After releasing three EPs in as many years, along with pictures and videos pertaining to many intriguing mystery objects and riddles, Southampton born horror-punks Creeper have captivated the hearts, minds and imaginations of a loyal band of followers, who march under the banner of the Callous Heart, all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the six-piece’s debut album, ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ in order to uncover more of the mystery and story behind the many characters they have introduced that form the basis of this dark world of the supernatural and macabre from which the band’s music grows and takes shape. And it was most definitely worth the wait: with the grandeur of rock opera the like of which we haven’t seen since the days of My Chemical Romance’s ‘Black Parade’, as well as the raw energy and urgency that comes from Creeper’s punk roots, ‘Eternity…’ showcases the band’s ability to create powerful, punchy punk anthems and dress them in the dark cloak of gothic storytelling, which together creates a sound unlike anything else out there.
Opening with four lines of haunting prose delivered by keyboard-player and backup vocalist Hannah Greenwood, opener ‘Black Rain’ grabs your attention instantly, drawing the listener in before your ears are met with the meteoric blast that is the opening riff, the grunting bassline provided by bassist Sean Scott and pummelling guitars from guitarists Ian Miles and Oliver Burdett creating an eclectic lightning storm of sound that bores into your brain, insistent and unrelenting. The operatic chorus lifts the track out of the darkness of the melody into a soaring symphony, elevated by the addition of Hannah’s harmonies to frontman Will Gould’s deep, powerful vocals, the track as a whole conjuring up the image of the army that is the Creeper Cult (a name adopted by Creeper’s fans entirely of their own volition) marching in unison to the beat provided by drummer Dan Bratton, the insignia of the Callous Heart flying high above their heads, fluttering in the dark breeze: it’s dark power and sense of mystery involuntarily drawing you in to the world of the Callous Hearts. ‘Poison Pens’ follows, hailed in like a thunderstorm by Will’s screams that hint at a post-hardcore edge drawn from the band’s hard rock and punk origins, as palpable anger gushes from the incessant guitars and Will’s potent vocals. Yet the track loses none of that idiosyncratic Creeper melodrama, as the macabre, almost sinister undertones to the bridge highlight the band’s horror influences, which merge with the loud, abrasive verses to create a sound not all that dissimilar to that of Marilyn Manson, the godfather of the horror-rock genre.
‘Eternity…’s lead single is the galloping black horse of a song that is the deceptively bouncy ‘Suzanne’, with its reworked verses and call-and-response style pre-chorus that begs to be shouted from a rooftop over a lit-up city. Yet as well as an abundance of new songs on this record, ‘Eternity…’ also sees the return of one of Creeper’s most loved tracks from their ‘The Stranger’ EP, namely the ethereal, mournful lament which has become a Creeper Cult staple that is ‘Misery’, which boasts undertones of desperation and defiance in equal measure, which serve to create a heartbreakingly sad, tear-inducing ballad. Never ones to wallow in their sadness, however, Creeper keep the early part of the record alive and kicking thanks to the second single from the record ‘Hiding With Boys’, which is a heartbreak anthem like no other, sporting clever imagery and a sense of derision towards the song’s subject which all those for whom time has been their heartbreaker can find their emotions mirrored within- anger, pain and disdain for their former lover all whisked together over an infectious melody. The glamour and theatrics of the record are not to be forgotten either, and are brought to the fore in the latest single ‘Down Below’: a gloriously sumptuous blend of a Blondie-inspired riff created by guitarist Ian that packs an undeniably punk punch, screaming its pride for its 1980s punk rock predecessors, and a Meatloaf-esque bridge with its darkly seductive atmosphere created by the haunting, lonesome piano and whispered lyrics, adding a dash of drama to the soaring melody.
Drama and intrigue which both deepen as the highly anticipated reference to Creeper’s ongoing online mystery clues is finally revealed, hurtling at you at breakneck speed in the form of ‘Room 309’, whose low, grunting guitars carry the weight of post hardcore effortlessly, as the bass and guitars yell over each other, each demanding your full attention, their cacophony only added to by the barrelling drums. Eventually, however, the pace begins to calm, the black storm waters settling as the unearthly pull of Will and Hannah’s haunting harmonies quell and settle the tides, the softer, reflective chords fading out into the sound of crickets chirping in the twilight. Very appropriately, one track flows seamlessly into the next, the crickets’ chirps swelling and the lulling back to reveal the soft, acoustic tones of the aptly named ‘Crickets’. This time, Will’s theatrics and melodrama are nowhere to be found, and Hannah’s softer vocals shimmer and sparkle like stars in the night sky over the bittersweet chords that tug at the heartstrings as effectively as if they were guitar strings themselves. Full to the brim with reminiscence and pain, the raw, simplistic lyrics (by Creeper’s standards) are all the more poignant and emotional for their elegance and minimalism, and the song conjures images of fireflies hovering beneath darkened trees in the twilight, carrying a different kind of magic which is softer and lighter than the dark supernatural that is embraced earlier in the record- a contrast that is all the more beautiful because of the way it shines so brightly in the depths of the inky night that is the rest of ‘Eternity…’ thus far. Understanding, thanks to the band’s innate sense of storytelling, that they would be unable to successfully return from that relative tranquillity with anything overly abrasive and shocking to the senses, the following track ‘Darling’ brings pace back to the party, but in a smoother, less punchy and aggressive form than before, instead layering a falsely upbeat melody underscored by a bouncy underlying danceable beat with contrastingly self-deprecating lyrics, through which the wonderfully unique nature of Will’s voice is demonstrated in all its glory.
Building towards the finale of the record is the penultimate song ‘Winona Forever’, whose title references actress Winona Ryder, whose appearances in the films ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and most recently the Netflix supernatural-horror series ‘Stranger Things’ (2016) paint her as the archetypal, beautiful gothic muse. This track sees the sense of insistency and urgency pumped back into the melody, with infectiously catchy hooks peppered throughout that make it impossible to not want to bounce along! To some, ‘Winona Forever’ may appear to be the poppiest track on the record, ideal for those days when the inky depths of your black heart are more like a dark shade of grey!
No expense is spared on the final closing track of ‘Eternity…’, however. Frontman Will has spoken in interviews about how the first and last tracks on the record are like ‘bookends’ to the story contained within it, and that analogy springs to mind instantly as the first simple, stripped back notes of Hannah’s piano ring out into the silence, carrying a power akin to opener ‘Black Rain’, but carrying a potency that is all their own. The raw, unsullied melody and minimalistic chords adds all the more emphasis to hauntingly powerful and devastatingly emotional refrain that also serves, poetically so, as this, the final tracks’ title: ‘I Choose to Live’. It is impossible not to feel tears prick your eyes, as you can almost hear the ghostly voices of the hundreds of waifs, strays and outsiders who make up the Callous Hearts singing along softly, in unison, as the operatic grandeur builds once more through the second chorus, the sound rising and growing, like the first rays of sun peeking over the horizon, flooding the sky with brilliant colour that chases away the darkness of night, building and building and then- with barely a whisper- dispersing like a cloud of fireflies as the first rays of daylight burst over the horizon, leaving Will’s final shivering words hovering in the air, slowly fading in the glare of the sun.
There is no denying, whether you are a fan of horror, rock, punk and opera or not, that the piece of art Creeper have created with this record is a uniquely dark bubble of brilliance. Their storytelling brings the record and the world that surrounds it to life, building a world of mystery, intrigue and power that is as universally resonating in its appeal as it is personal and darkly enticing. The depth and breadth of the tracks on ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ means that there is something for everyone to enjoy, and yet each track still glimmers with those indescribable Creeper undertones that make it completely unlike anything else currently out there in the horror or punk scenes. But above everyone else, this is a record meant for their fans, the Creeper Cult, whose imagination and curiosity to discover more of the story this Southampton six-piece have to tell and their dedication to the ideology of embracing your differences and being unapologetic for who you are that is contained within the Callous Heart emblem have made them one of the closest knit yet accepting fanbases out there, with a powerful capacity for change which has been placed in their hands. These are the anthems for them: the cult, the fans- the family.
‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ is out now via Roadrunner Records.
Creeper are heading out on their first ever UK/Europe headline tour starting this month, dates are below:
Mar 25 Academy 2 Manchester, United Kingdom
Mar 26 Garage Glasgow, United Kingdom
Mar 27 Newcastle University Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Mar 28 Stylus Leeds, United Kingdom
Mar 30 Electric Ballroom London, United Kingdom
Mar 31 1865 Southampton, UK
Apr 01 Institute 2 Digbeth, United Kingdom
Apr 02 Tramshed Cardiff, United Kingdom
Apr 04 Hafenklang Hamburg, Germany
Apr 05 Lille Vega København V, Denmark
Apr 06 Krøsset Oslo, Norway
Apr 07 Klubben Stockholm, Sweden
Apr 09 MTC Cologne, Germany
Apr 10 Strom Munich, Germany
Apr 11 Arena Vienna, Austria
Apr 12 Cassiopeia Berlin, Germany
Apr 14 Backstage By The Mill Paris, France
Apr 15 Melkweg Oude Zaal Amsterdam, Netherlands
The band will also play the Main Stage on the Saturday at this year’s Download Festival. Information regarding tickets can be found here: http://downloadfestival.co.uk/tickets
Review by Charlotte Hardman
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