A few months ago, Drowning Pool guitarist C.J. Pierce got a major surprise as he went through some video tapes of the band while searching for material to include on a deluxe reissue of the group’s 2001 debut album, Sinner.
Within the stack of tapes was an audio cassette labeled “6-28.” It was a soundboard mix of the final rehearsal Drowning Pool did before starting the 2002 Ozzfest tour. The rehearsal included what figures to be a highlight of the Sinner reissue — a complete version of “Heroes Sleeping,” the last song Pierce, drummer Mike Luce and bassist Stevie Benton worked on with singer Dave Williams.
On Aug. 14, 2002, just a few weeks after that rehearsal, Williams died from a heart condition, cardiomyopathy, suddenly and sadly ending the original edition of Drowning Pool.
“I heard it [the rehearsal] was going to get recorded, but I didn’t think much of it,” Pierce told Folio Weekly in a recent phone interview. “Those last couple of rehearsals, we worked up a new song [“Heroes Sleeping”]. And I didn’t even remember finishing the song. We actually did the song all the way through. So it’s totally a gem of a find. Definitely, it’s an emotional song to hear. ‘Heroes Sleeping,’ it’s about other musicians who had passed away before us. That was Dave’s [angle] on the lyrical content. Then literally just a few weeks later, he passed away. The song’s kind of about him now. So I’m glad we can share that with our fans.”
The reissue of Sinner is now out, and along with the original songs, it includes a second disc with 13 demos. In addition to “Heroes Sleeping,” it has versions of a half-dozen other songs that didn’t make the original effort.
The new version of the debut album arrived 13 years after it was first released, which to Pierce seems entirely appropriate. “Our career has been laden with unlucky situations that we’ve been fortunate to overcome,” he says. “So it just made sense, the unlucky 13.”
To that end, Drowning Pool has begun the second leg of a U.S. tour billed as the “Unlucky 13th Anniversary Sinner Tour,” which rolls into the Beach Blvd Concert Hall on March 14. The shows feature the group playing the entire Sinner album, as well as songs from the four albums the band has made since losing Williams.
Williams’ death wasn’t the only setback that surrounded the Sinner album, which was released in June 2001 to coincide with the group’s stint on the third stage of that summer’s Ozzfest.
Drowning Pool made such a big impression that the group was quickly elevated to a far higher-profile slot on the Ozzfest second stage. As the buzz around the group intensified, the song “Bodies” took off on rock radio, and sales of Sinner soared — passing 1 million copies in just six weeks.
There seemed to be no stopping Drowning Pool — until the tragic day of Sept. 11, when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon stopped the world in its tracks.
“Bodies,” a song written about the mosh pits that would break out at Drowning Pool shows, was immediately pulled from radio — a logical move for a song that opens with the line: “Let the bodies hit the floor.” Right then and there, the Sinner album was commercially dead in the water. And less than a year later, Williams was gone.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride of sorts since then. After taking time to deal with Williams’ death, the surviving members decided to continue as Drowning Pool. But finding the right vocalist proved tricky before the group hired current singer Jasen Moreno. Jason “Gong” Jones lasted for one album, 2004’s Desensitized, while Ryan McCombs departed after doing two albums with the group, 2007’s Full Circle and the 2010 self-titled album.
Pierce, though, is optimistic that Moreno will be a long-term fit. He recorded the 2013 album, Resilience, with Drowning Pool, and the band has a sixth album ready to record.
“We could probably put out three or four records right now,” Pierce says, noting that the new album is likely to take Drowning Pool’s music in a heavier direction. “We have our list of what we want on the record. We’re making sure these are the right songs. We want to put out an amazing record. We’ve been taking our time, and we want to do it right.”