Adjectives that can be used to describe Onyx: heavy, different, solid, fantastic, amazing. After a few spins it is easy to state that Onyx is the best Pop Evil album to date. And while that may seem like a bold statement, it is a true statement. Fans expecting to hear “Monster You Made,” or “100 In A 55,” will not find that here. That doesn’t mean those fans will be disappointed, because Pop Evil has still delivered greatness. Acoustic guitars may be absent, and ballads may be few and far between (technically only one ballad appears on Onyx), but phenomenal music is definitely present and accounted for. Here now is Hard Rock Hideout’s track by track breakdown of the latest LP from Pop Evil.
Goodbye My Friend
Opening track, “Goodbye My Friend,” is a solid, hard rocking, modern blast. The addition of Nick Fueling (lead guitar) and Chaci Riot (drums) are felt immediately. And while the absence of Tony Greve and Dylan Allison is noticeable, the new players are taking Pop Evil in a whole different direction. “Goodbye My Friend” sets the tone for what the rest of Onyx is going to sound like: a fast, hard hitting masterpiece. The solos in this song are outstanding and vocalist Leigh Kakaty reaches down and pushes out a growling, gravelly voice that has not been heard previously.
Deal With The Devil
“Deal With The Devil” is a fast song with a hard and heavy beat. This song hit hard right out of the gate and quickly became an instant favorite. I didn’t think that there was a song that I would enjoy more than “Trenches” on this record, but I was wrong. There are multiple songs that are better than “Trenches” and “Deal With The Devil” is one of them. Crunching guitars from Nick Fueling and Dave Grahs dominate this song and turn it into a gem. Add to that Kakaty’s voice in peak form, and there’s high chance for “Deal With The Devil” to become a huge hit.
“Trenches” was the first single released for Onyx and for a while I really thought it was the best song on the record. That is no longer the case (as you will see). Yet, “Trenches” is one of the best Pop Evil songs to date. Crunching, heavy guitars open the track and are immediately followed by the pounding drums of Riot. The powerful vocals that Kakaty nails throughout along with the urgency that the song is sung in makes this one of the most powerful anthems to come out of the Pop Evil camp.
Torn To Pieces
This is easily the weakest song on the album. That’s not to say it’s a horrendous song, it’s just not as strong as the other tracks. The subject matter is very touching (Leigh Kakaty wrote it as a tribute after his father passed away), and the song is heartfelt, but “Torn To Pieces” lacks the power that all other Pop Evil ballads have contained. And considering this is the only true ballad on Onyx, it was quite surprising. Heading into the disc, I thought “Torn To Pieces” was going to be a song that I constantly played. However, it looks like it will be just the opposite. I seem to hit skip a lot to get to the next track.
“Divide” is another strong, hard hitting, modern rock gem that only Pop Evil can deliver. This is also another song that defines the new direction Pop Evil is heading in. There would never be a song like “Divide” on the band’s previous two albums because they hadn’t emerged to that state in their career yet. With “Divide” the band has embraced the modern rock sound that they seemed to be keeping at bay on previous records. Here, they embrace the sound and turned in a strong, enjoyable song.
“Beautiful” is a mid-tempo piece that is quite enjoyable. The subject matter is exceptional, as the message in the music is we are all beautiful to someone in our own way. Regardless of sexual orientation, the color of our skin, personal interests, or anything else, we are all beautiful today and everyday for the rest of our lives. “Beautiful” is a very uplifting song and one that I believe has the potential to be absolutely astonishing in concert. Personally, I can’t wait to hear this song performed live.
Silence & Scars
Another ballad is delivered in the form of “Silence & Scars.” The song emerges with a strange, yet cool, attention grabbing guitar riff. It sets the stage for the rest of the song. Once again, Kakaty’s voice is strong and smooth and while it’s not a true ballad, “Silence & Scars” is up there with “Monster You Made” for one of the best ballads in the Pop Evil catalog. I expect that this will be a chart topping hit in the very near future.
