Overall Score: 7/10 Intros: 10/10 Choruses: 5/10 Professionalism: 9/10 Pros: Excellent guitars l Head banging riffs l Musical excellence Cons: Average lyrics l Too many filler songs
It’s been a turbulent 15 year ride for Texan metal stalwarts Drowning Pool. They’ve had the highs of global mega-smash ‘Bodies’ – a song beloved of sweaty rock clubs and US soldiers, but despised by Iraqi detainees who were reportedly “tortured” by repeated plays of the track – but also lows, most notably the tragic untimely death of original vocalist Dave Williams from cardiomyopathy in 2002.
Following Williams’ death, the band recorded an album (Desensitized) with Jason ‘Gong’ Jones and then two (Full Circle, Drowning Pool) with Soil’s Ryan McCombs on vocals, it’s perhaps not a big surprise that new album Resilience sees the Dallas outfit, completed by guitarist CJ Pierce, bassist Stevie Benton and drummer Mike Luce, working with a new singer. That singer is Jasen Moreno, formerly of fellow Dallas rockers The Suicide Hook (don’t worry, I’d never heard of them either) and all things considered he’s pretty damn good! His voice displays a superb range and a great balance between the melodic and aggressive. At times he reminds me of latter days Axl Rose with a slice of Lane Staley but he still manages to bring his own unique spin. To an extent at least. He certainly seems to have been influenced by his predecessor Ryan McCombs – there’s plenty of that primal throaty roar – but it never feels like he’s doing an impersonation. So the biggest question mark about the album – could Moreno fill the big boots of singers past – ends up being a bit of a non-issue. If there are problems with the album (which there are) then they’re not vocal related.
Sonically the album has a classic American hard-rock-radio sound, precision engineered for blasting out of pick-up trucks across the Mid-West. Producer Kato Khandwalla is a dab hand at this kinda stuff having helmed their previous record and engineered the likes of Breaking Benjamin – the ultimate Pro-tools enabled hard-rock-radio band. On this basis, there’s not a lot of subtly here… but if you’re looking for subtly you’re unlikely to be putting on a Drowning Pool record in the first place. John Feldmann also receives a fairly all encompassing “composer, producer, mixer” credit, which most likely means he came in for an afternoon, tweaked a couple of choruses, twisted a few knobs and then took a 10% writing credit!
Purists might argue that the record is a touch over-produced and there is certainly a Pro-tooled perfection about it, but we’ve got to the stage where we’ve got to accept that this is how records are made nowadays and there’s not much point in harping on about how great early Sabbath sounds with the odd bum note or how John Bonham’s inability to keep a consistent tempo ‘made’ the Zep… technology is here and people are going to use it, deal with it. That said, the album seemed slightly uneven mix wise– now obviously we’re not listening on crystal clear studio speakers – but it didn’t seem absolutely bang on.
Musically everyone is on point. Drummer Mike Luce sounds huge – no more so than in the double-kick heavy intro to opener ‘Anytime Anyplace’. Guitarist CJ Pierce has some really kicking solos too. He’s a very under-rated guitarist and obviously best known for chugging out down-tuned nu-metal riffs. But the little bursts of solo that he allows himself are genuinely impressive and impressively varied. While on ‘Anytime Anyplace’ he goes for the full on precision shred, on ‘Life of Misery’ he busts out an almost Tom Morello-esque effects driven effort. We also shouldn’t overlook his skill in the riffs department too – it’s a fairly limited palette he has to paint with and managing to come up with even vaguely new variations has to be applauded.
The only real issue that I have with the album is that the songwriting isn’t quite strong enough. Too often a great intro, like’ Life of Misery’, is given a rather lacklustre chorus. Actually that’s a running theme throughout the album – the choruses just aren’t quite strong enough. They’re not dreadful; but they’re only functional. These seem like songs that are written from the intro, to the verse, to the chorus – rather than starting with a great chorus and working backwards. There are many memorable moments on the album, but they’re not normally in the all-important choruses.
Lyrically it’s pretty mediocre – there’s nothing here that will have you thinking “oh that’s a clever line”. It generally seems to be aiming to become US Army workout playlist fodder (‘Anytime Anyplace’, ‘Bleed With You’, ‘Die for Nothing’, ‘Understand’) but in single ‘Saturday Night’ they go slightly off-piste with an attempt at a party anthem. It doesn’t really work. Second single ‘One Finger and a Fist’ sees Drowning Pool on more familiar ‘angry-guy’ territory but the title is so unintentionally hilarious it’s hard to really take the song seriously.
In the end, this is a very professional album by a very professional band. It’s got those little touches of programming that define the Drowning Pool sound without being slavish to their past. It’s full of bangin’ riffs, pounding drums and aggressive but accessible vocals. Does it have much heart? No. Will it change your life? No. Will you find yourself spontaneous headbanging along? Almost certainly. It’s unlikely to propel Drowning Pool to magazine front covers but it will cement their reputation as a band you wouldn’t mind seeing at 2:30pm Saturday afternoon on the Download Main Stage.