Pop Evil Define Their ‘Evil’ With Aggressive Self-Titled Release – Early Album Review
We're just over a month out from the Feb. 16 street date for Pop Evil's upcoming self-titled album, but we were given an advance listen to the upcoming disc, which finds the band embracing the "evil" of their name with one of their heavier offerings to date.
In our recent interview with singer Leigh Kakaty, the vocalist told us, "I really feel like people still don’t know really what Pop Evil is to them and even to myself. And Pop Evil was being able to have finality, which was the pop and then of course the evil was supposed to be the heavy and break some windows and crank the amps up. It just really felt like we haven’t identified ourselves properly from the evil standpoint, and we had big discussions about this record."
After coming off 2013's Onyx album, an offering with heavier, more serious and darker undertones after the death of Kakaty's father, the singer admits that the 2015 effort UP was purposefully lighter in tone in order to enjoy life again. But with one album driven by darker emotion and the follow-up influenced as a counter-reaction to that, Pop Evil are getting down to the core of who they are as a band with their self-titled effort.
One thing that has been a cornerstone of the band throughout their run has been the ability to uplift through song, and they continue to do so with first single and album lead-off track "Waking Lions." The track is accentuated with pulsing distorted low end guitars and Matt DiRito's bass complimenting Hayley Cramer's cymbal crashes, while Kakaty delivers the motivational lines, "I wanna stand up / a hundred feet tall / Cause fear will never lead my way / I'm ready to run, a hundred miles stroll / I will never be the same / Waking the lions in me." "We know who we are at this point," says Kakaty. "It's important for us to just make sure that identity is showcased on this record so people don't have any kind of questions anymore about what we are."
Pop Evil clearly define their sound at the opening of the disc, with the distorted guitars weighing heavily through "Colors Bleed" and "Ex Machina," not necessarily varying too much off that vibe. The songs work well together, with "Colors Bleed" showing more social and political awareness, speaking to the divisive nature in our current political culture. "Fight the system / Stop and listen / True colors, how can you miss em / Born with knowledge / raise the fist / Face the enemy / Just resist," belts Kakaty at one point, sharpening his social commentary. "Ex Machina," meanwhile, is a more philosophical track about the future of man and machine with Cramer mixing things up a bit with a Korn-esque rhythmic backing.
The social commentary doesn't stop there, with Pop Evil going for maximum impact with "Art of War," a track that would feel right at home in the Rage Against the Machine catalog. "Movements come and movements go until we lose control / It's life or death and they want more / It's the art of war," spouts Kakaty with a more rap-styled vocal delivery. Guitarist Nick Fuelling and Dave Grahs make sure the song is full on chaotic and in-your-face and it's this reviewer's hope to see this one make their concert set lists due to its potential live frenzy.
Ensuring that the self-titled album is more of a full-on listening experience, a number of the tracks on the album come with transitions leading into the next effort, with the ferocity of "Art of War" bookended with a back masked interlude accentuated with a haunting piano transition, leading into arguably the album's catchiest song, "Be Legendary." The stomp-clap beat is undeniable, and like "Waking Lions" and the latter album track "God's Dam," it is a track that uplifts. It would not be a surprise to see "Be Legendary" enjoy a lengthy run at rock radio.
The latter portion of the album leans a little more melodic in nature, with "Nothing But Thieves" starting the back half as a bit of a curve ball. A dark and ominous opening, bolstered by the use of chimes, gives way to a more tribal drum beat and blasts for something a little more driving. The track also features a nimble and lengthy guitar solo and is perhaps the most diverse song on the disc, while clocking in at just over six minutes through a few shifts in style.
A more spiritual nature and self-examination are also sprinkled throughout the back half of the disc. The back-to-back gems "God's Dam" and "When We Were Young" make sure the album stays strong throughout, with the former being a bluesier lament on faith and the latter being a more anthemic, fist-to-the air track steadfast in its determination to hold to the hopes of youth amidst potential doubts.
Determination also plays a part in the moody album closer "Rewind," a song that stays committed to getting things right no matter what stumbles may come. It's a fitting track to complete the album, representative of the band's continued hunger to raise the bar. Over five albums, it's been a steady climb with each disc expanding their horizons. Their self-titled effort continues that trend, delivering a solid top-to-bottom listen that should keep them prominent on the airwaves with the ability to go deep with potential radio singles. Taking a note from the final song, it's a disc that will make you want to "rewind, start again" and enjoy repeated listens.