Whether it be the group's Christian ethos, ethnically diverse makeup, or reggae-sunsplash-meets-Ozfest vibe, P.O.D. has always retained a bit more respectability than their rap-rock peers. Even during the group's most "nu-metal" moments, they sound like they have at least heard Bad Brains' first three albums and probably dug them. Smartly, on their fifth studio album, Testify, the band continues to eschew such rap-rock gimmicks as ancillary use of turntables and cheesy samples, and instead delivers a mature and workmanlike metal monster-piece. Bright, loud, but always artful, Testify's glossy production comes via journeyman hitmaking producer and synthesizer master Glen Ballard. While P.O.D. has lost none of their rootsy funk metal swagger, Ballard -- the man behind such pop titans as Michael Jackson, Van Halen, and Alanis Morissette -- has found a way to give them an eminently palatable studio sheen that brings to mind a deft mix of the arena rock of Asia and the Police, as much as it does Sepultura. The move toward a more polished sound also pays dividends creatively, as guitarist Jason Truby, while not quite as forward-thinking as Audioslave's Tom Morello, nonetheless shines under Ballard's approach, delivering a truly inspired and technically brilliant performance. Similarly, vocalist Sonny seems reinvigorated and practically giddy on the lead-off track, "Roots in Stereo." Spiritually, the band is as concerned as ever with Jah, inner strength, and the "blood of God's veins," and if the melancholy single "Goodbye for Now" is any indication, they still have a few inner demons to wrestle with creatively. Luckily, though, they haven't forgotten the funk, and songs such as the head-snapping "Lights Out" and the Sabbath-esque "Sounds Like War" combine a bit of hip-hop fun with Bob Marley-inspired metal faith. Throw in a couple of serendipitous guest spots from Hasidic rapper Matisyahu and by the time you get to the devastating metal-reggae album closer, "Mark My Words," you've got a band reborn.
by Matt Collar