Pop Evil – ‘Skeletons’

By Katherine Allvey

There’s something timeless about Pop Evil which is really very appealing. If we told you that they were contemporaries of Linkin Park in their baggy-trousered heyday, you might well believe it based on their sound alone. But this seventh outing for the Michigan group, the latest in a series of powerful, chunky metal records with electro lightning crackling round the edges, is a gutsy album for this moment right now. Packing a punch and letting the vocals soar is the magic formula that’s flung singles ‘Eye of the Storm’ and ‘Paranoid (Crash & Burn)’ to the top of the Billboard chart and undoubtedly to the top of your playlist.

‘Skeletons’ is an album for those days when the worlds gets too much and you just want to jump around your kitchen and sing it out at the top of your lungs. ‘Paranoid (Crash and Burn)’ is a fists-to-heaven bouncer with the cathartic scream of “get out of my head” alternating with melodic, pleading choruses and one hell of a drumbeat. “It’s about the voices in our head — we all have ‘em, but do we act on them?” says frontman Leigh Kakaty. “It’s a cautionary tale, about processing those voices in a positive way.” This message of empathy and support via crashing guitar chords is central to the album, perhaps most obvious in the barely contained chaos of ‘Eye Of The Storm’. It’s a tsunami of a single, and quieter drops to push the vocals to the front of your consciousness, or let the record scratches shatter the brief moments of calm are fantastically theatrical.

That said, it’s not all about the singles on the album, or about coping with the nonsense that life throws at you. ‘Sound Of Glory’ throws down this huge Kanye-meets-Adam-Ant beat over lyrics that celebrate victory and self-confidence. The icing on this stadium-filling cake is the ‘hey-oh’ sing along, and it’s pop metal gold. But it’s the title track that really grabs hold; neon spurs click like Gods cutting you down in acknowledgement of our collective, shared loneliness. It’s a road song to be played on a cowboy’s trail across the stars, and it shows that Pop Evil are more than capable of showing us their more personal and quiet side.

Given the theme of the album is about support through trying times, it seems fitting that Pop Evil have recruited their friends for the final three tracks. Blake Allison from Devour the Day taking on lead vocals on ‘Wrong Direction’. Guitar takes second place to dark beats and electro notes from the kind of nightclub a supervillain would own, and the vocals are pure punk rock intensity. It’s increasingly clear why Pop Evil were asked to support Disturbed a couple of years ago because that pairing would make a mind-warpingly intense show. Ryan Kirby from Fit for a King joins in on ‘Dead Reckoning’, probably the most stereotypical metal song on the album despite the ray gun effects shooting through the background. ‘Raging Bull’ features Zillion to complete the trilogy of collaborative tunes, and it’s the epilogue to ‘Sound Of Glory’ via a route through haunted nurseries, drum machines and an overflow of passion.

While this might not be an album that grants you some kind of punk rock enlightenment, Pop Evil have become very good at these vast chorus that explode into the night sky over stomping bass and little throwback touches to create albums full of heart and fire. It’s a great message running through an album that’s scaled up its songs and doesn’t take half measures when it comes to big beats and nu-metal moments.

KATHERINE ALLVEY

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