P.O.D.'s 2001 release Satellite made the born-again Christian rap-metalists stars as they racked up hits with "Alive," "Boom," and the post-Columbine anthem "Youth of the Nation." It was clear that any follow-up would be hotly anticipated, but no one could have predicted the departure of guitarist Marcos at the height of the band's success. A crucial part of P.O.D.'s sound, Marcos seemed to combine the epic metal of Sepultura with the organic punk energy of Bad Brains and the searching spirituality of Carlos Santana. It was also unclear as to why he actually left, with both Marcos and the band issuing contradictory explanations that brought into question both parties' spiritual and musical convictions. One thing was clear though, it was going to take a strong creative force to make up for the loss: enter ex-Living Sacrifice fret-man Jason Truby, who joined the band just in time to record its single for the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack as well as the 2003 full-length Payable on Death. A darker album than its predecessor, Payable is built largely around Truby's precise slabs of distorted guitar. More quintessentially "metal" in his approach -- think Metallica -- and more of a conscientious technician than Marcos, Truby unfortunately lacks some of the unexpected spark that Marcos brought to P.O.D.. Fans of the band shouldn't find much to complain about here though, even if the overall sound doesn't stand out as distinctly from the nu-metal pack as Satellite did. Nevertheless, vocalist Sonny hasn't lost any of his Tom Morello meets H.R. attitude, and for the most part the songs are there. Notably, "Change the World" is a catchy and upbeat celebration of truth through the eyes of a child, and the darkly sanguine leadoff track, "Wildfire," finds Sonny proclaiming, "Me want uncultivated Jah glow." In the end though, Payable on Death is a declaration of a band reborn in a new, more polished image, and it is no small gesture that the last track, "Eternal," goes solely instrumental with Truby's guitar leading the way. [Payable on Death was also released with a bonus disc featuring the video game Amplitude that the band developed for the PlayStation 2 system, as well as a 50-minute film, Inside P.O.D. Culture.]
The departure of co-founding guitarist Marcos Curiel hasn't had a palpable effect on the sound of this exceedingly heavy, exceedingly positive-minded Cali quartet. This, P.O.D.'s third outing since entering the major-label ranks, restates the band's fondness for shout-along moments -- best manifested on "Will You" and the mosh-mad "Waiting on the World." The disc is also peppered with the sort of anthems that singer Sonny Sandoval seems to pull out at will, with "Find My Way" likely to elicit the most Bic flicks and arm waves when these songs get aired in concert. A kinder, gentler side to the band bobs to the surface on "Eternal," which is dominated by muted guitars -- some acoustic -- that recall early Santana, particularly when the rhythm section slides into a surprisingly seductive fusion groove. The reggae elements that emerged on The Fundamental Elements of Southtown are given more space here, with mixed results: "Execute the Sounds," with its subtle, island-tinged lope, offers just the right amount of rhythmic slackness, while "Freedom Fighters" comes off a bit too heavy-handed for its own good. Admittedly, P.O.D. don't break a lot of new ground here, but they do a mighty good job of shaking up the terra firma they've staked out.
All Music Guide - Matt Collar
Spin Magazine - Sean Richardson
Payable on Death's heaviest tracks... easily out-crunch the competition. (B)