It’s always funny how a band like Pop Evil work, thinking that their mass-produced radio-rock that’s essentially the equivalent of a McDonald’s burger actually has the potential to show off some deep aggression or social commentary, when really their method of throwing out buzzwords geared to the lowest common denominator couldn’t seem more basic. What’s worse is the direction these bands are currently taking, watering down an already weak sound in an attempt at courting radio play that couldn’t be more blatant. Recent efforts from All That Remains and Theory Of A Deadman may have attempted to retain their lyrical personalities (whatever they may be), but with an overly processed sound behind them, they’ve just come across as cheap and embarrassing.
At least on their self-titled album, Pop Evil have kept the burly, anthemic qualities that these sort of bands ultimately need to survive. Just take Waking Lions, the sort of hard rock opener that isn’t complicated in the slightest, but has enough muscle and an arena-pleasing chorus to fully work for what it wants to be. But listening to the rest of this album, it only becomes clearer that Waking Lions is Pop Evil blowing their load far too quickly and having to lie in the own mess for the remaining forty minutes. And this album really is a mess, perhaps most obviously in a lyrical sentiment that shoots for grandiose sloganeering under the illusion that it’s some revolutionary call to arms, but ends up as the resigned sigh of a band recycling big, generic pump-up anthems. Of course, the surprise is slightly diminished given the sort of band that Pop Evil are – the fact that a good number of these songs could easily soundtrack ESPN highlight montages just can’t be a coincidence – but when a track like Be Legendary is as flavourless and by-the-numbers as it is, and the closing pair Birds Of Prey and Rewind don’t even have enough for that, there’s no chance of Pop Evil actively getting away with this.
Having said that, the one song that is worth looking deeper into is Ex Machina, if only for its hilarious irony of being about how technology is taking over our modern lives when so much of this album is so mechanical and over-produced. Again, it’s hardly surprising considering the direction US radio-rock is going in, but it’s still not pleasant to listen to, like the programmed drums and super-clean guitars on A Crime To Remember and When We Were Young, or the stiff, lockstep beat of Be Legendary. It might not be as intrusively produced as some of their peers have managed to come out with, but it’s all the more frustrating when Pop Evil prove that they really don’t need it for the majority of the time. Waking Lions already works perfectly fine, and even if Nothing But Thieves and God’s Dam feel like pretty shameless Alter Bridge pastiches, they’re perfect examples of how some rougher, more rock production benefits Pop Evil, and even if Leigh Kakaty doesn’t have the greatest range in his voice, and his rapping on Colors Bleed and Art Of War can be left out entirely, there’s enough raw power to justify the fact that these songs do have potential.
It’s just a shame that Pop Evil have squandered it in such spectacular fashion by adhering to trends that don’t flatter them, and refusing to even build on them to reach an endpoint that does. Instead, this is a bloated, nondescript listen that feels about as relevant to anything as everything these kind of bands put out nowadays, and even though it’s not at the very bottom of the barrel, there’s precious little worth revisiting here, or that’ll make any serious impact beyond the tiny catchment area they already occupy. Even with worse to choose from, it’s still not worth it.
For fans of: All That Remains, Adelitas Way, Art Of Dying
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Pop Evil’ by Pop Evil is out now on eOne Music.