Michigan hard rockers Pop Evil released their latest self titled album on February 16, and it has to be their very best yet! As a long time fan of the band, I am simply amazed at the evolution of the band’s new sound, a change I haven’t heard since Avenged Sevenfold released The Stage in 2016. This sixth studio release from the band reminds us that rock and roll is revolution, and that we need to stand up and be the best of ourselves as musical soldiers. The sound and lyrics take absolutely no prisoners.
It’s a concept album of sorts, honoring the name of the band. Lead singer and founding member Leigh Kakaty says he chose the name Pop Evil for a reason. He loved hard rock songs with good melodies, but he also dug loud, crunchy guitars and propulsive metal rhythms. For Kakaty, it’s a natural duality that came from growing up in the Great Lakes and it eventually became the raison d’etre of his band.
“It’s just a natural part of who I am,” Kakaty says. “When I was growing up we’d roll out to the beach on the weekdays with an acoustic guitar and everyone would kick it. And on the weekends, we’d turn up the amps and, boom, everyone would try to break windows. It was all about the heaviness. And I needed both of those elements – the melodic and the metallic.” Five albums into Pop Evil’s career, combining strong hooks with knockout punches is more important than ever. It’s a surging, contemporary sounding release that incorporates metal, alternative, hard rock and even electronic music.
Pop Evil captures Kakaty and his bandmates – rhythm guitarist Dave Grahs, lead guitarist Nick Fuelling, bassist Matt DiRito and drummer Hayley Cramer – at their most inspiring. Every song on the album offers a different spin on the concept behind the band’s name and in an era when many rock bands create a few strong singles followed by six or seven less memorable songs and call it an album, Pop Evil is all killer, no filler – the best 11 songs culled from 30 demos.
The band brought on veteran producer Kato Khandwala and have been hard at work since early June of 2017. The band spent most of the summer in Nashville, Tennessee at Studio A in Sound Emporium Studios and finished up the album at Sphere Studios in Los Angeles, California later in the summer.
The record is the highly anticipated follow up to UP, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard U.S, Independent Albums Chart, #3 on the Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums Chart and #25 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart in the week of its release. UP produced four top 5 singles with “Footsteps,” “If Only For Now,” “Ways to Get High” and “Take It All.” “Footsteps” not only reached #1 but went on to be the longest #1 single of the band’s career.
This is quite different from UP; it’s darker, fiercer and angrier. It’s grinding rock, but musically layered and well toned, bringing in sounds of roc-rap (as in the best of Linkin Park and Papa Roach), electronica, and heavy bass and drums. The band’s new drummer, Hayley Cramer, adds to the sound with her staccato drum beats that rip through the songs like gunfire.
The songs “Waking Lions,” “Be Legendary” and “Rewind” challenge us to be the best we can possibly be, to face our mistakes, and honor our powerfulness. “Colors Bleed,” “Ex Machina,” and “Art of War” are balls to the wall protest songs, decrying the status quo and the war on humanity by technology. In “Colors Bleed,” Kakaty digs into today’s headlines and addresses what he feels about capitalism, hypocrisy and violent confrontation. “Birds of Prey” is a guitar-strong ode to the lonely and weak who fall prey to the strong, asking “where’s the love we won’t allow?” “When We Were Young”, perhaps the slowest song on the record, looks back on youth without any sentimentality. “Crime to Remember” is bluesy and slow, displaying such artistic diversity as to blow the mind. “God’s Dam” is the song that brought to mind Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage – noted for its experimentalism and musicianship. Songs like these remind of us that classical music influences rock just as much as soul and the blues does.
I saved my favorite song on the album for last, “Nothing But Thieves.” It’s symphonic and epic and dreamy, until it unleashes hard rock like a thunderstorm. The bass line is exceptional on this track as well as a culmination of the album’s thematic lyrics. I was blown away listening to it. If this is what 2018 holds in store for hard rock music, we’ve got something significant to look forward to. As I listened to this album over and over, I had thoughts like “risk taking,” “musically accomplished,” and “not your average rock band.”
The album is now on sale wherever fine music is sold.
Check out the band’s tour dates, and remember, Pop Evil will also tour with Cheap Trick and Poison later this year, as well as being a staple at many upcoming music festivals. For tickets to those shows, click here.
Source: Pop Evil Bio 2018