Islander and POD bring love and metal to Altar Bar

There are very few bands that have had quite an impact on modern Christian music much like P.O.D. (abbreviation for Payable On Death) and even less have had the continued success and longevity. Much like pioneers such as Stryper, Guardian or Deliverance and more recent artists like Skillet, Red or Demon Hunter, they have found crossover success in the mainstream music world and taken the art form to all new levels, by being one of the first to successfully combine Metal, Rap, Punk and even elements of Reggae with a love for Jesus Christ. They have also achieved another feat rarely seen in any form of music these days by somehow, against all odds, maintaining the same line-up nearly their entire career, outside of a short 3 year period from 03’-06’ when guitarist Marcos Curiel took a break to focus on his family. The current line-up of Curiel with original drummer Wuv Bernardo and vocalist Sonny Sandoval, alongside longtime bassist Traa Daniels, who joined the band in 94’ and has appeared on all of the band’s albums, are out on tour in support of their forthcoming album The Awakening, which is due in August and rides the wave of momentum created by 2014’s acoustic SoCal Sessions. Weather you consider it a mere twist of fate or an act of divine intervention, when the tour hit Pittsburgh it came to Altar Bar. A over one hundred year old church that has been resurrected as a concert venue, it’s dome ceiling and cross shaped windows still a prominent feature. As are red led crosses in the bar top. Was it also by Heavenly design that the two local openers Circle Of One and Those Who Fear were Christian artists as well. For those who came early to catch their sets, it didn’t really matter, they all just came to have a good time and enjoy a show by some of their favorite bands. Both bands made the city and God proud. Circle Of One went first and delivered a killer set of melodic hard rock. The songs were extremely catchy and the mood was infectious. They rocked the house and gave a shout out to Jesus Christ. Lead singer Mark Cunzolo even took time to read a poem he had written about P.O.D. The night was off to a great start. Up next was Those Who Fear, their Hardcore style was very well received by the gathering faithful and garnered the first circle pit of the evening. It may have only had a handful of participants, but it was still brutal and covered the entire floor. The bar was now raised for those yet to follow. Well done gentlemen. From there the fans were treated to a powerhouse metalized rap-rock set similar to Hollywood Undead by From Ashes To New. The band was solid as a rock and owned every inch of the stage, but most of the attention was on the two charismatic lead vocalists Chris Musser & Matt Brandyberry. They may not have been filled with the spirit of the Lord, but their performance was Biblical. Islander isn’t a Christian band either, but their hybrid fusion set of Nu Metal & Hardcore was still a puritanical experience. The band is known for their mosh pit inducing live shows and that night was no exception. It is also widely known that lead singer Mikey Carvajal has a tendency to go out into the crowd during their performance, which was a true highlight for fans that night. Now it was time for P.O.D. to take the flock to church and that’s exactly what they did, with Reverend Sonny preaching from the pulpit, well the photo/security pit. In fact, Sandoval spent quite a bit of time standing on the barricade in the pit, up close and personal with the choir, allowing them to sing into the microphone. After all this time, the band still sounded absolutely stunning and was in rare form, the individual performances, Angelic. With the addition of touring keyboardist and backing vocalist Luis Castillo giving the songs lush layers and depth of sound like never before. Speaking of the songs, the devoted were treated to P.O.D. classics like opener “Boom,” “Set It Off,” “Youth of a Nation,” “Southtown,” “Satellite” and encore “Alive,” which brought the house down, alongside newer tracks like “This Goes Out To You” and “Revolucion.” Christian or not, if you haven’t seen P.O.D. in a while, it’s high time you reacquaint yourself with one of the best live acts on the planet. You won’t be disappointed. -Eric Hunker