CD Review: “Pop Evil” by Pop Evil

Pop Evil’s self-titled fifth album is centered around empowerment determination in a world of chaos and corruption. “Waking Lions” with an industrial beat before breaking out with pounding down tuned guitars. Frontman Leigh Kakaty proclaims in the chorus that he will stand tall and awaken the lions within himself to convincing effect. “Colors Bleed” is an abstract but scathing commentary on everything that has transpired in the U.S. over the past few years. The twisting, dysmorphic riffing gives wave to a tranquil midsection with a bluesy guitar lead and a spacey bass line. This will certainly become a staple on the band’s set list. “The Art Of War” sounds like a watered down Rage Against The Machine track with its rapping vocals and staccato riffing. It is not a bad song, but one of the weaker tracks on the record. “Nothing But Thieves” is the longest track on Pop Evil, and is notable for its haunting intro of piano and bells. This tracks borders on industrial rock with pop sensibilities, which makes it an interesting listen. “A Crime To Remember” is the most radio friendly track on this record. It features the schmaltzy rapping accompanied by somber piano and hip-hop beat that is all the rage these days. Rock bands need one potential hit song per album and Pop Evil are no exception.

Pop Evil stretches its musical wings on this record. There is a healthy mix of heavy songs and ballads thus avoiding any monotony. One can hear the band’s influences on these tracks which is the album’s main weakness. When you hear a track like “Art Of War” it is clearly inspired by Rage Against The Machine. However, Pop Evil are no Rage and it sounds like a cheap copy. Pop Evil’s best songs are those that are not blatant derivatives of other bands. The more mired the influence, the better the songs. “Birds Of Prey” is a good example of this as it is a mesh of hard rock, pop and electronica.

Five albums in and a decade since the release of its first record, Pop Evil are not slowing down. Pop Evil is a diverse rock album that should satisfy old fans and win over some new ones. The rock scene is fairly bland in America and Pop Evil are certainly poised to be one of the biggest rock bands in the U.S. This album, while not groundbreaking, shows a confident band ready to seize the crown.

For news and tour dates, check out Pop Evil’s website.

CD Review: “Obituary” by Obituary

Obituary saw a return to form on its 2014 effort, Inked In Blood. The Floridian death metal quintet attempt to maintain that momentum on its eponymous titled tenth album. Its signature sludgy riffs and guttural vocals have not dulled in the slightest, as over half of the album’s 10 tracks are groove laden stompers. Still, there are a few fast numbers like the one-two combination of “Brave” and “Sentence Day.” The former track breaks out at top speed as drummer Donald Tardy punishes his kit for the duration of two minutes. Guitarists Trevor Peres and Kenny Andrews sprinkle several leads on the track over a cacophonous maelstrom of riffs. Then, just when you think the coast is clear, “Sentence Day” continues the onslaught. The guitar leads again deserve commendation and complement the chaotic nature of the track. “Lesson In Vengeance” instantly sounds like vintage DRI with its rolling composition and John Tardy’s semi-clean vocals. Its swinging pace stands in stark contrast to the prior tracks but still maintains a high degree of heaviness. “Kneel Before Me” is a plodding affair with its mechanic double bass and pugnacious riffs. Things get a little repetitive on the record’s second half. “It Lives” and “Betrayed” are mid-tempo numbers that sound contrived and a bit uninspired. The band dials it in, which is unfortunate as it slightly takes away from the album. However, “Turned To Stone” the albums second single, rectifies things with its stomping beat and growl along chorus. It is sure to become a staple at the band’s live shows. Album closer “10,000 Ways To Die” is the title track to Obituary’s live album released October 2016. It is another mid-tempo number that concludes the record in raucous form.

Obituary has nothing to prove with over 30 years under its belt. Its fans know what to expect on each release and the band’s influence over the death metal genre is readily acknowledged. Still, that does not mean the band can rest on its laurels and not produce quality albums. Obituary for the most part shows the band at its best. The first half of the record is diverse, offering several slices of the band’s sound on a gore soaked platter. However, for some reason the band struggles with consistency during the final half. The band dials it in on a few tracks, leaving the listener slightly disappointed as we know the capability of this group. However, things pick up at the end and the band avoids falling in to the mediocre abyss. Production wise, the band has not sounded better. The sound is not muffled or droning which can be a problem as distorted guitars are a primary element of Obituary’s sound. Furthermore, the band quickly gets the job done as Obituary runs a mere 33 minutes.

