Once upon a time, it used to be fairly easy to describe Creeper. You would describe them as ‘gothy’, ‘theatrical’ and ‘horror punk’. That task of summing up this band and their music is not as simple now. Still, admittedly, as theatrical as ever – a proper rock band to the core – the second album Sex, Death and the Infinite Void has helped the band beyond the need for simple definition.
The Southampton six-piece came of age on 2017’s debut Eternity, In Your Arms but three years on have blossomed into something else. They metamorphose and they experiment, but remarkably, for all their differences, they still sound distinctly like Creeper. Every song here makes perfect sense.
The group usher us into the world of Sex, Death and the Infinite Void after spoken-word opener ‘Hallelujah!’ with a one-two of self-assured rock ‘n’ roll songs: ‘Be My End’ and ‘Born Cold’. Although Dan Bratton’s drums drive these songs with flourishes rather than double tempo pounding, they still feel quintessentially Creeper, as bold and tinged with darkness and drama as their previous, punkier releases.
The first big surprise of the album arrives early as the sultry, suave ballad, ‘Cyanide’. The song is remarkable not only in its quality but in how far removed the song is stylistically from the band’s back-catalogue. Indeed, Creeper channel a seductive side that suits them surprisingly well: “She’s my cyanide / I drink her every night,” croons frontman Will Gould. In fact, throughout the whole record, we get moments like these that feel charged with Normal People levels of sexual energy — and they’re sublime.
‘Celestial Violence’, a poem-like interlude, gives us time to catch our breaths before the groove-driven rebellion anthem ‘Annabelle’ swaggers in with singalong opportunities for days.
The quartet of songs that follow marks a screeching left turn for the record: they sound vintage, as though they could have been taken from dusty records left for years in the attic.
‘Poisoned Heart’ is practically a love letter to David Bowie and Nick Cave, flexing the band’s emotional and vocal range. Immediate follow-up ‘Thorns of Love’ takes yet another route, falling back on 50s vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll, as if a B-side from the Grease soundtrack. ‘Four Years Ago’ leaves behind some of the Kerrang! Radio vibes in favour of something a little more Radio 2 – though that is by no means an insult – Popmaster has got me through lockdown.
Another spoken interlude, ‘Holy War’ (a quarter of the tracklist is made up of songs that aren’t really songs) paves the way for potentially the strongest songs of the record. ‘Napalm Girls’ combines the lust of ‘Cyanide’ (“She is a war in me / Her kiss is violent”) with the rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities of the earlier songs to stunning effect while ‘Black Moon’ is gorgeously otherworldly and explodes in its latter half into something epic and grandiose.
If ‘Black Moon’ is to be the finale, then heart wrenching piano-led ‘All My Friends’ is the epilogue, stepping away from Creeper’s new world for a moment as if to reflect and embrace personal vulnerability. Gould wrote the song for guitarist Ian Miles after he was sectioned.
Yet, as the piano dies away, there is one more surprise for those who don’t play something else straight after: another short poem, ‘More Careful With Your Heart’, bringing the record to a quiet, emotive end.
The ambition Creeper has on show is palpable at every second of Sex, Death and the Infinite Void, audible from their experimentation to their concepts to their playing around with poetry. These songs are unique but fit together cohesively and are always profound, never derived or cliched. They have proven what a special band they are once again, and why they are the future of British rock music.
Words by Emma Wilkes
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