I don’t know if P.O.D. are avid readers of English writer W Somerset Maugham but they seem to have taken his words to heart that “the essence of the beautiful is unity in variety”. Having gone down a slightly more homogeneous route with last album Payable On Death, Testify sees them unfurling their wings like they did on the mega-selling Fundamental Elements Of Southtown and Satellite to embrace metal, commercial rock, pop, hip hop, reggae and dub.
Of course, such eclecticism would be pointless if the songs were no good. However, yet again Messrs Sandoval, Truby, Daniels and Bernardo have managed to craft a collection that contains no weak links, no fillers, no afterthoughts and almost no mistakes. That all is wonderfully right in the P.O.D. camp is in evidence from the moment Roots In Stereo high-kicks the door down. Featuring Hasidic Jewish reggae man Matisyahu, it rocks, it rolls, it raps and it rastas before unleashing one of those arena-sized choruses that P.O.D. have become experts at devising.
Lights Out bolts out of the starting gate soon afterwards and is another thoroughbred of a song, with chunky, muscular, hard rockin’ guitar licks from Jason Truby (who, as opposed to on Payable On Death, now sounds like he was always in P.O.D.) and an aggressive, in-yer-face chorus (“word on the street is the boyz is back!”). Elsewhere, Sounds Like War, Mistakes And Glories, Teachers and Say Hello continue the musically belligerent but oh-so-alluring theme with sharp melodies, powerhouse rhythms, quickfire vocals and moshpit-baiting riffs.
That many winning tracks on one album would be more than most bands could ever wish for, but then P.O.D. aren’t “most bands”. After all, “most bands” wouldn’t have a hope in heaven of surpassing the aforementioned highlights with something out of a completely different musical book. Yet, Strength Of My Life does just that with its shimmeringly cool, pure reggae vibe, glorious melody and euphoric, life-affirming lyrics (“If Jah is for me, tell me whom I gonna fear? Strength of my life – whom shall I dread?”).
On The Grind, meanwhile, features the sinister rapping of Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E. and The Psycho Realm‘s Sick Jacken. During the verses, the huge bass-line and dark guitar effects undeniably give the feel of Follow The Leader-era Korn, but it’s safe to say that Jonathan Davis and co would never have concocted such a sweet, redolent chorus as that which graces this track. A crossover hit in the making? If there were any justice…
Now the observant will have noted that we said Testify came with “almost” no mistakes. If it does have an Achilles Heel, it is in its track ordering, with the ultra-tuneful, radio-friendly If You Could See Me Now, Goodbye For Now, On The Grind and This Time tucked very close together in the first half of the album.
Not one of these tracks is remotely close to being a bad song but by not being dotted around the album, there is the risk that those looking for musically rockier terrain will end up hitting the skip button or worse, switching off altogether.
Still, no-one narrow-minded should venture to listen to P.O.D. As an album, Testify is united by the unswerving quality of its songs as well as its musical diversity. The same author who defined this as “beautiful” also said that “people ask for criticism, but they only want praise”. In P.O.D.’s case, it’s difficult to offer anything but the latter.