When the subject turns to Michigan Rock, most people tend to place the epicenter of any significant musical earthquake squarely in Detroit. That’s not necessarily wrong, but it does exclude an impressive array of talent from a variety of locales that aren’t the Motor City, including The Verve Pipe from East Lansing, Whirlwind Heat from Grand Rapids and The Stooges, who were from Ann Arbor, kids.
And that brings us inevitably to Pop Evil, the pride of Muskegon, Mich., and one of the state’s biggest and most recent successes.
Pop Evil came roaring out of the western edge of Michigan in 2001 with a penchant for metallic-edged Hard Rock and an enviable level of sonic sophistication. The quintet endured seven years of desultory gigs before hitting the studio for its first full-length, 2008’s Lipstick on the Mirror, and its follow-up, 2011’s War of Angels, the band’s debut for eOne Music.
Pop Evil’s hard work and tenacity paid big dividends with 2013’s Onyx. The album — created by the current lineup of vocalist Leigh Kakaty, guitarists Nick Fuelling and Davey Grahs, bassist Matt DiRito and drummer Chachi Riot — cracked the Top 40 of Billboard’s album chart, while its trio of singles (“Torn to Pieces,” “Deal with the Devil” and “Trenches”) all reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
As big as Onyx turned out to be for Pop Evil, it could very easily be eclipsed by Up, the band’s freshly released fourth album. The group’s trademark intensity and hairpin precision remain on full display, but Up’s almost supernatural level of melodicism and visceral riff-mongering mark the new album as the pinnacle of Pop Evil’s catalog to date, and possibly one of the year’s best albums. Those tendrils of Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Soundgarden swirling through Up aren’t phantom references — producer Adam Kasper manned the boards for all of those bands and, like his previous charges, inspired Pop Evil to mine a similarly deeper vein of creativity.
If there were any doubts about Pop Evil’s long-term potential, Up will certainly dispel them.