Aggressive Christian rockers P.O.D. haven't been heard from since the release of 2008's When Angels & Serpents Dance. "By taking a break, we kind of got back on the same page. Now everyone has the same attitude going forward," says guitarist Marcos Curiel. "We can jump from punk to reggae to rap to metal. And funk—people forget we had a little funk on our first few indie releases. So on a few songs here, we took it back."
Musical diversity is indeed one of this group's trademarks. Another has been that P.O.D. always seemed to have a pretty clear sense of who they were addressing, lyrically. But that may be changing. The band's latest effort, Murdered Love, has a prophetic feel to it, and based on P.O.D.'s crossover success, it could serve as a wake-up call to unchurched fans of passionate, pile driver rock. However, some of the decisions the San Diego act makes on its eighth album, perhaps to earn street cred or pound its points home with the lost, are sure to alienate some fans—even die-hards known as Warriors.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
With veiled biblical references, "Eyez" anticipates the day when the world will face judgment and the dead will rise ("You will answer for yourself whether you like it or not!/One man lives, and the other man dies/It's going down right in front of your eyes"). While more introspective than revolutionary, "Higher" also considers the benefits of having faith in what we can't see.
We never hear Jesus' name on the title track, but references to "the divine," "the absolute," "the immaculate" place Him front and center among the innocents slaughtered by those unworthy of selfless love. Then, like the thief on the cross in Luke 23:42, an eyewitness pleads, "Remember me when you step into your glory."
Among the devilish murderers called out is Babylon itself. "Babylon Is a Murderer" appears to have been inspired by Isaiah 13, though lyrics about the day of reckoning and destruction of idols may also refer to our present culture. That's clearly the case on "Panic & Run," which warns of a world winding down—a wicked generation prone to propaganda and media persuasion. The militant "On Fire" rages against this world and its darkness, rallying still uncompromised soldiers to "storm the highways and byways, bring down the walls/I will not sleep until Babylon falls/To coexist with the system is a mission to deceive us."
An uncharacteristic lilting melody reminds hopeless, angry, weary and even suicidal fans that life is "Beautiful," and so are they ("No matter what the people say/It's all gonna be OK/You're beautiful to me"). This San Diego foursome also celebrates its musical and geographic roots on the anthem "West Coast Rock Steady," a shout-out to So Cal life and folks from the 'hood who keep it real and chase their musical dreams. Along the way the guys note that "limousines [and] private jets around the world still don't mean a thing." Unfortunately …
In its praise of the region's ladies, "West Coast Rock Steady" uses sexual attraction as a way to get a jab into the sexual identity wars, asking, "With all these California girls, how could you not be straight?" When describing people's despair on "Beautiful," P.O.D. seems to allude to a drug-induced high, also sharing grim images of a sexually abused cutter and someone contemplating a bullet to the head.
"Lost in Forever" is only problematic in that it seems less confident about what awaits in eternity than a P.O.D. song should. Yet the singer (overcome by a mindless haze) can't wait to get there, musing, "I'm so broken and small/Come here and take me away … We live and we die given to faith and fear/When my time is over, where do I go from here?"
Despite claiming that he's looking for a "good girl" to take home to Momma, a self-proclaimed "Bad Boy" still seems to flirt with intimacy, so long as it holds the promise of something more. He announces, "I'm looking for a love that's true, not some other ho to do" and "I need more than a hit and run/But don't get me wrong, you could be real fun/But it's time for me to find the one/ … Gonna turn you to a freak tonight."
On "I Am" (a track deleted from CDs sold in Christian bookstores, but standard elsewhere) the singer identifies with the "murderer, pervert, dope fiend, whore" and on and on—a catalog of people consumed or victimized by hard-core sin. That list is blunt and unsettling, and while questioning Jesus' willingness to die for someone so far gone, an unredeemed soul makes it clear he understands who Christ is, then screams, "Who the f‑‑‑ is he?"
Who, exactly, is the "who"? "I recorded it the way I felt it, knowing we would decide later whether or not to include it, and we debated over it for a long time," frontman Sonny Sandoval told Christianity Today. "With that lyric, that's me speaking through the mouth of these young people. I'm saying, 'I know who Jesus is, but who are all these other people saying, "I am the way"?' The song is heavy, and in the end, I decided that I'm tired of worrying about what Christians are going to say. I don't want to market the album to people who will trip over that word; I'm not trying to sell records to them. But people in the real world, they get it. They just say, 'That's me you're talking to.'"
The terms "f-ggot" and "b‑‑tard son" also creep in.
At its best, Murdered Love recognizes that a lost world is shuffling toward destruction without a Savior, though P.O.D. rarely refers directly to God or Christ. Not even Jah gets a nod this time. Nevertheless, on most tracks the group's Christian worldview manages to penetrate its core-rattling amalgam of musical styles. In fact, even when P.O.D. shouts, "Come into my house and I'll set you on fire," that's less a threat of violence than an invitation to be radically changed for a worthy cause.
So what's with the crass slang and rogue f-word? Regardless of the intended social or spiritual commentary, they just don't belong here. Ultimately, Sonny Sandoval, Marcos Curiel, Traa Daniels and Wuv Bernardo do a better job stumping for their San Diego heritage and the 'hood than respecting their legion of Christian fans. Moreover, there's enough righteous anger and grim imagery on hand that some young Warriors could get fired up and pointed in the wrong direction. Parents inclined to let their children download Murdered Love's safer tracks a la carte should still plan to walk through those lyrics together.