Sunday, February 14, 2016

EP Review: Creeper - The Stranger

It seems as though these days the vast majority of rock and metal music can be described as 'dark'. What that means, however, is entirely up for debate, since there are myriad ways of conveying darkness. While most of the time it has turned into another way of saying a band has a vocalist that can't sing to save their life, there is an old strain of darkness that comes through in Gothic flavor, feeling familiar in the way the old monster movies used to. There's some camp in it, but it tries to pull at something deeper than merely being angry.

Creeper is one of those bands playing on the old Gothic sensibilities, making music that is obviously dark, but not so wrapped up in misery as to be off-putting. They play darker music that still wants to bring you in, to get the message across as a shared pain we all feel.

"The Secret Society" starts things off with a slow swell of guitar sounds, biding time until the track kicks into gear. There's a solid dose of older AFI in their sound, but there isn't much to the track to make a judgment on. It is an introduction that is setting the stage, and not a track to focus on by itself. "Valentine" is the first true song, and this is where we get a better idea of what Creeper is up to. That mention of AFI holds steady, as the pulsing guitar chords, and sudden shifts from energetic punk to melodic crooning are textbook of the more unusual moments of that time. I think there could have been a better transition from one to the other, but the hook Creeper gives us is deliciously melodic, and a sure phones in the air moment at future concerts.

"Black Mass" is the single you may have heard already, and brings to mind several comparisons. The verses have the literary flair of Nightmare Of Your on their one good record, while the chorus combines My Chemical Romance's sound with a melody that borrows some of Jim Steinman's compositional tricks. As if that wasn't enough weirdness, the song then heads into a bridge that could have been played at a 1950s slow dance. It's a bizarre song, but all the parts work really well, so I can't call it anything but a hit.

"Misery" starts out as just a guitar and vocal song, which puts the emphasis on the melody. It's a pleasant song that gets the point across, and just when you think you have it figured out, the band kicks in the finish it off with some extra energy. It's a trope that's been done to death, but it almost always works. We finish things off with "Astral Projection", which comes the closest to touching on 90s pop punk, but doesn't get as grating as that genre became. Like the others, this song does a good job of sounding authentic while retaining a melodic core that hooks you in.

Overall, "The Stranger" is a great little EP. I had never heard of Creeper before this, but these songs not only make for a highly enjoyable quick listen, they have me quite interested to hear what they can come up with for a full length record. Creeper may have started out as a stranger, but "The Stranger" has made them a welcome guest. Definitely give this a listen if you're of a certain age. It brings back great memories.

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