Well, Obituary’s tenth record is a fairly solid effort. The record is devoid of surprises and that is perfectly fine. However, Obituary falls a little short due to the filler tracks on this record. Short albums have the task of containing as little filter as possible, which is harder than it sounds. Still, Obituary make up for it with a highly enjoyable first half and finding direction toward the record’s conclusion. Fans should pick up this album as should any metalhead looking for a short record to bang their head.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website:

CD Review: “Five” by The Agonist

The Agonist stay on the deathcore path with its newest release, Five. The band’s brand of melodic deathcore is contrived at this point with the group opting to play by the numbers. The opening song “The Moment” is equal parts deathcore with a slight symphonic influence. Frontwoman Viky Psarakis’s vocals shift from growling and guttural to clean. “The Anchor and the Sail” is thrashy before breaking down in to conventional hardcore territory. The guitar work on this track is impressive, but we have heard it before. There are some solid tracks though like “The Ocean” with its tribal drumbeat that sounds like a hunting party running through a jungle. The haunting acoustic guitar and piano on “The Raven Eyes” complement Vicky’s jazzy singing. There is also the short orchestral instrumental “The Wake” with its weeping strings and tranquil flute. The displaced black metal on “The Resurrection” is notable for its cold dissonant riffs and blast beats. Unfortunately, the band regresses in to metalcore territory, thus ruining what could have been a brutal track.

 Five’s main flaw is the band either does too much or not enough. The band seems confused as to whether to play brutal metal or take a more commercial route with its songs. A track will start off heavy but then becomes poppy or soft. There is nothing wrong with accessible heavy music if it is played right. However, The Agonist is too ambitious on Five and the music suffers as a result.

The Agonist does not his its mark on Five. This is unfortunate as one can tell the quintet wanted to create an epic record. Still, the lack of focus on a 55 minute long album makes this a tedious listen. Fans of The Agonist may appreciate this record. However, fans of deathcore or melodic death metal may want to look elsewhere.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website


CD Review: ‘With The Dead’ by With The Dead

Doom power supertrio With The Dead making a lumbering impression with its self titled debut. With The Dead is abundant in molten riffs and colossal drumming. Lee Dorrian (Cathedral, Napalm Death), Tim Bagshaw (Electric Wizard) and Mark Greening (Electric Wizard) put their musicianship, expertise and love for all things heavy into a cauldron and created a flawless doom record. The lo-fi Sabbath inspired “Crown of Burning Stars” is a bulky, sludgey affair so heavy it moves mountains. The music is stripped down and focuses on the majesty of the riff. The bluesy guitar lead soars from the ooze of riffs beneath it and is one of the many highlights on this track. The downcast intro of “The Nephthys” descends like a man heading towards the unknown. Nephthys is the proctector of the mummy in Egyptian mythology and a protector of the dead. How fitting, as the song slowly becomes more uplifting towards the end, like a man making peace with death. The album’s final track “Screams From My Own Grave” is dissonant and unsettling. The monolithic minor riffs are loud enough to wake the dead while the hypnotic drumming manages to keep things somewhat on beat.

With The Dead is a “supergroup” for lack of a better term, but it is true. The members have played in some of the most influential metal bands ever. However, neither member tries to outperform the other and the band is cohesive. The musicianship is solid, but never pretentious or over the top. This is good as the band never overplays its songs. Doom metal bands are notorious for making tracks too long. There seems to be this notion, that records with several 10 minute plus tracks are somehow masterpieces or serious works of musical art. This is not so as the tracks become musical exercises rather than songs.

With The Dead is a great debut that doom metal fans will enjoy. It is so heavy you will be jamming with the dead from the initial guitar note.

Check out the band’s Facebook page here: