Label: eOne Music
Release Date: May 14, 2013
The Michigan boys return next month with their third studio effort, “Onyx“. The quintet’s sophomore album, “War of Angels” was the best hard rock album of 2011. It was instantly addictive and full of memorable tracks. The first single off this one, “Trenches” seems to pick up where the last record left off. So when Pop Evil frontman Leigh Kakaty said the new album “absolutely destroys” the last one and called it “a statement album,” well I was pretty excited.
Of course the higher the expectation the harder the fall if it doesn’t live up to the billing, and in this case, all due respect to Leigh, for me it doesn’t. That is not to say that “Onyx” isn’t a strong album. It’s a wonderful record. It has more continuity than its predecessor and it’s certainly darker and edgier. The songs are moving and powerful across the board. Where it doesn’t stand up to “War of Angels” is in the memorability department. The last record had more hooks than a tackle box: “Onyx” not so much. Each track is a worthwhile listen, but only two or three initially stick in your head when the record is over. This record bears repeated listens to fully appreciate its value. This is not a bad thing, for the investment is worth it.
“Onyx” finds the band back in the studio with producer Johnny K, (Disturbed, Sevendust, Megadeth), but this time around the guys already knew what they wanted to do and had earned the stripes to do it. After two years of non-stop touring, refining their style and solidifying their line-up, they poured their swagger and energy into a dozen powerful new songs. Drummer Josh Marunde makes a propulsive debut, and as always, Kakaty’s vocals are the band’s defining magic. He can go from soaring melodies to his trademark rock-rap with fluid grace.
The album starts off strong as bassist Matt DiRito carries us into “Goodbye My Friend”, a dark overture that talks about letting go of the past, be it a person, an addiction, a bad habit. The song immediately displays the band’s heavier edge.
“Deal With the Devil” offers up a slightly industrial flavor we haven’t really heard from Pop Evil before. The chorus recalls something of classic Disturbed.
The album’s lead off hit, “Trenches” is up next. It contains perhaps the album’s biggest hooks and offers up a healthy dose of the infectious songwriting we’ve come to love from Pop Evil. New lead guitarist Nick Fuelling shows right away what his fretwork brings to the band. The solos and nuances here and throughout the album fit perfectly with the group’s style. He balances quite nicely against fellow guitarist, Dave Grahs.
“Torn to Pieces” opens with a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe and morphs into something of an alt rock tune. A nice change of pace. The slow-tempo semi-ballad doesn’t really grab you until the second or third listen. It grows on you.
There is an ominous feel to the heavy rocker, “Divide”, while the band shows off its more sensitive and emotive side on the tracks “Beautiful” and “Silence & Scars”.
It’s often been said that a band solidifies its signature with its third album. If that’s the case for Pop Evil the guys seem to be making a turn toward mainstream alt metal. Some of the songs represented on “Onyx“, like “Sick Sense”, “Flawed” and “Welcome to Reality” fall into the mold of bands like Sevendust and Nonpoint. While the music is all very good, tight and melodic, it starts to sound like so many other bands already out there. That said, it’s still better done than many other band’s generic alt metal musings.
It’s exciting that Pop Evil is taking a heavier and darker approach, but I think they may have strayed away a bit too much from the more straight-up hard rock style that has given them half a dozen Top 10 hits already. It will be interesting to see where this goes. This may not be as instantly accessible as its predecessor, but “Onyx” is a dynamic beast of a record that outshines many of the band’s contemporaries. It will surely elevate Pop Evil to the next level.