Mainstream rock is in a sorry state nowadays; whether it’s bands trying to keep the music “fresh” by going completely out of their element and ruining their name in the process, or the continuing pile of sh*t that new dime-a-dozen rock bands continue to churn out in an effort to get that one hit and ride it out for the rest of their careers, mainstream radio rock is not a great place to be. That’s why when a group consistently releases solid efforts that don’t adhere to the mainstreamed cliché sound it’s a reason for some sort of celebration. Pop Evil is one of those bands who, while some of their songs do fall into the category of haven’t-I-heard-this-before, have released a great many songs that bring some interesting elements into play that yield solid results and keep hope alive that new rock radio won’t continue to suck. Frontman Leigh Kakaty, prior to the release of Onyx, said that it would be a statement album, and after the first single “Trenches” hit the airwaves, one couldn’t help but be intrigued how it would sound. Which begs the question: how does Onyx fair?
The tone of Onyx, predominantly, is darker than their previous releases and is reason for much of their success this time around; from the opening bass line of Goodbye my Friend to the grunge-infused Deal with the Devil, and the somewhat down and depressing lyrics of Torn to Pieces, Pop Evil made it known that they were looking to travel down a different path this go round. Goodbye my Friend is a fantastic opening for the album, as the opening bass line makes its presence known throughout its entirety, and it truly makes the song what it is; despite the melancholy and mournful lyrics, such as You wasted another chance to be something more/Walking misery, a trail of lies/Has come to end, now I say my goodbyes/, the song has an extremely catchy chorus and lead singer Leigh Kakaty’s strong voice resonates throughout, making the song a true gem on the album, and an incredible way to start things. Immediately shadowing this song is another one of the groups’ strongest efforts, Deal with the Devil. With a very down tuned, grunge-esque main riff, and the harmonized vocals, the group truly sounds like they were influenced by Alice in Chains, as there are points during this song where they legitimately resemble the aforementioned group. Even more striking are the lyrics that bring up thoughts of depression and dependency, with Kakaty doing his (presumably) best Staley impression as he belts out Now I’m bound, empty and hollow/I took the pills, I’ve been consumed. Pop Evil wanted this to be a statement album, and the first two songs greatly demonstrate that they had taken a turn down a darker road.
First single of the album, the fist-pumping Trenches, seems to break this mold briefly; it’s the most up-tempo song on the album, featuring insanely catchy hooks an infectious chorus, and a cool solo courtesy of new guitarist Nick Fuelling that made it an easy choice as a lead single. When fans hear this song, they’ll want to hear the rest.
The aforementioned Torn to Pieces slows things down and manages to make itself memorable with a great vocal performance and backing music that matches up well, with lyrics that paint a despondent picture of regret and sadness. Flawed and Beautiful, despite being on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their sound, manage to match the strength of the first four tracks, with the former being a hard rocker driven by its main riff and very reminiscent of Sevendust, while the latter is much like Torn to Pieces, slower and with fairly somber (if occasionally uplifting) lyrics that just reinforce the darker tone of the album and make the listener really pay attention to have truly experienced the song.
If there is a spot where Pop Evil occasionally fail, it’s when they get into too much of a rhythm and release several consecutive tracks that are too bland to really remember, especially when compared to some of their strongest tracks. Pop Evil clearly know how to make great music, so when they release tracks like Behind Closed Doors and Welcome to Reality, that aren’t interesting lyrically or musically, they bring the album to a screeching halt and truly stand out for all the wrong reasons.
The majority of this album contains hard rocking tracks that are great additions to the discography of Pop Evil; tracks like the aforementioned that are so bland and out of place that it halts the pace of the album really ruin the whole experience of listening to a full album. Nevertheless, though Onyx does contain a few songs that sound like filler, the strength of the first half of the album is what makes it all work; those first 4 songs are among some of their best work and very nearly make up for the sometimes paltry and bland second half. If Pop Evil is able to build upon the success of those first four songs, as they almost did at points in the second half of the album, and release an album full of strong tracks, then they will no doubt be a force in the mainstream rock community for years to come. Let’s hope they do; radio could really use it.
Original release date: May 14th, 2013
1. Goodbye my Friend
2. Deal with the Devil
4. Torn to Pieces
7. Silence & Scars
8. Sick Sense
9. Fly Away
10. Behind Close Doors
11. Welcome to Reality
Final rating: 3.5/5