It’s no secret that rock music in the last few years have morphed into a rather divisive form. There’s a fixation with sounding big and imposing in the same vein as pop and hip-hop, which a lot of acts have understood to mean that plucking those particular elements wholesale is the fast-track route to hit those same heights. What isn’t considered, though, is that the majority of bands who’ve made that whiplash shift onto whatever bandwagon comes along next aren’t going to be remembered. It’s the ones that can actually connect on a deeper level as well as having that enormity that’ll stand the test of time, and honestly, few bands working today even come close to where Creeper currently are. As perfunctory as the My Chemical Romance comparisons might’ve felt at first – another band pulling on the gothic and the theatric to boon a propulsive and melodic-to-a-fault style of punk – Creeper have grown into it with astonishing ease. The ambition has come through more than ever, as has the fanbase that’s shaping up to be just as much of a juggernaut as the MCRmy was; truly Creeper are becoming that one-of-a-kind band that pretty much started out in a league of their own and are only getting better. And while that’d usually be cause for apprehension when going into a critical second album – particularly after the first was doused in acclaim by almost everyone who’d heard it – that’s not really the case here. After all, this is a band for whom superlatives are the norm, and who’ve spent the years crafting their winding mythos that’s had just as much care and attention put into it as the music. This is not going to be the moment where Creeper fall by any stretch, not when practically every move they’ve made to date has served as a brand new step towards generation-defining immortality.
With that in mind then, let’s dispense of any unnecessary bait-and-switches with regards to how good this album is – Sex, Death & The Infinite Void is a phenomenal album, and it is so in some pretty obvious ways. It’s very different from any other body of work Creeper have released in that it’s really not a punk album, but that change never feels at the expense of anything else. This still feels like an incredibly natural next step, in which the melodrama fully takes over and leads to moment after moment of glorious excess, some of which stand among Creeper’s absolute best work to date. At its core, it honestly couldn’t be simpler, but Creeper’s insatiable knack for making even that as gloriously, permanent-grin-paintingly wonderful as this is what makes them a peerless band, and Sex, Death & The Infinite Void just continues to reinforce that.
That says particularly a lot when considering how much of a net negative an album like this could be seen as from a lesser band. After all, the glam and goth side of Creeper have primarily served as augmentations for a beating punk heart, and the fact those roles have effectively been reversed (or, perhaps more accurately, eclipsed the punk entirely) is evident of a band who are very conscious about growing stale, yet remain distinctly unique in whatever moves they make. It’s why a lot of the conversation of Britpop and New Romantics around this album is justified, but there’s also heavy elements of Roxy Music, Roy Orbison, John Prine and especially Elvis. It’s an older-sounding album that doesn’t explicitly sound old, and that’s incredibly key for how Creeper are able to maintain their magic. A large part of that is in Will Gould as a frontman, who can vamp with the best of them on Cyanide alongside channeling his inner Springsteen on Paradise and Elvis on Poisoned Heart, but it’s in how natural a lot of this lends itself to a brooding atmosphere and slightly darker production style. It still sounds enormous with Be My End and Annabelle being among the newest inevitably permanent additions to the live set, but there’s earthier, richer styles have a flexibility that something as cut-and-dry and a three-minute punk banger doesn’t. It’s why the rumbling country guitars and saloon pianos of Cyanide still feel imbued with austere gothic melodrama without losing their overall looseness, and why the doo-wop sway of Thorns Of Love and the Bond-theme strings and smouldering minor tones of Thorns Of Love are able to embrace their overt classicism so wholeheartedly. Not one single second feels out of place, and even if the handful of interludes don’t amount to a great deal overall, there’s an inherent charm that comes from replicating the sort of literary gothic romance that they do.
And if there’s one word that perfectly encapsulates everything that Sex, Death & The Infinite Void strives to do, it’s ‘charm’. It’s a natural companion to the melodrama that Creeper are no strangers to, and now that they’ve transitioned to wholly living out their Meat Loaf fantasies, it makes all the sense in the world that they fixate on that. Because, like with even Meat Loaf’s best work, a lot of this is based on very broad, very archetypal images, with Gould at centre stage as the rebellious anti-hero bolting through a world gone mad with his equally capricious girl by his side. That’s about as cut-and-dry as this sort of thing gets, but Creeper’s laser-focus pays dividends in spades because that blatant succumbing to youthful naivety and single-mindedness is played up so much. That was a big part of why it was so easy to like Eternity, In Your Arms, but it’s immediate ramped up on Be My End and Born Cold, and on Annabelle in a line as gloriously perfect as “You gotta live a little when the world just wants you sad”, it highlights every young thought and every big emotion that runs through these protagonists head, and blows them up to phenomenal size. And then on Four Years Ago, where Gould duets with keyboardist Hannah Greenwood on what now seems to be a customary trend of giving her the best song on the album, the relationship is dead and the two have gone their separate ways, but the soaring melodrama pulls it back together in one of many overtly cinematic moments this album has to offer. At the same time though, it also feels fitting that the album ends on All My Friends, a stripped-back ballad of piano and strings where the artifice falls away, and Gould contemplates his own vulnerabilities and mortality, at the last moment of an album that’s fixated on running away from it. It’s an incredibly Creeper thing to do, and pulls the curtain back to reveal the humans rather than the character for what could be the first time on this album, and hits so much more powerfully because of it. At this point, it’s no secret that Creeper are masters of album construction and sequencing, but when they only seem to be getting better and better with each attempt, the extent to which they’re progressing honestly seems mind-blowing.
And yes, that’s just another thing to fully gush about when it comes to Creeper, which seems to be the only thing anyone ever does when talking about them, but that’s because they deserve it. There’s not another band on the planet that will achieve what Creeper will, because time and time again, they prove that they have every single feature required in a fantastic modern rock band down to a science. They’ve got a sound; they’ve got a compelling style; they’ve got the means of making it feel consistently fresh and exciting; and most importantly, they’ve got the songs to consistently raise the bar that they themselves set previously. Sex, Death & The Infinite Void sees them at their most creative and passionate, taking every bit of knowledge they’ve acquired across their years, recontextualising it in a way that makes perfect sense across the board, and producing what is unquestionably one of the best albums of the year, purely on the strength of the vigour and determination that courses through every note. Once again, Creeper are establishing themselves as the ones to beat, and if that keeps happening, they’re only going to be even ahead of everyone else than they already are.
For fans of: Meat Loaf, Bruce Springsteen, Kyle Craft
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ by Creeper is out now on Roadrunner Records.