This is the heaviest song that Pop Evil has ever done. It sounds like a mash up of Marilyn Manson, Rage Against The Machine, and some darker modern rock bands. After the first couple of listens, I didn’t think that I was going to like this song at all. Then, after a few more spins, it started to grow on me. Now, “Sick Sense” is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It clearly shows the evolution of Pop Evil and the deep influence that Fueling and Riot had on the band for the recording of this record. Three years ago, I wouldn’t even consider “Sick Sense” a Pop Evil song. Now, part of me is hoping this is the direction the band heads in over the next couple of albums.
“Fly Away” is a return to the Pop Evil sound that fans have come to know over the years. Hard rocking, clean, and a whole lot of fun, “Fly Away” is one of the strongest Pop Evil songs recorded. This is destined to be a sing along classic in almost no time. “Fly Away” is another song that I am anxious to see the band perform in concert. There is so much raw power and potential for this song to be a climactic moment during their concert. And while the song structure is very simple, the delivery is impeccable, and it is what pushes “Fly Away” over the top.
Behind Closed Doors
This is another song that took a few listens to grow on me. At first, I wasn’t quite sure that I liked this song, but after a few plays, I realized how grand of a song “Behind Closed Doors” is. Starting off slow and then building into a hurried frenzy, “Behind Closed Doors” is a song that has a lot to offer. The song is rich, layered, and deep, which may be why it took so long to grow on me. There is a lot happening within “Behind Closed Doors” and it takes several listens to truly appreciate all of the great music that is being played back at the listener.
Welcome To Reality
Another quick, simple, and highly enjoyable song, “Welcome To Reality” is standard Pop Evil flair. Filled with high energy and strong vocals from Kakaty, “Welcome To Reality” is a song that delivers. If “Trenches” has a sibling, it would be “welcome To Reality.” This is a strong song that serves as a great reminder that music can sometimes just be straight out fun.
“Flawed” is an odd song that I haven’t quite decided how I feel about. I love the opening guitar riff from Nick Fueling and I love how the drums come crashing in behind the riff. Yet, there is something about the song that keeps it from standing out as all of the other tracks have. I am unable to identify exactly what is holding this song back, but the simple fact remains that “Flawed” isn’t as grand as 10 of the other Onyx tracks. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it is the last song on the record? I have no idea. What I do know is that it will take several more listens to determine if “Flawed” is one of the better Pop Evil catalog songs.
Rating: Out of 10
01. Goodbye My Friend
02. Deal With The Devil
04. Torn To Pieces
07. Silence & Scars
08. Sick Sense
09. Fly Away
10. Behind Closed Doors
11. Welcome To Reality
Pop Evil Is:
Leigh Kakaty – Vocals
Matt DiRito – Bass
Dave Grahs – Rhythm Guitar
Nick Fueling – Lead Guitar
Chachi Riot – Drums
Sitting in the back of the Pop Evil tour bus with lead singer Leigh Kakaty, two things immediately engage my attention. The first is the TV screen paused on a Playstation 3 game of hockey showing the Bruins leading the Capitals 1 – 0. I noticed this only due to the fact that Leigh has mentioned his love of hockey video games to me before.
“Still getting your ass kicked?” I ask with a nod toward the television screen.
He laughs in response. “Nah, no one beats me!”
“What about Theory? They are Canadian, you know.”
He smiles in response, committing to nothing. “Yeah, those guys are good.”
The second thing that I notice is how soft spoken and humble Leigh Kakaty is. This is the powerful front man for a rock band that is rising faster than the Phoenix. It is about 45 minutes until Pop Evil will take the stage, opening for Theory of a Deadman, and perform to a sold out Starland Ballroom crowd in Sayreville, Ne w Jersey. Seeing Leigh Kakaty in action on stage, and knowing what a wild and intense performer he is, I’m slightly taken aback by his soft spoken approach when being interviewed in person.
