Pop Evil are a band I first heard of as they were touring the UK with Five Finger Death Punch back in 2014 and I was invited to interview them. The album which followed that tour, Up, wasn’t bad and was a definite grower, finding itself nestled on my phone’s MP3 library for some time now. Three years later and the follow-up has arrived.
One thing I pointed out about Pop Evil in that previous review was that Pop Evil, though definitely “rock”, otherwise refused categorisation. With Pop Evil the band have continued this theme, only cranked up the “heavy”. This new album is very different from the last one, as much as one track on Up could differ hugely from the next. What it does have in common is quality.
The guitars tend to be lower-tuned, the bass is up a notch and the headbang factor is one up. However, they’ve not lost the ability to hook you with a good rhythm. The first song on the album to really ram this home is the slower number “Be Legendary”. Ploddy, but solid and reliable it offers a cracking riff and a singalong pre-chorus and chant that’s begging to have the fists raised. My foot is tapping to the bass drum (courtesy of new member Hayley Cramer) as I type this paragraph.
What have they not really done before? I know, NIN-style industrial. So let’s bang a load of that into “Nothing But Thieves”. Which then segues into something far more airy and gentle. “God’s Dam” goes for the soulful rock ballad pocket. “Birds of Prey” focuses on opposites and how we seem to be moving too far in the wrong direction with some emotional strains. “Colors Bleed” is an absolute head-pounder, angry and foot stomping rather than toe tapping.
As with Up, I’m just going to have to sum it up as a “rock” album. I can’t even say that it’s in the style of Pop Evil, as some of the tracks are so wildly different from others that there is no recognisable similarity that will have you go “ah, that’s a Pop Evil track”. I think having heard the two albums (and I’m off to dig out their first three later), I think it’s fair to say on their basis that Pop Evil don’t have a sound of their own… but that’s no bad thing. As soon as a band gets instantly recognisable, they’re stuck in a rut. People expect more of the same, creativity gets stifled, or they end up being pilloried the first time they try to do something different.
So well done, Pop Evil, for continuing to avoid that trap with their self-titled fifth release by focussing on keeping their brush-strokes broad. For fans of rock music, there’s bound to be at least a couple of tracks on here that you like. And with the way music now seems to be heading towards people streaming songs rather than whole albums, that may well be a very sensible decision.
Pop Evil is out now