I think one of the most impressive things about Creeper that sets them apart from most other bands is how they’ve been able to arrive at their full-length debut fully formed. In most cases, it takes groups at least two albums to really get a grip on what their vision as a musical force. Even some of the greatest bands in history took a bit to get to what they’re most well known for. Radiohead had to make an album of grunge leftovers in the form of Pablo Honey before they could blow everyone away with The Bends. Metallica had to make the knuckle-headed Kill ‘Em All before they could move on to the more sophisticated and varied textures on Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets. But Creeper it seems have traversed all that ground just over the course of a couple EPs.
Eternity, In Your Arms, the band’s first studio album, is absolutely bullet proof in its structure and execution. There are no half-baked ideas to be found over the record’s brisk thirty-six minute runtime. Creeper follow through with every swing, so to speak. They’ve gone from a good, if not somewhat derivative, pop punk band on their first EP to something much more grand, ambitious, and dark. The theatricality of some of these tracks is borderline operatic at points. That’s not to say that the band have lost any bite in the transition. This is still a punk record. “Poison Pens” in particular rockets away at high speeds with screamed gang vocals, probably the closest the band will ever get to a hardcore track.
But for every throttling punk track, there is usually a tender moment to contrast. The culmination of all these quieter bits is the acoustic, almost country sounding “Crickets”, in which keyboardist Hannah Greenwood takes over on lead vocals and, rather unexpectedly, violin. And speaking of, it seems that Greenwood has taken on a much bigger role in the overall sound of the band. Her keyboards are much more prominent here than they were on last year’s The Stranger EP. She even seems to have added some more keys parts to “Misery” a song cherry-picked from The Stranger (and which made #1 on my top fifty songs of 2016 list). But the biggest mark she leaves on the album is her vocals. She has a great voice, and it would be cool to see her on the mic more often in the future. The rest of the band is as energetic as ever. Special mention as always has to go to lead singer Will Gould. Going from the classic snotty pop punk singing to whispery croons to spine-chilling operatic bellows, this guy is one of the most versatile singers I’ve ever seen in a punk band. His delivery on lead single “Suzanne” is particularly intense. He sings like he means it.
Of course, since signing to Roadrunner they would doubtless have a bigger recording budget, and it really shows here. While their earlier recordings sounded decent, there’s so much more space and electricity on this recording, and even “Misery”, an older recording, benefits greatly from a new mix and some extra overdubs. The drums sound huge and the bass rumbles in a way not as apparent on the EPs. The guitars especially have been beefed up from the wiry clangor they produced on earlier releases.
All this musical improvement is great and all, but I think what really makes this record stand out is its conceptual ambitions. The piano-backed spoken word intro to “Black Rain”, which in my opinion is the best song the band have ever written, sets up a sense of continuity that runs through the whole album. Creeper has spent the last year or so creating a sort of Twin Peaks-esque mythology through an online ARG, setting up a story of a paranormal investigator looking into local legends about the mysterious Callous Heart gang and an ominous spectral entity called the Stranger. The lyrics reference these characters often. This isn’t necessarily a concept album, but there are narratives that run through the record. In fact, I’d say the band’s reputation as a horror punk band comes down to the lyrics much more than the music itself, although, like I said earlier, the music here is noticeably darker and more gothic than before. Some of the more upbeat elements of the band’s music present on previous releases have been dialed back for make room for the more sweeping dramatic moments. There isn’t anything on the album as sunny and joyous as “Black Mass” or “Honeymoon Suite”, although the absolutely massive chorus of “Hiding With Boys” definitely comes close. It’s a subtle change, another aspect of the band’s accelerated evolution.
I absolutely love this album, honestly. I’ve been following this band for the better part of two years now, and to finally have an album and have it live up to the massive expectations just gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. A debut album this ambitious could’ve been bungled really easily, but Creeper have taken the time to put the care and craft required for such a goal into the record. Eternity, In Your Arms is my favorite album of 2017 so far, and that’s saying a lot as there have been some killer albums released in the past few months. The only thing that would impress me more would be if anything can top this. I don’t expect anything to, though.