ALBUM REVIEW: Creeper – ‘Sanguivore’

Artwork for Creeper’s ‘Sanguivore’

Here’s a bit of a hot take—not every album from every act needs an associated era. Yes, stans love nothing more than to salivate and speculate over every crumb of new information that comes their way, but the bigger picture deems that this forcing of an overblown spectacle time after time just isn’t beneficial on the whole. Aside from the fact that some acts simply don’t suit the intensity of the spotlight it thrusts them under, you’re also left with the very skewed view of music—especially popular music—where ‘flop’ has been redefined to mean ‘anything other than the greatest thing in human history’. Put simply, the whole song and dance around it heavily detracts from the literal song and dance presented.

Creeper, on the other hand, have every bit of clearance imaginable to indulge in their eras. They always have; they’ve been making melodrama concept albums and killing themselves off onstage for ages now, to the point where the pageantry is just as integral to the music. The fact that recent releases have seem them sideline punk for glamorous gothic romances only furthers that notion. But the crucial point to that is they’ve earned it, and they do benefit from this kind of excess.

Further to that, they know how to have fun with it all. A ‘new era’ for Creeper isn’t just them changing the font of their logo; it’s as pompous and lavish as you’d expect from a band who primarily sing about ghosts and vampires and apocalyptic love. It’s why their show last year at London’s Roundhouse ended with frontman Will Gould (since reborn under the suitably vampiric sobriquet William Von Ghould) being decapitated onstage. Skimping on these enormous, glamorous swings just isn’t the done thing in the position that Creeper find themselves in.

So what of Sanguivore? Well, you can immediately say this about it—if more justification for the vitality of Creeper’s individual eras were needed, this is as close to perfect as that comes. Since last time, the ethos remains untouched, but they’ve reconstituted themselves as a different species of melodrama entirely. From the sound to the lyrics to the fact that all the promotional photos have them basically dressed as the cast of The Lost Boys, the flagrance of it all is something to behold. The small-town Americana of Sex, Death & The Infinite Void is now firmly in the rear view, as Creeper speed off into the ‘80s with killers intent. Muscles-and-leather riffs and blaring keys spring out the highest, as the confluence of glammed-up might and pre-millennium urban horror showmanship forms the latest iteration of Creeper’s omnipresent excellence. Yep, they’ve done it again, and in a career that’s totally avoided low points since day dot, this might—might—be their best yet.

Now, obviously that isn’t a claim to make lightly, but if nothing else, Creeper themselves are the ones who make that feel believable. They seem more confident in going for broke than ever before, and embracing both an aesthetic and sonic palette that get them there with little effort exerted. For as far out of fashion as the ‘rock opera’ tag has fallen, Sanguivore definitely embodies it—towering and opulent at every possible turn, while also having such a deft command of its power, and the bravery to mould it in such a way. It’s not like every band on the mainstream plane can kick their album off with by far their longest song yet, but the bravado coursing through Further Than Forever’s nine-plus-minutes (without ever sagging) is exactly what you want from an opening salvo.

Just in general, Sanguivore continues to inch Creeper’s boundaries further and further outwards. It’s got a feel that’s so alien from everything else they’ve done thus far, but also a totally logical step at the same time. The brand of darkness and macabre is more in line with an artist like Billy Idol, at the intersection of punk, glam-rock, goth and hard rock that’s been sharpened and streamlined immeasurably. Cry For Heaven acts the album’s pinnacle in that sense, as a masterclass in razor-wire tension through the chugging bass and drums and quaking synth, before the hook and the solo and the key change—oh, the key change!—that smash any notions of a ceiling or an upper limit. It’s frankly ludicrous how Creeper can continue to one-up themselves with such regularity, but the leap has seldom been this obviously high, across the board.

Not only does this feel like the best incarnation of Creeper, but it does so through a simultaneous blend of previous directions that also refuses to be gated or restrained. Punk makes its return to the fold on Sacred Blasphemy and Chapel Gates, affixed with the grandeur of a brawnier gothic tone in the engine room; meanwhile, there’s a haunted hollowness to The Ballad Of Spook & Mercy, played with the (fittingly) spectral echo and lightning-crack moments of vamping that’s pitched in their Nick Cave / haunted rock ‘n’ roll mould. They’re revamped and repainted to fit this new look wonderfully, as are the Creeper-isms that are more tradition for these albums than recycled beats. Hannah Greenwood mightn’t get a lead-role showstopper of her own this time, but she’s still arguably the more pound-for-pound valuable component part here, in the gleaming backing vocals and rich palettes of synth that notch these songs up to wonderfully exorbitant levels. There’s also More Than Death, which may be Creeper’s best closing piano-ballad yet, for upping the theatrical stakes and histrionics while still having poise and tremendous compositional leanness.

Honestly, there’s a growth exhibited on Sanguivore—even in its smallest instances—that show exactly why Creeper’s pedestal has been so high since the start. They’re clued in to the quickest, most efficient ways to make their ideas work; it’s why their rise was so stratospheric to begin with, having more in common with decades-old acts whose influence remains today because of how all-encompassing their presence was. Sanguivore feels exactly like that kind of album, right down to the bones and the tiniest fragments of ideas that slot completely flush with everything around them. The whipcracks on Lovers Led Astray; the towering organs and choral howls on Teenage Sacrifice; the genuine plunges into shuddering darkwave on Black Heaven; they’re the kind of stabs that are basically win-more buttons just by existing in these contexts. And yet, Creeper never overextend, or give off anything less than total fearlessness.

It’s the benefit of a band for whom playing the cheap seats has become their bread-and-butter, no more so than on Sanguivore. This is an arena audition if there ever was one, where the stage presence and vamping size already bleeds out, regardless of where it’s coming from. And it’s the character of it all that ties it together, with Von Ghould now primarily in a stentorian baritone to befit his vocal commandeering, while also emboldening the loose narrative of a love story between a vampire and a human man. As always, the strokes are broad and brash, but that’s perfectly fitting for the heightened emotions that Creeper thrive off. It’s the bolt of life given to tidbits of macabre imagery and flamboyance that’s such an easy sell, particularly when the mood is simultaneously one of overflowing camp flair and complete dedication to making this work. As such—and really, as has become typical of Creeper in many good ways—any schlock is deftly avoided, and Sanguivore runs with a genuine intent that carries it even higher. Add in much of the horniness that any gothic romance worth its salt is required to have (if only for the singular line on Chapel Gates inspired by Mary Shelley losing her virginity on her mother’s grave), and you’re basically the whole way there.

What’s so noteworthy is how Creeper can get this far basically through a series of preordained ideas rearranged to fit their ideas; in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t creating anything distinctly of their own. But it’s the effectiveness of cranking up the bombast and dynamism to stupidly high levels that’s always been their keenest forte, and the fact that Sanguivore reaches higher than ever before speaks to just how successful it is. It probably is Creeper’s best album, not just for a size and power that overshadows anything in their prior catalogue, but how it does the same with most other acts around today. No one is striking this far and wide with the same glowing consistency, with an entertainment value packaged in that’s second-to-none, as always. Once again—and not for the last time, assuredly—Creeper are untouchable.

For fans of: Billy Idol, The Sisters Of Mercy, Ghost

‘Sanguivore’ by Creeper is released on 13th October on Spinefarm Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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