For all of last year's much-hyped reunions one that flew under the radar is the rejoining of guitarist Marcos Curiel with his San Diego brothers P.O.D. Don't expect it to go unnoticed in 2008, as the line-up that took P.O.D. to multiple platinum successes with 1999's The Fundamental Elements Of Southtown and 2001's triple-platinum Satellite, which featured the hit singles "Youth of a Nation", "Alive", "Boom", and the title track, is back to reclaim their place atop the rock scene with their Columbia Records debut, When Angels And Serpents Dance.
"Our fans are excited and we're having a lot of fun," front man Sonny says. "After four years Marcos is back in the band, we've got new music. Things are exciting. When the four of us are in a room making music it's definitely right and Marcos has a distinctive sound, it definitely sounds like him and he brings that passion for music into the band."
The quartet's renewed vigour is evident throughout When Angels and Serpents Dance, from the searing guitar line that kicks off the in your face hard rocker "Addicted" to the monumental, "End Of The World" complete a gospel choir, to the album's most ferocious track, the savage "Like Old Times", the first song written by the reunited incarnation of the quartet. "I think the first riff [Marcos] showed us, the working title was called "Seems Like Old Times'," Sonny says of the song. "He started writing a riff and the only way we could remember it being it was our first riff together was to call it 'Seems Like Old Times.'"
"When we were starting to get together I'd watch the guys play and it was just like riding a bike," Sonny says. "They know each other's styles and they know how to lock in quick. It was a cool experience just watching the guys work."
But as Sonny pointed out earlier, this is P.O.D. four years later. And as people the guys have changed. "Age has a lot to do with it, getting older. I'm married with kids now and we're not 18 in the garage anymore playing hardcore punk. We don't sound like those guys down in the garage," he says.
That slightly softer side comes through in the album's versatility. Whether it be the band displaying a bluesy hard rock feel at the outset of "Rain Everyday," a song with clever vignettes in the bridges or an almost poppy chorus in the infectious "Shine With Me," P.O.D.'s range is very evident.
That is never more the case though than on the politically charged ballad "Tell Me Why", a poignant track in which Sonny asks in the chorus, "Why must we fight, why must we kill in the name of what we think is right?"
The band is finding that fans are responding to the different sound, which Sonny believes will give P.O.D. a chance to expand their already diverse live concerts. "The last song we recorded was an acoustic song and it's getting a lot of buzz, just label people and even our street team that we let hear it," Sonny says. "I don't think we ever broke out an acoustic guitar and just did a slow song, but obviously it's got some kind of impact. We've heard nothing but cool things. The next tour we might have to break off in the middle and break out an acoustic guitar and do something different."
To help facilitate their different sides into the collective that is When Angels and Serpents Dance the foursome turned to producer Jay Baumgardner. "He's a pretty straight-forward kind of guy and what we liked about him as a producer is he definitely gives you ideas and he has ideas of his own," Sonny says of Baumgardner. It's cool. He just lets you do your thing and then once we got in the studio is where he started to shine a little bit, breaking stuff down and maybe extending things and trying different stuff. But he knows what he's doing."
Also joining in the fun was legendary punk rock singer, Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, who guests on the track "Kaliforn-Eye-A", The Marley Sisters, who lend their vocal prowess to what Sonny calls "Our reggae track" (I'll Be Ready), and Helmet's Paige Hamilton on "God Forbid", which Sonny calls "probably our heaviest song".
As has always been the case with P.O.D. the band looked to those that inspired them rather than the hot artist of the moment for guests on the album. "That's what we do on our records, we bring in people that influenced us." And while the band is fans of all three of the artists, it's clear that having the daughters of the legendary Bob Marley appear on their album is something Sonny is very proud of. "We thought of the Melody Makers and put a call out to Cedella, which is Marley's first born. She was familiar with the group and when she called my house I was pretty much almost speechless just to hear her voice," Sonny recalls. "We sent her the music, they loved it, and then I flew out there to see the Marley's, I believe it was his home out there in Florida. I just stood out of the way and let them do their thing and it sounds awesome."
When Angels and Serpents Dance is ultimately a P.O.D. record though. And it is a record of P.O.D. in 2008. "As far as P.O.D. goes it's always for the moment," Sonny says. "So throughout this year lyrically and emotion-wise a lot of it is put on this record because it's this time, it's for now. And I don't really write lyrics and a bunch of journals or my thoughts and then just kind of flop it down on some music. I just kind of go through it and whatever the song brings out in us that's it. There's a lot of passion on this record."
Perhaps that passion and energy is because while this line-up of P.O.D. know each other well and the band has amassed GRAMMY® nominations, multi-platinum success, sold-out shows around the world, and all of the ear markings of true rock stars, this is in many ways a new beginning for P.O.D., one that has more to do with them as people than as musicians. "I think it's so cool that we're rebuilding our friendship with Marcos and catching up on old times, it's like putting on an old shoe," Sonny says. "In the handful of shows that we've played I've probably made more eye contact on stage with Marcos than I have even in the past just because it's so cool to look over and see him there. For me the fun part right now is just seeing Marcos up there and I've always loved Marcos' sound and tone. We've been trying out new amps and all kinds of different stuff and we're thinking about maybe bringing another player to jump out there with us and help with some of the music that we're making. So it is like new. I'm actually looking forward to touring and goofing around with the guys."
Indeed, When Angels and Serpents Dance is the sound of a rejuvenated band, the P.O.D. you know and love doing it the only way they know how, passionate, aggressive, and with a message for our times. This is P.O.D. in 2008.