “Fly Away,” “Domino” and 2017 single “Soundboy Killa” are sprinkled throughout this album. These songs are throwbacks featuring more of the reggae-laced metal for which P.O.D. is best known.
Drummer Wuv Bernardo provides the steady backbone on “Listening For The Silence,” a hard-hitting rocker with a message of how to cut through all the voices of chaos and fear to listen for God in the silence. The bridge reads like a prayer: “When these words fail / Then nothing just might make sense / Are you talking to me? / Are you speaking to me?”
P.O.D. solemnly asks what happened to our world and casts a vision for a better world on “Dreaming.” The closer on this 11-track LP speaks to the hopelessness of loneliness, singing with desperation “I just want to go home / It’s as far as I can go / So much more, but nobody knows / I don’t know where else to go / All alone so I just wanna go home.” Marcos Curiel thrives on the electric guitar on “Home,” while the chorus at the end sounds strikingly familiar to the children who appeared in “Youth of the Nation.”
Overall, Circles is a fun and high-energy album that touches on themes of overcoming addictions, anxiety and loneliness. Longtime fans will appreciate that P.O.D. returns to their latin and SoCal influences as they reflect on the magnitude of what it means to have successfully been a band for a quarter century.
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