Pop Evil represents the American Dream. Raised in the heartland, driven by uncompromising passion and goals, self-made from their bootstraps and energized by diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, Pop Evil has used muscle and sweat to put their musical vision into the hearts and minds of hard rock lovers worldwide.
Onyx, Pop Evil’s brand new third album, is a triumph of hard rock perseverance and rabble-rousing attitude, the type of record that inspires like minded outsiders to optimism. Onyx tracks like “Trenches,” “Divide” and “Torn to Pieces” are destined for the type of hard-won ubiquity earned by “Last Man Standing,” “Monster You Made” and the Mick Mars collaboration “Boss’s Daughter” from 2010’s War of Angels.
After three Top 5 songs at Rock Radio, a fourth in the Top 10, a half million digital singles sold and over 1,000 shows a few short years into their impressive career, Pop Evil’s return with Onyx is a swaggering, fist-pumping, ball-busting ride through American rock. The grandiose melody of the ‘70s, the danger of the ‘80s, the emotion of the ‘90s and the loudest of modern riffs all have a home in Pop Evil, who fashion a fresh sound that looks to the future through the prism of rock’s past.
During the rigorous touring and promotion in support of War of Angels, Pop Evil found themselves needing to replace both their drummer and their lead guitar player. The discovery of new drummer Chaci Riot aka Josh Marunde and later of lead guitarist Nick Fuelling reinvigorated the band all over again, inspiring them to press forward (as always) and conquer all obstacles. The changes in the band coalesced the present lineup into Pop Evil’s most fearsome incarnation, strengthening them as a unit.
Pop Evil has emerged victorious from the gritty dues-paying days of self-releasing records. They’ve survived industry struggles that would have ended other bands, with their spirits still intact, conquering obstacles at every show with every song. Produced by fellow Midwesterner Johnny K (Disturbed, 3 Doors Down, Megadeth), Onyx represents a musical, creative and personal graduation for all of Pop Evil.
The great state of Michigan has produced Bob Seger, Kid Rock and Eminem. Kiss adopted it as a second home in “Detroit Rock City.” Pop Evil is the natural summation and continuation of all of those elements, distilled into powerful art.
“That’s the beauty of living in the United States of America,” declares vocalist Leigh Kakaty. “Rock n’ roll is a huge part of being an American. Being proud of that red, white and blue. Just like in Pop Evil, you’re going to see a lot of people who are minorities who don’t look like the typical rock star. You’re going to have more and more people with different ethnic backgrounds that want to embrace the guitar.”
Pop Evil songs are heard on ESPN, ABC, FOX and other networks. Sports teams like Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, and their very own Detroit Red Wings, Tigers and Michigan Wolverines bang their anthems over the loudspeakers. Pop Evil’s music brings people together. It energizes listeners with confident power.
Lipstick on the Mirror was given a major label re-release and found its way into listener’s hands despite the business trouble that resulted in Pop Evil tearing up their major label contract on stage, in what Spin Magazine called one of the Ten Best Moments of Rock on the Range. Their debut was a precursor to the astoundingly pristine follow-up, War of Angels, which brought Pop Evil to a worldwide audience.“We’ve got that blue collar following. People are pulling for us as underdogs,” Kakaty says. “People see that we’re constantly on the climb, doing it from the ground up.”
Bringing their dynamic, larger-than-life, old-school rock star stage show to fans internationally, Pop Evil has perfected their live chops on tours with heavy-hitters like Five Finger Death Punch, Three Doors Down, Papa Roach, Puddle Of Mudd, Theory of a Deadman, Buckcherry, Judas Priest, Black Stone Cherry and Seether.
Kakaty, guitarists Dave Grahs and Nick Fuelling, bassist Matt DiRito and drummer Chaci Riot went into the writing process for Onyx with definitive purpose. “We really wanted to do this album for the fans and for ourselves,” Kakaty explains. “We were extremely focused on this record to make the album we wanted and our fans want.”
Like the name Pop Evil suggests, the riffs are in your face but the melodies will tug at heartstrings and inspire sing-alongs in bars, cars and concert venues. For Pop Evil, music is what they are called to do. It’s who they are. It’s what they believe in.
Lead single “Trenches” represents the hard work Pop Evil has endured to bring their music to the masses. “It’s about our battles,” Kakaty says. “Not focusing on the things we can’t control, if we really want to be a band that stands the test of time we have to write the music that connects. We have to dig our way out of the trenches.”
The message of “Trenches” applies to the world of art as well as the world of sports, or the military, or anyone struggling with the economic downturn, like Pop Evil’s home stage of Michigan. During a slump in the music industry, Pop Evil is living proof that you can still make a living following your dreams. “It’s a matter of time before rock and roll is in the forefront again and we want to be part of that.”
Like everyone in their audience, Pop Evil is not immune to personal struggles in life. Kakaty’s father passed away during the War of Angels process. The singer deals with the emotional fallout in the Onyx ballad “Torn to Pieces,” which anyone who has lost a loved one can empathize with on some level. “We’re first generation to this great country; he was my best friend and such a die-hard supporter of Pop Evil. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I would be where I’m at; he would give me anything he could and always make sure that I was doing what I loved. It was a hard song to write, but it’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.”
The same way “Torn to Pieces” can bring people together through shared hardships, the song “Divide” addresses the fierce divisions that separate too many people these days. “This country is always being divided, whether it’s rock and roll, country, rap or whatever. At the end of the day it’s musical expression. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just a question of what you want to listen to. The song is about a vision that we can somehow come together, that we can maybe always stand for something a little bigger. Whether it’s a small percentage or millions of us, we can start to embrace that motivation and appreciation instead of segregation and division.”
Of the many standout tracks on Onyx, there’s also “Flawed,” which came about right in the studio in an extremely organic fashion. The lyrical content is also autobiographical. “Pop Evil just always stayed steady on the climb up, we’ve always been on the rise. For so long we’ve felt like we were flawed. There was always an excuse, like oh well you know, the label didn’t give us this money, we didn’t have this budget, we didn’t get that. It always seemed like we weren’t good enough.”
“Flawed” represents discarding that old mentality, the way listeners should with their own struggles and self-doubt. It’s about being strong and rising above. That idea, to graduate to the next level and not look back, permeates all of Onyx.
Pop Evil doesn’t take anything for granted. They know their listeners are open-minded but that they also have a lot of choices. They want to be challenged. They want to be inspired. That’s why the band works hard to create music that stands out.
“We’re not trying to sell this record so to speak, that’s where the graduation truly lies,” Kakaty says. “We’re just being us. We’re being honest. Great music doesn’t need a salesman. From the music, to the packaging, to the image, it’s all there. We are a band with purpose, we’ve made an album with purpose. That will sell itself.”
About Tom Hocker:
Tom A.K.A Insanity is an on-air personality for Jammerstream and his show Insanity’s Metal Edge airs every Thursday & Saturday @ Midnight & Noon U.S. Eastern time on JammerStream Hardcore. In September 2014, he merged his record label(Knox Asylum Records) with long time affiliat (Echo Eyes Tour Management) to create Echo Asylum. Echo Asylum is an online magazine that features an online radio station, album reviews, and coverage of concerts and festivals from all over the United States.
For more information please visit www.knoxasylumrecords.com or www.echo-asylum.com and be sure to catch “Insanity’s Metal Edge” on Jammerstream Hardcore Thursdays Midnight and noon, and also Saturdays Midnight and noon.