It’s not really a secret that I am biased when it comes to Pop Evil. I’ve been a fan of the band since their beginning. I am one of the proud few who saw them perform with both original guitarist Tony Greve and original drummer Dylan Allison. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of the band members and I’ve written glowing reviews for each of their previous albums. It is obvious that I am a huge fan.
And it is being such a fan that makes me a harder critic on this band then I would be on others. I expect more from my favorites and I expect them to deliver their best with every single effort. Thankfully, with Pop Evil, their best is all they know how to give. Every album this group releases is better than the previous and once again, Pop Evil’s latest disc just so happens to be their best disc.
With their last release, Onyx, Pop Evil was at a dark period in their career and also at a crossroads. There was a chip on their shoulder as they felt they had something to prove. This time around the band is much more comfortable in their own skin. They have come to the end of their journey of discovery. And in finding who they truly are, they have delivered a masterpiece.
The band has evolved over the years and the evolution is evident on Up. Leigh Kakaty’s voice sounds more magnificent than ever before. Stronger, harder, and more soul sweeping, Kakaty does some of his best work for this album. Matt DiRito was able to show off his songwriting abilities with authority. He has more prominence on this record including a nice bass intro groove on “If Only For Now” and “Lux,” as well as an exceptional, albeit short, instrumental in “…” (Yes, that is the actual name of the song). And Nick Fueling really shines. No longer in the shadow of Tony Greve, and no longer in doubt amongst the fans, Fueling shows that he is exceptional in his own way.
Lead track “Footsteps” gets Up started on a high note. A mid-tempo rocker with life, “Footsteps” is not the hardest album opener that Pop Evil has ever recorded, but it is the perfect opener for Up. The eerie, dark opening guitar notes immediately let the listener know that this is an all new, all different Pop Evil. That message is great news, because this version of Pop Evil is the best one yet. The anthem chanting chorus of “I take these footsteps, go higher! Go higher!” will create a magnificent sing along in concert.
“Take It All” is not only the best song on Up, it just may be the best song that Pop evil has ever recorded. The music is extremely powerful, the lyrics make a statement, and the overall intensity is extraordinary. “Take It All” is hard rock with an edge. This is a song that will hook the listener on first play. And while the song is short, it packs quite the punch. Heavy guitars, growling, demanding vocals, and a perfect rhythm section solidify “Take It All.” This song is pure ecstasy for the ears and a finer Pop Evil song is hard to come by.
Rhythmic, soothing, peaceful, and brilliant, “If Only For Now” is the first ballad on Up and it is a tremendous song. This work of art showcases all of the extreme effort the band has put into honing their song crafting skills. A perfect blend of bass, acoustic, and electric guitars highlight this lovely ballad. The poetic lyrics paint a perfect picture and Kakaty’s voice is akin to a cool gentle rain on a warm summer afternoon ---refreshing and enjoyable. While previous Pop Evil ballads have been much beloved by their fan base, “If Only For Now” has the makings of a mega-smash and may quickly become the fans favorite Pop Evil ballad.
Nick Fueling’s acoustic guitar picking on “Seattle Rain” is just brilliant and makes the song. “Seattle Rain” is the truest example of the evolution of Pop Evil. Starting with just Fueling’s acoustic guitar and Kakaty’s voice, this slow moving ballad captures the ear’s attention immediately. By the time the rest of the band kicks in on the second verse, it is painfully obvious that “Seattle Rain” is destined for greatness. The song is a pure masterpiece that shows the maturity of this tremendous group.
Hard work combined with a level of comfort amongst all band members has really paid off for Pop Evil. Up is the greatest album the band has released in their career so far. And with each album they deliver, the band only gets stronger and more talented. The future for Pop Evil is as a bright as the sun, and I’m curious to see what amazing magnificence they deliver next. If they continue in the same vein they have already, Pop Evil is going to be the biggest band that ever existed before their career is over. They certainly are one of the most talented, and with Up they have released the greatest album of the summer.
Ryo’s Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)
Take It All
Ghost of the Muskegon
If Only For Now
Ways To Get High
Dead In The Water
Til Kingdom Come