Skeletons is the new album from Michigan rockers Pop Evil.
Pop Evil began in North Muskegon, Michigan more than twenty years ago. After years of hard work, they cracked into a stream of rising popularity kindled by their album Lipstick on the Mirror (2008). Five more records followed, and with touring and regular appearances at major festivals, their fanbase swelled rapidly. I first became impressed by the band seeing them live – they always put on a great show, and they were certainly a highlight of last year’s Blue Ridge Rock Festival. They play an approachable style of hard rock that has an irresistible appeal to a wide range of music fans. The band is Leigh Kakaty (vocals), Dave Grahs (guitar), Nick Fuelling (guitar), and Hayley Cramer (drums).
There are ten tracks on the new record, plus the short intro mood-setter bit, “Arrival,” which precedes the lead track, “Paranoid (Crash & Burn).” The opener lands with a hard pound. Catchy and interesting, it engages and gets you moving. The chorus is melodic and singable, and the lyrics are relatable. This one will be an anthem at live shows. Harsh crosscuts scintillate between the smoother moments, creating a perfect storm. This is a great opening song. “Circles” is next, an up tempo roller that is linear and on target. The structure is similar to the first song, but the composition operates in a narrower range, focusing on momentum. “Eye of The Storm” is a sonic stomper with extended levelling passages, and “Sound of Glory” is a short talkative piece that sets up the title track to close side one. “Skeletons” is more like a ballad than any of the others so far, but it has its hard edges, too.
Side two continues in the hard rocking framework set up on the first half. The songs feature guest appearances by members of Devour the Day, Zillion, and most notably for me, Ryan Kirby from Fit For A King who contributes to “Dead Reckoning,” one of my favorite songs on the album. The music on this record has a continual surging power and an indefatigable resilience that fans will love. Recommended.
Skeletons is out now through MNRK Heavy records, and is available everywhere, including through the links below.
True Power is the third record from Michigan metalcore band I Prevail.
Starting out almost ten years ago, I Prevail has made an indelible mark on the hard rock scene. Releasing Lifelines in 2016 and the thundering follow-up Trauma three years later, the band continues to bend their trajectory ever farther upward. Staking out top spots in major festivals and embarking on a massive headlining tour this fall, I Prevail is making its presence known. The band is Brian Burkheiser (vocals), Eric Vanlerberghe (vocals), Steven Menoian (guitars, bass), Dylan Bowman (guitar), and Gabe Helguera (drums).
After a short intro track, “There’s Fear In Letting Go” gets the ball rolling on the new album. The signature I Prevail sound complete with alternating vocals is on full display. High energy and delineated assurance are pervasive forces throughout the song and, we’ll find, the entire album. “Body Bag” is even fiercer – an interesting choice to start out at such a high level and then raise the bar immediately. “Self-Destruction” changes the tempo but does not back off the attitude, and the riffs here grow heavier and darker. “Bad Things” is next and it starts out melodically, but there is a punch in this one, too.
There is no question that fans of I Prevail are going to be stoked by the new album. Apart from the opening movements, stand-out tracks for me are “Judgement Day” for its ragged harshness and “Choke” for that killer guitar riff. The final two songs on the set work a particular magic together as well, “Visceral” and “Doomed.” The former is aggressive, true to its title, and the latter is quiet and smooth despite its theme. This album is one that will be celebrated now and remembered in the years to come. Recommended.
True Power is out on Friday, August 19th through Fearless Records. Press the links below for all the details.
Michigan Metal Fest was a soggy one this year, but the metal shined through and prevailed to the bitter end.
Fans gathered after a two-year hiatus at the Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan for the Michigan Metal Fest. The headliners were Atilla, Oceano, Green Jelly, and Tallah – an eclectic line-up that had the potential to draw a big crowd. The lead-in bands numbered a couple dozen, performing across three stages set up on the arboretum grounds.
The Dirtbag Stage was an existing outdoor venue in an area of the arboretum called The Fantasy Forest which hosting multiple wooden carvings of wizards and dragons. Pretty cool, actually. Casket Robbery was scheduled to play on this stage and they were one of the big reasons I attended this year. The other two stages were set up pretty close together. The Fountain Stage was the third stage, putting bands in the afternoon, and the main stage, Puck Hcky, carried the show through closing. It was an excellent arrangement as the three were short walks from each other and the schedule minimized tough choices of bands playing at the same.
