In November 2018, Creeper played a headline London show that has now passed into gig folklore. “Not only is it the last show of this album campaign, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do,” announced singer Will Gould from KOKO’s gilded stage, echoing David Bowie’s words in 1973, when he ‘killed off’ his alter ego Ziggy Stardust.
Moments later, the Southampton punks disappeared, followed by a year of radio silence. It was an elaborate but typically theatrical way for them to draw a line under their first era as a band. In the end, Creeper had to die so that they could live.
When we last caught up with the band, a year after they completed their vanishing act, Gould explained that their second album was a rebirth. “This is not a punk record,” he said. “We made it in Hollywood. It’s not a record that’s been made in someone’s garage.” And it shows: ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ is a bombastic, goth rock epic, as theatrical and sweeping as a batwing lace sleeve. The band have ditched the scrappy AFI-meets-Misfits fire of their past and here revel in a range of influences, Gould has said, from the “apocalyptic romanticism” of Roy Orbison’s ‘Mystery Girl’ to Britpop and the flamboyant rock of Aladdin Sane-era Bowie.
Recorded a stone’s throw away from Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame, the album plunges us into a decadent but seedy paradise. Dialling up the goth, the album opens with a spoken-word monologue from Patricia Morrison of legendary British goth-rockers Sisters Of Mercy: she speaks of “the Devil almighty” and “the marriage of the lamb” over the sound of rain and thunder. ‘Cyanide’, which follows, is a celebration of youth that taps into Suede’s primal sleaze (“Sobriety won’t teach the kids to dance”) while the lusty ‘Annabelle’ reads like a declaration of abandon in the City of Sin: “God can’t save us / So let’s live like sinners.”)
Lyrically, the album follows a tale of doomed romance that ends in murder. Ostentatious narratives are nothing new for Creeper – they faked their own kidnapping in the build-up to 2017 debut ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ – but amid the fantastical storyline, these lyrics are tinged with a very real sense of tragedy.
Guitarist Ian Miles was sectioned during the making of the album, while Will grappled with personal loss and grief. Unsurprisingly, then, a sadness has crept into the bones of many of these songs: the heavy hearted ‘Paradise’ and ‘Poisoned Heart’ sound like Nick Cave on a gin-soaked binge in the belly of the Sunset Strip. On ‘All My Friends’, a skeletal piano lament that he for his hospitalised friend, Gould admits: “Getting high has got us all so low. / I’m so sorry if I failed you,”
This brings to a close a brave, ambitious and nuanced album that looks to lead the band’s fans down the rabbit hole on a new, macabre adventure. Turning their backs on their punk roots was a gamble, but it’s paid off. Next time around, expect Creeper to delve even deeper into the rabbit hole, to stare down the infinite void with even greater defiance.