You think it’s over/Well I’ve come too far/To back down now” “Full Circle”
For Drowning Pool, Full Circle, their third album, and first for Eleven Seven Music/ADA, represents a chance to start fresh, with a new lead singer in old friend Ryan McCombs, a new label and new management.
Marking one of the new album’s fateful coincidences is the fact the ex-SOiL vocalist made his live debut in Dallas with the band at Ozzfest in August, 2005, almost three years to the day since he joined Drowning Pool’s guitarist C.J. Pierce, bassist Stevie Benton and drummer Mike Luce on-stage in Indianapolis at Ozzfest 2002 to sing “Bodies” with the late Dave Williams, who would pass away from a rare heart disease just a day later, for his last performance.
“There’s never been a point when we thought about stopping,” says C.J., a New Orleans native who moved to Dallas in the mid-‘90s to form Drowning Pool with fellow Cajun Luce and Texas natives Benton and Williams when they were all still in high school. “Everything we’ve gone through has just brought us closer.”
“We wanted to keep playing with each other,” adds Mike, who knew Stevie from a brief stint in Dallas before he moved to New Orleans. “But we did wonder if it would still be Drowning Pool without Dave or whether we should keep the name in his memory.”
“We decided to keep the band going because if we didn’t it would put to rest everything we did with Dave,” says Stevie. “If someone in your family dies, you don’t change your name. You just keep going.”
And keep going they did. With McComb in tow, Drowning Pool road-tested the new material, which included powerful new songs like “Reborn,” paying tribute to Williams and the band’s legacy with lyrics penned by Ryan that reference past song titles and the promise, “This ain’t over/Till it’s over.” “Soldiers” is a nod to the very same Marines who’d listen to “Bodies” before flying missions over Iraq, while “No More” is a blood-curdling cry for mercy that was first heard on the soundtrack to Saw III. Songs like “Paralyzed” and “Shame” are filled with painful, yet cathartic, images of martyrdom, resurrection and rebirth.
“A lot of that has to do with having so many preachers in my family,” says McComb, a self-described Indiana hillbilly. “I was the type of kid who went to church every Sunday morning, youth group Sunday night and bible study every Tuesday and Thursday. I guess it comes out here and there.”
Produced by Ben Schigel [Chimaira, Walls of Jericho], with Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx and Beautiful Creatures’ DJ Ashba, Full Circle builds on the aggro hard-core approach of their platinum-plus 2001 debut, Sinner and its hit single, “Bodies.”
“These songs have been with us a long time, and they’re very personal,” says C.J. “We’ve played them on tour for almost two years before we went into the studio to record. They’re all road-tested, which is awesome.”
After a failed stint with lead vocalist Jason “Gong” Jones for the band’s second album, Desensitized, in 2004, Drowning Pool feel the addition of McCombs has made them whole again, a family. It was something the band’s fans had been clamoring for since Williams’ death.
“They knew this was going to happen before we had a clue,” says C.J. “We just didn’t have that family vibe with our old lead singer. And now we’ve got that again with Ryan. Maybe third time is the charm.”
Full Circle returns Drowning Pool to its prime, when “Bodies” was featured on several WWE pay-for-view events, EA Sports’ Arena Football game and used by Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon and Houston Astros Brad Lidge to accompany their walk from the bullpen. With the chorus, “Let the bodies hit the floor,” the tribute to their stage-diving fans in the mosh pit was widely misunderstood. The song was banned by several radio stations in the wake of Sept. 11, but, in another example of things coming full circle, the group was invited to Baghdad by the USO on the fifth anniversary of that tragic day last year to play the song for a group of grateful, enthusiastic troops stationed there. They also played gigs in South Korea and Kuwait.
“They were probably the most rewarding shows we’ve every performed,” says Indiana native McCombs, who had completely walked away from music before the three remaining members of Drowning Pool, along with his wife, convinced him to join the band once and for all.
“She just told me, ‘This is the music you’ve been waiting to play your whole life,’” nods Ryan, whose youngest son Mitchell David is named after Williams. “When I first thought about singing for Drowning Pool, I felt I was stepping on toes. It was Dave’s own parents who put it into perspective for me. ‘If anybody was going to do this, don’t you think he’d want you to?’ That was enough for me.”
And now they’ve all come Full Circle.
“I think this record will surprise some people,” insists Mike. “We’re going to overturn the conventional wisdom that all Drowning Pool does is wrestling themes or videogame music. Not to say the record won’t have those kinds of songs, but we’re breaking the mold. We’re starting to heal and explore different horizons musically and lyrically.”
Isn’t this where we came in?