We talk about Pop Evil’s recent announcement first, which brings a huge grin to Leigh’s face. Pop Evil will be touring the United States this summer with several bands including Trivium, Killswitch Engage, and Five Finger Death Punch. I’m curious to know how Pop Evil got on the bill and even more curious to know how they think they will fair on such a tour. Pop Evil seems like the odd band out for the Trespass America tour.
“Five Finger Death Punch gave us this great opportunity,” Leigh states. “And now we have a chance to mix rock with metal and we’re trying to put on more of a festival type atmosphere. And the more we come together as metal and rock the more the fans can embrace that. And Five Finger Death Punch giving us an opportunity to do that is very humbling, because we are very much influenced by (them). We’re a lot heavier than people realize.”
Any band trying to make a name for themselves knows the rigors of constant touring, and Pop Evil is no exception. Over the last 2 years, they have played more than 400 shows and counting. I ask Leigh if he, or the band, ever get road weary and tired of the constant touring.
“What are you going to do with downtime? Play more Playstation video games? We’d rather be touring. We’re here to work. We’re here to play. When we start to work on the new record, then we’ll take some time with the family. Sometimes you miss the family and when your friends back at home are out on their boats and we’re in the middle of Texas where it is 140 degrees and you can’t go outside because it’s too hot. It has its moments, but at the end of the day we have the best job in the world and, you know, we’re pretty blessed.
“It’s very tough to maintain a band this day and age, and we just pride ourselves with touring and we just got to keep it going. It’s great to see the Pop Evil fans just growing at an alarming speed. It’s great. (You) just gotta keep playing,” Leigh says. “Keep writing the good jams, keep touring and staying out on the road, making a living.”
Speaking with fans in the parking lot prior to the show words like spectacular, amazing, and intense are thrown around when discussing Pop Evil’s live performance. While there are several fans that have not seen the band live and many others who have never heard of Pop Evil, there are still a plethora of fans that have seen Pop Evil live and give them high praise.
“I don’t see a band with this much intensity very often,” one fan tells me.
Back on the tour bus, Leigh confirms that sentiment. “It’s our live show that really makes people fans of Pop Evil.”
It is easy to understand why. On stage, Leigh Kakaty and the rest of Pop Evil are akin to un-caged animals set loose on a hostile crowd, ready to take over the world of hard rock. At the center of all the stage antics, is the band’s leader. Between rock screams of rage and passionately sung lyrics during power ballads, Leigh Kakaty is a Bruce Dickinson in the making. The way that he can command a crowd and mold them into his own image is awe inspiring. Leigh and his band mates have an uncanny ability to take a crowd that may not be into Pop Evil, or may not know who they are, and convert them into lifelong fans after just one performance.
Later in the evening, during Pop Evil’s performance of “Purple” a guy in the crowd turns to me and asks what album the song was on.
“It’s from their latest record, War of Angels,” I tell him.
Immediately, he logs into iTunes on his smart phone and downloads the record. He shows it to me proudly, like someone who has just caught a guitar pick in the front row. This is the power of Pop Evil’s live show. This is what the band can do with just one performance.
The previous week, Pop Evil and Theory of a Deadman performed at the Crocodile Rock Café in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was there that Leigh Kakaty walked on the crowd to the delight of the fans. And although Leigh has done this before, it was the first time I was made aware of it (thanks to You Tube). It was an amazing moment in their set where Leigh literally walked on top of a sea of hands. The crowd loved it. I ask Leigh about this and how it came about.
“Walk on the crowd, man. You know, it’s just always been my thing. You know, Jesus walked on water, why can’t a rock star walk on some hands? I think it’s just something that’s always been a fun thing for Pop Evil and our fans. It’s something that you don’t see every day. You know, you’ll fall off and take your lumps if it’s not crazy packed, but it’s cool, it lets the fans get a little more hands on…literally. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I swear it gets harder to do the older I get. The bruises are definitely a little more painful.”
