Creature Feature: 'It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...' Album Review

I can't tell you how groovy the timing was for the release of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, the long-awaited sophomore release from LA horror rockers Creature Feature. With the most wonderful time of the year upon us, I was down in the catacombs shuffling up tracks for my Ultimate Halloween Party Playlist, and adding the entire album Dead Beat by Rufus Rex, the solo project from Creature Feature frontman Curtis RX (check out my chat with him here)... when suddenly Curtis showed up again to present me with yet another bag of treats, in the form of ten new songs from his main band (Curtis on vocals and guitars, Erik X on keys). Their superb 2007 debut The Greatest Show Unearthed is one of those rare and special albums that just never gets old – no matter how often or what time of year you play it – and the newest release pretty much picks up the energy where that one left off. Much fun was had with this record, and I'm amped to tell you about it, so flip it over to read a full review, listen to a couple of tracks, and get this mad monster party started!

My first helpings of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night came with the singles "The House of Myth" and more recently "Mommy's Little Monsters." The latter featured the comically grotesque artwork of famed horror artist & filmmaker Gris Grimly (Cannibal Flesh Riot and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro animated production of Pinocchio), who designed the excellent covers for this new album as well as The Greatest Show Unearthed. The singles effectively put to rest any concerns that the band might drift away from their signature sound, and made fans crave new tunes like a zombie craves gray matter. That sound, if you've been missing out, is a high-energy cocktail of of hilariously macabre lyrics, vintage sci-fi electronics and gritty, raging guitars, filled with manic energy and delivered with tempos that range from eerie carnival marches and waltzes to breakneck mosh tornadoes.

Kicking off with a speedy ska beat, the opening/title track packs all the band's trademark elements into a punchy four minutes, complete with frantic doubled high/low vocals and Erik's old-school synth rhythms & theremin-like ghost melodies, all given force by Curtis's creeping, serpentine guitar licks. Horror movie samples (a touch the band uses very sparingly) are sprinkled throughout "Dr. Sawbones," a mid-tempo ballad about a lovestruck killer with a unique set of surgical skills (you can hear him sharpening his tools to the beat), that kicks into a wild syncopated rhythm at the climax. "The House of Myth" was originally released online this spring, and a good choice to tease the album to fans, because it's one of their more ominous, atmospheric pieces and features some of Curtis's most intricate guitar work. Check it out for yourself...

The most recent single, "Mommy's Little Monsters," plays like the even-more-evil twin to the whimsical "A Gorey Demise" from Greatest Show, with these busy little tykes on the giving end of the mayhem this time. It's both the spookiest and most hilarious tracks on the record, with a perfect lock-step pattern of guitar and synth riffs that will get the gang off the couch and dancing their costume-clad asses off. '80s style keyboards and more ska beats make the brief cut "The Unearthly Ones" a bouncy good time, especially with its group-sung refrain "We are coming for you," delivered with deep zombie vocals. "Grave Robber at Large" continues at a similar pace, following a "Burke & Hare" type entrepreneur on his nightly rounds. Lyrically, it's one of Curtis's strongest efforts, demonstrating his skill at telling a more straightforward, irony-free horror story.

The beastly bop of "A Fate Worse Than Death" saunters along at a more leisurely pace, with the keyboards delivering a jazzy electro brass section beneath a complex but smooth guitar lead line. The mythos of H.P. Lovecraft gets the grand treatment in "Fodder for the Elder Gods," an intense piece narrated from two points of view: by the unnameable shapes born in the blackness of Lovecraft's cruel cosmos, and the hapless tiny humans about to be crushed in their mighty tentacles. A deep synth bass forms the nervous pulse of "Bad Blood," a follow-up of sorts to "Such Horrible Things" from the first album, but with a more serious tone (our narrator is much more conflicted about his horrible thoughts and intentions this time around). The album wraps up with "One Foot in the Grave," which captures the band's balance of menace and mischief both instrumentally and lyrically – complete with demonic "la-la-las" in the chorus – and Erik gets to shine with a shivery keyboard lead during the break.

Have no fear, fans and fiends... Creature Feature may have taken a fistful of years to get back to this one, but after listening to Dark and Stormy back-to-back with Greatest Show, it feels like not a minute has passed between the two. If there's a marked difference in style, it may be the slightly darker, heavier instrumental tone than the first outing, but it's delivered with so much momentum that the band's energetic monster-mosh groove is still very much in play. Today is the album's official release date, so you don't even have to wait to find out what I'm talking about. It's available through iTunes, Amazon and all the usual suspects... but then again, if you truly dig this band and love the demented visuals of Gris Grimly (and you should, or the Great Pumpkin just might pass you by this year), you may want to pick up a CD copy – especially the autographed deluxe edition, which features a six-page booklet and a slipcase featuring the awesome alternate cover design shown below...

You can check out Creature Feature's official site for ordering details. But first, we'll play you out with "The Unearthly Ones"...