When I first came across this Finnish quartet via the music video “The End of Prom Night,” they were still experimenting with adding touches of horror imagery to a more mainstream brand of poppy post-hardcore – much in the mode of Black Veil Brides, but with a more playful dynamic. This year, I found the band stirring shock rock, horror punk, alt-metal and dark carnival ingredients into the stew for their new album, which goes by the whopper of a title Featuring Dr. Gruesome and the Gruesome Gory Horror Show, and for a split second I wasn't sure I was listening to the same guys... but I did like what I was hearing so far, so I dug deeper. When I caught the single “Will You Meet Me in the Graveyard?” with its accompanying lyric video packed with sick scenes from dozens of horror movies, the band finally landed my undivided attention.
On a foundation of no-nonsense hardcore with hooks aplenty, Snow White built a more flamboyant sound for Dr. Gruesome (their first release on the Victory Records label), served up with a macabre playfulness reminiscent of my long-time faves Creature Feature or Mike Patton's infamous Mr Bungle, although a bit less focused and rougher around the edges. That doesn't detract from the album's hysterical energy, however, and I found myself swept up in their enthusiasm. While the name of the intro & title track combo "Gruesomely Introducing: Dr. Gruesome and the Gruesome Gory Horror Show" had me cringing a bit, the first two cuts actually combine as a fun spookhouse mood-setter with a “thrills and chills of the haunted house” vibe, blackened vocal treatments, surf-rock guitars and a rousing chorus. The latter put me in the mind of a latter-day Misfits presentation, so it was welcome news to discover the Misfits' own Michale Graves also contributes to the album on the track "Zombie Romance," which whiplashes from doo-wop hellbilly croon to Cradle of Filth-style gothic metal and back to horror punk. It's insane, but it works.
The band goes extra heavy for "There's a New Creep On the Block," which benefits from the album's beefiest riffs and a muscular breakdown; the guitars are even hookier in "Halloween Means Death," coursing from clean picking to a wailing, overdriven lead line, with the old reliable theremin providing the right touch of lo-fi spookiness, and a vocal that calls to mind Alice Cooper at his most mischievous. "Count Dracula Kid!" is a more straightforward horror punk number, but it's got a seriously fun chorus, and "Dr. Gruesome" (yeah, that's like the eleventh “Gruesome” so far... just go with it) sports speedy, mega-heavy riffage, lightning percussion and demonic screamed vocals layered with leering, mean-spirited cleans, making it one of the album's strongest repeaters. A reedy organ line colors the power ballad "Lurking Inside of You," which has a certain Marilyn Manson feel to the verses, but without all that macabre irony weighing it down. "The Show Must Gruesomely End," says the closing track (managing to fit in one more “Gruesome” title in there), bookending the record on a “to be continued...” vibe, with the spirit of Alice Cooper once again smiling malevolently over the proceedings.
Snow White's sound may incorporate elements from many well-worn horror rock genres, but thankfully Dr. Gruesome doesn't come off as a pastiche of their influences; instead, I'm hearing the stirrings of something unique, a vast step forward from their pop-punk origins and into a crazed shock-rock carnival that is all the more memorable for flying its horror flag extra-high. Just about any artist with a Halloween-year-round attitude is welcome on my playlist, and thanks to their unfiltered energy and musicianship, many of this band's tracks will find a happy home there.
Now it's your turn to play horror trivia with this lyric video for "Will You Meet Me In The Graveyard?"