Friday, November 17, 2017

P.O.D. The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (1999) Review

P.O.D. "The Fundamental Elements of Southtown" (1999) LP Cover
There is something interesting about the late 1990s alternative music scene. A lot of bands started to come through that were not necessarily just metallic in nature, but had a fusion of different elements. Some people like to call certain bands “Nu Metal”, but there are some that were beyond that, including those that mixed reggae, punk, hardcore, metal, and more. This was true for the mainstream rock radio scene, and the world of Christian music.

Now, a lot of people don’t talk about Christian music because they felt it was an inferior product, and in most cases they were right. Except for the fact that there were some musicians that had a lot of talent, and that’s where we stop today in our reviews. We go to the year 1999. That’s when a formerly Christian only band made a huge jump to a major record label and blew the doors down with a unique blend of rock music. The band is none other than P.O.D. and the record they put out was “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown”.

From Screams To Melody

This record came right after the release of “The Warriors EP” which sold out fast, and would preview the seismic shift that the band would go through. Before P.O.D. was a mixture of different musical genres, they were mostly rap and metal mixed. They were hardcore, and would scream, and shut more than they would sing. Then things changed for this record, and it would be recorded in a month in 1999, before it would be released on August 24, 1999. The band’s initial debut would feature nearly an hour’s worth of music, produced by Howard Benson, and released through the major record label Atlantic Records.

The first single would set the tone for the record, with a 5 minute 22 second song, “Hollywood” which featured Lisa Papineau doing vocal samples. The song is a rap metal fusion, with a focus on storytelling, warning of Hollywood’s gripes. Some compare it to what Cypress Hill did with “Superstar”, as it has a similar theme.

This was just a starting point for the band as the record breaks through a variety of sounds, but this has a heavy metallic sound throughout, with guitar work from Marcos Curiel, and stellar drums from Wuv Bernardo. The bass playing was good too, Traa Daniels has always been good at mixing up rock sounds, but the single guitar work from Marcos is a staple of the early and latter records from P.O.D., and it starts off well with the single opening here.

Slow Builds To Larger Thoughts

The majority of the record starts with simple riffs, and then explodes with incredible percussion, and heavy metal riffing. Marcos’ guitar work is stellar here, and the drums with the bass guitar lines work so well with Sonny Sandoval’s powerful vocal delivery. It’s something that made the band stand out amidst a lot of other bands trying to rap and sing throughout their songs. This was like nothing else on the market during the 1999 rush for harder music. While contemporaries such as Limp Bizkit, Taproot, and others would fuse metal and rap, P.O.D. would do it with a sense of Jamaican roots, and it would come through with several songs, specifically “Set Your Eyes To Zion”, “Tribal”, and the opening track of “Hollywood”.

Positivity Throughout

The lyrical contents of P.O.D.’s “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown” are positive. They are a Christian band after all, but they don’t necessarily sing only religious speak. They actually caught flack for straying a bit from that path throughout their career, as the Christian market would even censor the artwork of their album, and would not sell it through many stores that would sell Christian music. That didn’t bother the band as much, because they were moving into secular realms, and were being embraced by a lot of different people for being good at music, not just the message that they put through. The lyrics are mostly positive, and some are specifically Christian, with a focus on Arminian theology in the Dutch reformed ideas. Not familiar with that? Don’t worry, you won’t even notice it through the music.

I give P.O.D. “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown” a 4 out of 5.

P.O.D. did a great deal of work to jump from the independent scene to the mainstream. With their major label debut, they mixed a lot of genres, pulled through some incredible songs, and went mainstream without selling out. Sonny’s powerful vocals are highlighted with killer riffs, bass lines, and nice fills from the drums, and it’s a heavy record, without limiting the themes and ideas of positivity. It still holds up after all of these years as well.

You can buy the uncensored artwork, and record from P.O.D. right now. Pick up “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown” by clicking here, and give this eclectic metallic infused rock record another shot, it’s well worth it.

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