“EVOL … mark[s] the true departure point of Sonic Youth’s musical evolution,” noted Pitchfork, “In measured increments, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo … bring form to the formless, tune to the tuneless, and with the help of Steve Shelley’s drums…, [impose] melody and composition on their trademark dissonance.” "If Daydream Nation is Sonic Youth’s opus, EVOL was crucial research. There’s a directness that makes everything feel close. It is pure tension with little release. The entire record is a shadow."
Stereogum likewise praised the album as one, “full of suspense…, the cornerstone [of] the Sonic Youth sound…, ground zero for the combination of chiming guitars and atonal skronk… muggy delirium…. the virile ‘Tom Violence’ sounds less written than coaxed from a cauldron, the sort of song that fogs windows. The off-kilter ‘Starpower’ … is sung in a frosty [Nico-evoking] monotone [by Kim Gordon]. ‘In The Kingdom #19,’ featuring Mike Watt on bass and … vocals [by Ranaldo]…, is a harrowing story of a highway wreck over a suitably edgy instrumental backing punctuated by … live firecrackers in the vocal booth.”
For Popstache, “EVOL slithers into the unconscious. Once the....detuned melodies and haunting riffs and final whispers of feedback depart from the speakers… the music [leaves] a faded footprint, forever reeling the listener back for another strange trip.”