Later that night, Leigh would re-enact the walk on the crowd for New Jersey. “All right,” he screams into the microphone. “We’re going to try something that I don’t think has ever been done at the Starland Ballroom before.” Leigh instructs the fans at the front of the stage to band together and put their hands up, palms out. “We’re gonna try to walk on the crowd! Are you ready?”
The loud roar in response indicates that they are. Leigh leans forward from the stage, putting one foot on the first hand he can step on. He then hoists himself up to where he is standing high atop a sea of hands. Leigh breaks into song and sings from his position on the hands, walking out just a little bit further. The crowd is amazed and several people whip out their camera phones to make a video for the internet.
At the end of their set, Leigh careens around the stage demanding of the crowd, “When I say Pop! You say Evil!” to which the crowd gloriously responds. “Pop!” “Evil!” “Pop!” “Evil!” This may be a Theory of a Deadman concert, but by the end of Pop Evil’s performance, it has become a double bill, with fans screaming just as loud for Pop Evil as they would for Theory.
I ask Leigh if the band has any plans for a live DVD in the near future.
“No plans right now, because we’re still new, in the scheme of things. It would be nice to do a DVD when we reach some level of touring success—when we do something more monumental, like selling out arenas. We do film everything and have all the footage, but I don’t think that I’m emotionally ready to dive into a DVD just yet, and I don’t think the demand is there. We’d like to do it down the road at some point, but a lot of variables have to come into it. Maybe after the next record, but I don’t think it will be anytime before that. Right now, the Pop Evil focus is solely on new music and developing our identity.”
As we continue our interview, the band’s manager looks into the back room asking if everything was all right. It was his way of saying that we had to wrap up, Pop Evil was due on stage in a few minutes. Leigh politely nods and after the door is closed again he looks at me. “That’s the boss,” he says with both pride and respect uncommon in most rock stars. His humbled statement only confirms how appreciative he is of all the blessings his life has been given.
I transition to the topic of cover songs and Leigh practically shudders.
“(There is) absolutely not one song that I want to cover. We’ve played covers for the first eight years of our existence. And we played all the covers from Afro Man to Sweet Home Up In Michigan, the Michigan version of Sweet Home Alabama. Covers were such a big part of how we paid for our beginnings and we just want to do Pop Evil originals for as long as we can.”
I had heard rumors that the Leigh Kakaty Facebook page was a fake, so I decide to ask Leigh about this. He laughs, loudly, somewhat caught off guard. “I’ve never been asked that question before.”
“There have been some fakes. I do have one, but I just kept it with people that I knew from high school. I use it to look at what everyone else I grew up with does, but as far as me posting, it just seems weird. If you want to know what I’m up to, check out the Pop Evil page.”
Leigh talks of enjoying his privacy right now. He likes where the band is at, because fans know the band, but they don’t necessarily know him. He can go out to dinner without being recognized and he likes that. There seems to be a slight fear of getting too big, because he could lose his anonymity. He hopes the band gets huge, but he worries about the price of becoming too famous. Leigh then tells me a funny story of how Wes Scantlin from Puddle of Mudd would wear a wig so that he wouldn’t be recognized when he went out in public. “That’s just something that I don’t want to do,” Leigh says. “I like dressing the way I dress now.”
“What advice can you offer to bands that are just starting out?”
“You gotta give it up. If you really want it, you gotta be out on the road 365 days a year. If you really want it, you have to sacrifice. Set realistic goals, and if you’re goal is a record deal, start with the little wins. How many people are you bringing to a show? If it’s nobody, make it 10. If it’s 10 make it 500. And if you’re bringing 500 call your local radio station. Do your research.
“And then when you make it big, you have to decide, can you juggle everything? You’re going to want a family, you’re going to want kids, but can you handle everything?
