Last fall, P.O.D.’s "Alive" was one of the hottest songs on rock radio. A year later, the San Diego pop-metal band are still flying high: they’ve sold three million copies of their second major-label album, Satellite (Atlantic), which was recently reissued with extra tracks and a bonus DVD. They’ve had three further hits: the tender elegy "Youth of the Nation," the rap-metal party jam "Boom," and the bittersweet "Satellite." And the heavy-metal spiritual "Alive," the biggest Christian-inspired rock song since U2’s "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For," has them being showered with praise for having restored positivity to the rock world.
In the meantime, P.O.D.’s success has cleared a path to the rock mainstream for legions of other bands in the Christian punk-metal underground who harbor crossover dreams. Stockholm’s Blindside are the most prominent: their new Silence (Three Points/Elektra) is the first release on P.O.D.’s Three Points vanity label. With two discs on the Seattle Christian-metal label Solid State and a couple of P.O.D. tours under their belts, the band have been making waves in the underground for years. But Silence, which was recorded with P.O.D. producer Howard Benson, marks the first time Blindside have made a CD in the US. They’re starting to get some love at radio, and they’re opening for Hoobastank on a national tour that hits the Roxy this Friday.
Blindside share P.O.D.’s spiritual bent as well as that band’s DIY roots. But they’re not clones — they show a more pronounced hardcore influence than their rock-star buddies, and frontman Christian substitutes poetic screaming for the hip-hop flow of P.O.D. vocalist Sonny. On the first single, "Pitiful," the band are disgraced sinners offering pretty vocal melodies and self-lacerating guitar riffs to God in exchange for forgiveness. The song isn’t as upbeat as "Alive," but its vivid crucifixion imagery and Christian’s climactic howl ("And I remember every word you said!") put them on the right stairway to heaven.
Christian is a sharper lyricist than your average introspective hardcore frontman, and Blindside come up with as many bracing pop choruses as they do noisy left turns. "Caught a Glimpse" finds them brooding in harmony over a thunderous groove that sounds as if it were missing a few beats; "Sleepwalking" bounces between good-time funk metal and an epic chorus that bleeds desperation. The religious overtones aren’t always as explicit as they are in "Pitiful": on "Cute Boring Love," Christian abandons the spiritual conceit entirely and puts on his best emo voice to sing about girls. He turns his thoughts to the Lord again on the title track, a gorgeous acoustic ballad about the rewards of faith.
Southern California’s Project 86 share both their Christian-metal roots and their management team with P.O.D. and Blindside. Their major-label debut, Drawing Black Lines (Atlantic), came out shortly after P.O.D.’s during the rap-metal explosion of a few years back. It wasn’t a hit, but Project 86 outdid many of their Christian-rock and Bizkit-fed peers with their bleak candor and razor-sharp delivery. Now they’re back with Truthless Heroes (Atlantic) and a crucial opening spot on the upcoming Taproot tour, which hits Axis October 23.
Project 86 are calling Truthless Heroes a concept album — something few contemporary metal bands have attempted. It’s an enraged commentary on the evils of American pop culture: an individual with a television set for a head adorns the cover, and "commercials" are placed at regular intervals throughout the disc to simulate the feel of an hour-long TV show.
"Hollow Again," the first single, is a slight disappointment: its plodding beats and downcast hooks are listless new-metal stand-bys, and frontman Andrew Schwab’s cynicism is overbearing. Never one to proselytize in the first place, he spends the song and much of the album questioning his own faith, something that won’t endear the band to hardcore Christian-rock fans. But Project 86 can still shred, and they also have some fun with the concept: "S.M.C." tosses a few punked-up barbs at the Church, and "Another Boredom Movement" is a noise-addled rant against the music industry. There’s plenty of well-articulated angst on Truthless Heroes, but it would be great if some positive vibes from P.O.D. and Blindside could start rubbing off on Project 86 sometime soon.
Blindside open for Hoobastank this Friday, October 4, at the Roxy. Call (617) 338-7699. Project 86 open for Taproot on Wednesday October 23 at Axis. Call (617) 423-NEXT.