Southampton horror punk chameleons Creeper really are an enigma wrapped in a riddle; Never content to house themselves within the safety of a consistent pigeonhole, they writhe and slither between genres, never stopping long enough in one place to allow themselves to be labelled. Of course that’s good for the artist, but for lazy journos like me it makes for a whole lotta extra work…

Just two years ago they released what I consider to be the best single song to have come out of the UK in the last decade, the incendiarily (is that a word? it is now) good Midnight. A bombastic compression of pre-Born in the USA Brooooce garnished with Steinmanesque pretension the camp hysteria of Marc Almond and chiming, DeShannonesque pop perfection, it’s the sort of music that, had I been a fifteen year old, would have had me pledging my allegiance to this band to the grave. The news that a new album was on the way from Hampshire’s finest was clearly an infogobbet worth celebrating in view of the glory unleashed on that American Noir EP – until you realise that ‘more of the same, please’ just isn’t a request this band recognises.

And so here we are with Sanguivore, the band’s latest full-lengther. The bombastic opening strains of first track Further Than Forever suggest the band has gone full metal opera, but things calm down soon enough as a sparse Hannah Greenwood piano line accompanies a lullabye lilt from vocalist William von Ghould. And then


The band reveals it’s hand and it’s every Am-dram rocky horror nightmare you’ve ever had. Which in the context of this band is actually a good thing, natch. Steinman’s here, in all his bloated glory, and throughout the album he’s joined by a veritable smorgasbord of the great and downright godlike; It’s ridiculous, of course, but in an age that’s becoming grimmer by the minute, someone with the sheer chutzpah to stand up and shout ‘my armageddon girl could end your world with one look’ is surely someone to be cherished and revered rather than carped upon and reviled. As feelgood doom n’gloom goes, this is up there with the best.

As this opener gallops off at the end of it’s nine minute-plus duration like an outtake from Caught Somewhere In Time, you are left wondering where on earth Creeper goes from there. Of course the answer is Cry To Heaven, a pulsing techoflash explosion of Idol worship. It’s a place where Alice and Eldritch meet for a bit of a jam, backed by Bonnie Tyler‘s choir and a spectacular solo from Ian Miles, a man who’s rapidly becoming something of a latterday guitar hero, if such things are still allowed.

After this, things do calm down a little as the band settle into a groove that for them, at least, might resemble normal. It’s still beyond the ken of most mortal bands, of course, but they lurch from The Damned (the absolutely monstrous Sacred Mercy) through HIM (The Ballad of Spook & Mercy) to The Misfits (Lovers Led Astray) over the course of the next three songs as if all of this audio excess was just another day at the graveyard office. By the time the final strains of titanic closing statement, More Than Death have drifted away into the ether, you’ll be feeling drained, wrung out and utterly broken just sitting in your chair trying to keep up with it all, which of course is a sign that something incredibly important has just jemmied it’s way into your brain, drunk all your endorphins, smashed the place up and then left just before the Police arrived to restore order. I’ve used the phrase before, but this really is rock n’roll as a contact sport, and it’s bloody brilliant.

About the only misstep here is the strangely out of place slice of big beat that is instrumental The Daring Ones – The Freedom of the Breathtaking Void; Everything else on Sanguivore is just about perfect. If, as I suspect this is the sound of the band tapping in to what is just the tip of their musical iceberg then what they have up their sleeves for the next album might just be too much for this frazzled mind to comprehend. So it’s probably best for the moment to wallow in what they’ve provided for us here which is, by my reckoning, the album of 2023.

Sanguivore is out now.