Earlier this month when we shared the new single “Take It Away” from Ontario's hellbilly horror rock team The Creepshow (be sure to give it a listen), we promised you'd be hearing more about them soon.... and the time has come, because their fourth studio album Life After Death hits the streets tomorrow, and we've got the full breakdown.
Photo: Dirk "The Pixeleye" Behlau
Since we last wrote about The Creepshow, they've gone through a few significant changes – most notably the arrival of lead vocalist and guitarist Kenda Legaspi, who joined the band last summer after the departure of Sarah Blackwood. But their signature blend of up-tempo, hooky southern-fried horror punk is still firmly in place, as are co-founders Sean McNab on upright bass and The Reverend Paul McGinty on keys, joined also on this outing by drummer Sandro Sanchioni (replacing Matt “Pomade” Gee, another of the band's co-founders) and guitarist Daniel Flamm. The first sampling of their new material came this past Summer with the well-received single “Sinners and Saints,” a swift and energized party piece that dismissed doubters and proved this freshly-reanimated incarnation is well-suited to their catchy songwriting style.
Kenda's vocals bring a distinctly upbeat pop sparkle – which helps balance the much heavier guitars – and a surprising emotional warmth that helps elevate the songs above and beyond straightforward horror punk. Not that there's anything wrong with superficially fun party tunes about sex, booze and horror flicks (of course), but I dig the fact that Life After Death has a much more approachable, intimate side than the band's earlier material. That's actually quite a feat, considering they've also upped the intensity of their instrumental attack, which they use to blast the front door wide open in the wild and manic first cut "See You In Hell.” But that warmth is clearly evident in the slinky follow-up track "The Devil’s Son," which balances their sinister sensibility with an edge of bluesy romance, while still keeping the energy level consistently high. It's also got a pretty kick-ass video, in which the band finally gets to fly their horror-freak flag:
The boisterous, soaring anthem “Born To Lose” is sure to get crowds up on their feet and singing along with the band's collective vocal harmonies, which make the infectious energy nearly impossible to resist, and they turbo-charge their technique for the whiplash-fast "Failing Grade." The band's darkest and brightest qualities merge nicely in "Settle The Score" (which sports my personal favorite riff on the album). For a chance of pace, tough and rambunctious male vocals take the lead for the hard-drinker's ode "Last Call,” which also introduces a bombastic brass section, and the title track closes the album with a dark-edged but a distinctly optimistic vibe, lyrically signifying that the band has fully reinvented itself with high hopes and no regrets.
I have to say I'm not only impressed with The Creepshow's current (re)incarnation, but I think the new lineup and dynamic is exactly the shot in the arm the band needed to take things to the next level. While the genres of horror rock, punk and psychobilly have established a pretty firm niche of loyal listeners around the globe, and The Creepshow have been key players on that field, there's a more accessible aspect to Life After Death that may score the band a broader fanbase than the one they've already worked so hard to build. The extra heaviness on this record is the perfect choice to balance the more prominent pop elements, and should assure listeners this team hasn't lost any of their punkish aggression. Even if you only haul out psychobilly tracks every October to get into the Halloween spirit, this record just might make you a regular customer.