Everything looked great. It had been warm and sunny in Battle Creek for a couple weeks, but the weather is fickle and is something you can’t do a single thing about. On Saturday it rained. When I say it rained, I mean it rained, essentially non-stop, for the entire twelve hours of the festival. That almost never happens. Usually, if there is rain, you get a couple showers, or a few bursts of heavy rain. Sometimes a thunderstorm or two that lasts a little while, and then, after a pause for nature, you continue with the festival. This rain, however, was a consistent soaking rain that alternated light and heavy but never really went away. The kind of rain we saw at Inkcarceration on the third day this year, except perhaps a little worse. As the day wore on, you just got wetter and wetter, and the temperature fell into the fifties. It was rough. Metal fans toughed it out, though, and even though there were a couple of scratches in the line-up, the festival went on.
The first band I saw on the Dirt Bag Stage was Coffin Talk, a band from Kalamazoo. They brought the metal, and the fire (quite literally), stoking the embers and rousing the crowd. The stage was at the bottom of a sloping hillside with those sculptures on it and was really the perfect place for a concert because you could stand down by the stage if you wanted to go farther up the slope and sit down with a good view. It could have been the sloping hill that lead to the demise of the stage because it had to be shut down a couple hours later due to flooding behind the stage that caused problems with the sound equipment. The remaining bands had to be cut from the program for the day, including Casket Robbery. That was very unfortunate but, again, sometimes these things happen at outdoor events – rain or shine, don’t you know.
There was a steady stream of performances on the Fountain Stage I got to see because of its convenient line-of-sight location from the Press Tent. I had never witnessed any of these bands perform before, so it was an entertaining education for me. Tyrant and I Decide I were especially impressive, despite the fact that, even though the stage was covered, it was the one most exposed to the elements and the bands were basically standing out in the raining while playing. It was a tough slog, but they did it, and the fans stood out in the rain with them.
On the main stage, while all the acts were good, there were four bands in a row that ripped it up – again, bands I had not seen live before: Falsifier, The Convalescence, Embryonic Autopsy, and Heartsick. A tented VIP area was just off to the side of the stage, and so there were more spectators here than elsewhere on the grounds. The stage itself offered more protection from the weather, but most of the bands ventured out to the edge and joined the metal heads in the rain for their performances.
The action had to be stopped a couple of times because of lightning in the area, and attendees were allowed out of the venue to go to their cars to dry off and warm up a little before being let back in. There was on-going uncertainty about whether the festival would continue, but in the end it did. Kudos and congratulations to the organizers and bands who made the best of the tough situation and came through for metal fans by ensuring that the show went on.
The headliners played and stalwart fans stayed. I didn’t get any photos after about seven o’clock because my camera finally succumbed to the relentless assault of the endless rain and blinked out, but I can tell you that Green Jelly marveled the crowd with an absolutely wild show and Tallah, Oceano, and Atilla left no one disappointed.
I have included links below to a few photo galleries of the bands I could get shots of before my equipment shorted out to give you a few more glimpses of the day in Battle Creek. I have no complaints – sometimes it rains, man. Sometimes it rains.
Mark your calendars for Michigan Metal Fest in 2023. It is an excellent one-day event for the Great Lakes region and a worthy destination for your summer heavy metal travels.
Midwestern heavy doom act Bog Wizard roll the dice on a new record, Miasmic Purple Smoke.
Bog Wizard is a stoner trio from Michigan. And not Detroit but up in hinterlands of Ludington – north, west, and cold. Ben Lombard (vocals, guitar), Harlen Linke (percussion, vocals, synth), and Colby Lowman (bass) channel their own interests in heroic fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons into smoky musical doom. Their Campaign EP came out in 2018, followed two years later by From The Mire and then a split with Dust Lord, Four Tales of the Strange. The new one is the band’s second longplayer.
There are four meaty tracks and two bite-sized ones. “Barbaria” fronts the set with deliciously clodding doom riffs. Slow, heavy, and whimsical, the simplicity of the music allows for quick absorption. “The Rogue” follows like a gliding galley loaded with menace and bad intentions. It has a faster tempo and more of a grinding sense to it, and a long, welcome cool-down. “Grim Dark” is one of the short pieces that puts a nice unsettling bump on side one.
The title track leads the second triplet, kicking off with an Iommi-inspired riff and an excellent vocal pairing. Truly, the voices are the telling remark throughout this song, with a couple of extra-fuzzy divergences. “Stuck in the Muck” is a transitory tantrum that is a lot fun heading toward the closer, “The Void Beckons.” Synths and a funeral doom guitar welcome you in to a mystical world dripping with deep dark dankness. It is the longest trip on the album and it is a thoroughly satisfying journey.
You don’t have to be a D&D fan to enjoy this music. It is great slow, old school doom with some keys mixed in and just the right attitude. Recommended.
Miasmic Purple Smoke is out now. Take a deep drag at Bandcamp.