“At the end of the day, you gotta write good songs. You gotta create something that’s going to make someone want to go to ITunes and pay a dollar for something that you created.”
When I tell Leigh that I am going to put him on the spot and want a prediction from him, he immediately stops me with a laugh and says: “Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl next year.” His love for all things Detroit is evidently unwavering, and perhaps he is not far off with his Lions prediction, but it is his band that I am more interested in.
“I want a prediction. How long until Pop Evil sells out Madison Square Garden as headliners?” I ask.
Leigh pauses, not sure how to approach this question. I’m thinking that his humbleness may be preventing him from making too bold of a prediction. “Ahhh, OK, opening act doesn’t count? No, you said headliner. So Pop Evil with Lady GaGa, that should sell out the Garden!”
We share a laugh and Leigh continues, “I’m going to say… 2017… and a half.”
Watch out Madison Square Garden. By the summer of 2017, Pop Evil is going to take over your arena with one of the most spectacular live shows that New York City has ever seen. I just hope Leigh remembers me and offers up front row tickets. I also hope that Madison Square Garden security is ready for when Leigh Kakaty walks on the crowd.
Follow RyoVie on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyoVie
The latest edition of the Hard Rock Hideout Podcast is now available for streaming or download. Our latest podcast features interviews with Charm City Devil’s front man, John Allen, and Leigh Kakaty from Pop Evil. Check it out!
The Hard Rock Hideout podcast is available for streaming (below) and for download here (click and save).
Michigan rock powerhouse, POP EVIL hit the road next week supporting THEORY OF A DEADMAN in continued support of their release, “War Of Angels.” The tour comes on the heels of landing their THIRD single on the active rock top ten chart. “Having three hit singles off our album is a dream come true. It’s been a long journey and we credit our fans for all the support. We look forward to reuniting with our good friends in Theory of a Deadman on what looks to be one of the best tours this Spring. Can’t wait to get out there and ROCK with everyone!” says frontman Leigh Kakaty.
The band starts their tour supporting THEORY OF A DEADMAN on Monday in Tallahassee, FL. Dates run coast to coast through the end of May. Tickets are available HERE.
The band released “War Of Angels” last summer to much critical praise.
“Pop Evil’s latest effort, War of Angels, sees the band beefing up their sound and displaying a good deal of growth and maturity that’s a paramount example of why it’s a shame the big labels don’t give bands time to develop anymore” – Guitar World
“War Of Angels is a heavier and more mature departure from their debut album.” – Billboard
Pop Evil has released their follow up effort to their 2008 debut Lipstick in a Mirror. While I thought Lipstick in a Mirror was good, the band has improved, and War of Angels is definitely a step above the debut. Luckily, I have been able to hear the band perform a few of the songs from War of Angels live prior to purchasing the CD, and I already knew that I liked the tunes I have heard.
War of Angels seems like a more balanced effort. Some songs like “Last Man Standing” and “Boss’s Daughter” are heavy, while the song “Let It Go” is more of a pop/power ballad, that has huge radio potential.
Leigh Kakaty’s voice surprised me on this CD, as I thought his voice sounded higher than it did when I have seen him live. He sounds great, as does the rest of Pop Evil.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of too many modern rock bands, however, Pop Evil has won me over with their energetic live shows. Judging from the tunes on War of Angels, Pop Evil is clearly one of the better new bands out there. I would compare their sound to Shinedown’s at this stage in their career, and that is not a bad place to be in my opinion.
I have enjoyed War of Angels much more than I expected to, and definitely believe it is worth picking up.
Rating: Out of 10
1. Last Man Standing
3. Broken and Betrayed
4. Monster You Made
5. Let it Go
6. Boss’s Daughter
7. Daisy Chain
9. Black & Blue
10. Next Life
11. Save the World
Pop Evil is:
Leigh Kakaty – lead vocals
Tony Greve – lead guitar
Dave Grahs – rhythm guitar
Matt DiRito – bass
Dylan Allison – drums