DROWNING POOL, as a band, has worked hard to maintain its identity following the 2002 death of original singer Dave Williams. Following stints by Jason Jones and Ryan McCombs, DROWNING POOL appears to have mainlined their mojo with Jasen Moreno who joined the band in 2012, holding it down on the mike. The band’s decision to heavy up on their last album, “Resilience”, carries forward into its current release, “Hellelujah”. Good news, and not just for DROWNING POOL faithful. This album has only a few aspirations toward AOR, which was never really the band’s kick anyway, despite “Bodies” becoming a breakout hit. For the most part, “Hellelujah” is a booming album with just enough catchiness to keep DROWNING POOL eligible for the summer-tour circuit.
Jasen Moreno screeches along to the chuffing verses of “Push”, and to the band’s credit, C.J. Pierce and Stevie Benton drop some fierce licks to spike Moreno’s agitation. Naturally, this song is bound for a friendlier sounding set of choruses. “Push” goes to the edge both musically and lyrically; this song, along with “All Saints Day”, a seeming nod to 2001, is one of the most menacing yet catchy songs DROWNING POOL’s engineered since the “Sinner” days.
“By the Blood” is equally loud, if relenting a smidge in favor of a customary proto-pounce groove with shout-along choruses. Jasen Moreno, unlike his predecessor Ryan McCombs, can nudge a commercial rocker into tougher territory with his fierce ralphs. C.J. Pierce’s guitars and Mike Luce’s skin flogging helps give “By the Blood” a generous helping of sweat. The whole band joins in on the heavy rocking smack-ups of “Drop”. All credit where it’s due, “Drop” is well-played and sent out at a fever pitch with huge riffs and Jasen Moreno’s manic bellowing. The choruses of “Drop” are ridiculously good and the breakdown is dropped with the right amount of adhesive to stick to the song’s unrelenting knocks.
The slinky “Hell to Pay” is either a throwaway cut or a rally jam depending on your tastes. Here Jasen Moreno shoves his throat to full strain, even on his spit-flung choruses, while Stevie Benton’s lobbing bass lines give the song a tempered hum. To the plus, C.J. Pierce’s solo is way gnarly. “We Are the Devil” is hilariously led off by a sample of an old country folk ditty, which is picked up by Mike Luce’s double hammer as the band crashes through a mostly fierce number. To tie into the country thread, the band throws in a hootenanny on backing vocals.
“Snake Charmer” could’ve been a tried and burned proto jam, but it’s far heavier than the usual of its ilk. Once again it comes down to Jasen Moreno’s chest-swelled huffing and C.J. Pierce’s angry chords. His solo, gratifyingly, sounds as pissed off as Moreno. “My Own Way” thereafter is stuffed with a punched-up groove and roars from all stations.
“Another Name” is as soft as this album gets, and that’s not saying much. Ringing like “Jar of Flies”-era ALICE IN CHAINS with coiled acoustic guitars and sneering vocals, DROWNING POOL plays “Another Name” slickly, before strutting into the twangy, yet banging, “Sympathy Depleted”.
To say “Hellelujah” is a bit of a surprise is an understatement to anyone outside of DROWNING POOL’s fan base—those who hung around after “Bodies”, anyway. With the band’s attention on getting heavier as of “Resilience”, it’s good to see a concentration on this loud, and far more fun, course. The imperative caveat, however, to be pointed out with “Hellejuah” comes with “Meet the Bullet” and its easily misconstrued stand against suicide. If not for the tasteless leadoff soundbyte, “If you’re crazy and you know it, shoot yourself”, this song would actually stand for something. As it is, DROWNING POOL risks putting itself in the same position as Ozzy Osbourne and JUDAS PRIEST did in this far more sensitive society.
Nonetheless, for the faithful, “Hellelujah” is going to be a resounding “Hell, yes”! No question this band went the extra mile, and, in some ways, it outdistances “Sinner”, no disrespect intended toward Dave Williams. If anything, Williams would be proud of this loud-as-fuck effort from DROWNING POOL, who had nothing to lose by pushing this album to the extreme.