In a post-rapcore world, it can be hard for a band to make the transition to a new age and progression in today's music. For San Diego rockers P.O.D., it's been somewhat of a struggle to know where to go next since their stellar 2001 release Satellite. Their roof-shredding Fundamental Elements Of Southtown grabbed the attention of the mainstream audiences by the throat. Satellite, Southtown's follow-up, was a more radio-friendly project but kept enough ferocity to still be worthy of the P.O.D. branding. Since Satellite, the band lost their original guitarist and installed replacement Jason Truby to mixed results. While melody is hardly a bad thing, Truby's presence stripped some of the harder edge from the band's music that fueled their greatest recordings. Their 2003 self-titled project offered a few memorable tracks but was a letdown at best, leaving some fans wondering where the band they knew and loved for over a decade had gone. Testify, the band's second release with Truby, is an improvement upon their previous effort but remains a mixed bag of sorts.
Testify, a distinctly more spiritual record although not too directly, opens with the reggae rock anthem "Roots In Stereo." "Roots" isn't nearly as good or as effective as "If It Wasn't For You" was for the lead-off track on last year's The Warriors EP, Vol. 2, but is remedied quickly by the rock-fused "Lights Out." The overall musical exploration on Testify blends some of the edge and radio-friendly sensibility of Satellite with the pop and reggae dabblings of Payable On Death for what can easily be labeled as P.O.D.'s most diverse effort to date. "If You Could See Me Now" slows the album down for one of the band's most effective attempts at a rock ballad while "Goodbye For Now," which is curiously Testify's first single, is decent but doesn't fair quite as well. "Sounds Like War" is an alternate version of the "Ya Mama" demo from Warriors 2, replacing "sounds like it's Jah to me" with "sounds like it's war to me" in the song's chorus. Lyrically, the song addresses the daily struggles that wage inside of us every day, while musically it serves as a sort of hard-driven battle cry. Another difference some may notice from "Ya Mama" to "Sounds Like War," is a distinct watering down of Wuv's thumping drum presence.
The rap and R&B elements of "On The Grind," provided mostly by Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., make the song the sore thumb of Testify. While it's something entirely different for P.O.D. to explore, the minimal contribution of Sonny's vocals to the track makes the song sound more like the band is a guest on someone else's record entirely. "This Time" is an all-around about-face, a melodically rich rock track while "Mistakes & Glories" is a unique song that manages to blend elements of hardcore, rapcore, and rock with harmonies. "Let You Down" is an album highlight, an emotional rock track that answers the desperation that drives some to suicide, lyrically inspired by people the band knew who'd attempted suicide during the album's recording process (the band has said that the original demo, titled "New Wave," included a use of the "f" word to make a point but was dropped from the final version). It's a song many can relate to and possibly the album's most powerful moment, proclaiming "You mean more / you mean so much more..." Testify winds down with the reggae worship of "Strength Of My Life," the bitter rebuttal to critical eyes in "Say Hello," and the hard-hitting rock track "Mark My Words," which was lyrically inspired by C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.
Testify may not be the best album the band's recorded, but it offers enough rock to remind listeners just why P.O.D. seized the attention of the mainstream years ago. While the reggae dressings don't always fit as well on the band as their rock and rap gloves do, P.O.D. earns props for trying new things (even if one or two in particular may fail). Testify proves there's steam left in this engine and they may still have more to contribute to the rock scene for years to come.- Review date: 1/22/06, written by John DiBiase
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