Pop Evil - UP Cover Art

Michigan rockers POP EVIL have been a mainstay of US rock radio since their major-label debut in 2008, but have never quite managed to crack the UK. Now they’re looking to change that with fourth album UP.

Anyone who saw the band at this year’s Download Festival should recognise opening track Footsteps. Starting off rather slowly, with a choppy tremolo-laden riff, it eventually gives way to a soulful vocal line that the likes of Shinedown would be jealous of. Vocalist Leigh Kakaty puts on an impressive display here, showing off his considerable vocal chops

Core steps things up slightly – adding some much needed rock swagger to POP EVIL’S sound. There’s a somewhat Godsmack-esque tone here and it works well. Full of attitude, the track possesses a refreshing heaviness, courtesy of guitarists Nick Fuelling and Dave Grahs.

The heavy sound continues with In Disarray – which melds Kakaty’s buttery-smooth vocals with a dementedly fuzzy bassline. Some wonderful harmonies and a stellar guitar solo only add to its impressiveness and the final result is one of the strongest tracks on the album.

Changing styles yet again, Take It All adds some nu-metal and rap-rock to the mix – Kakaty’s staccato delivery proving an interesting change to his usual style. A few anthemic chants later and things soon return to relative normality though.

Doing away with most of the distortion, If Only For Now is the album’s first true ballad. Bright and melodic, it’s yet another side to a band that seems increasingly multi-talented.

It’s around this point that things become slightly unstuck sadly. After the completely unnecessary interlude of a track simply called “…” comes Ways To Get High, an unfortunately limp number that never really feels like it gets going. It’s the first track that truly fails to impress, and sadly takes the wind out of UP’s sails slightly.

Continuing on, Lux is a rather by-the-numbers rocker, but impresses nonetheless. Taking the previously-established ‘melody over distorted guitars’ template POP EVIL have utilised so well thus far, it simply adds some “oohs” and allows the listener to sing along.

One final blast of rock comes from Vendetta, as the band open with an almost thrash-sounding riff that ups the pace considerably. Kakaty’s voice takes on a James Hetfield quality for this one, with more than just a hint of the Metallica mainman’s signature snarl. Drummer Chachi Riot also impresses here considerably, taking to the faster pace extremely well.

Dead In The Water is essentially one big chorus that goes on for almost six minutes. It’s perhaps a tad too long but a fun track nonetheless – Fuelling and Grahs churning out yet more impressively meaty slabs of riff.

Seattle Rain is the album’s other straight ballad, and it’s yet another great tune – packing another effortlessly catchy chorus that seem to be the band’s forte at this point.

Closing out the album is Til Kingdom Come, another power-ballad that simply outclasses everything similar on UP. Beginning with a beautiful shimmering guitar tone, it gradually builds up to a melodic chorus brimming with emotion. The whole band’s performance is excellent here, but once again, it’s Kakaty who really shines – making you wonder why POP EVIL have never become hugely popular on these shores.

With UP, it seems like POP EVIL have their best chance to date of making a real impact on these shores. Despite a couple of slip-ups, the band have managed to blend hard rock with the songwriting sensibilities of pop, and create a number of tracks that could easily be great radio singles. Only time will tell whether they can live up to that potential.

Rating: 7/10