Is there any rule in the book prohibiting ghoulish music from playing outside of the month of October? If so, Creature Feature care not for this trivial standard. The horror rock duo from California have decided to celebrate Halloween every day of the year with their chilling creations. Their latest undertaking, American Gothic, has risen from the grave to delight with haunting melodies.
Comprised of Curtis Rx on vocals and guitar, and Erik X on keyboards, the pair have progressed from the quirky appeal of aliens and killing zombies to ore morbid death and decay since 2007’s The Greatest Show Unearthed: while still retaining the same charm, the sound has hardened to a degree and matured. Danny Elfman and Tim Burton’s influences on the duo are strong, with Creature Feature’s entire discography having the ability to double as the background music to a Burton-styled amusement park of terror.
The imitation pipe organ introduction on the opening titular track sets the ominous mood, before the fuzzed synthesizer brings the familiar sense of whimsy. Each syllable sung receives special treatment, all endowed with unique emphasis and pitch as Curtis slides up and down the octaves. Like frantically running from dastardly demons on the chase, “The Netherworld” maintains a fast-paced tempo: the bridge transporting the victim to a new digital realm of panic. By the lines “Face the facts son/ You are dead, dead, dead,” it is pretty safe to assume that the prey did not survive this bout, as is the case in many of the tracks.
A downfall to such a focused direction of material is that songs tend sound very similar to one another. Themes are returned to numerous times, such as the dead rising once again on “Nearly Departed” and “Wake the Dead” on this album, as well as on others. The tracks in total do form a cohesive unit, however: each additionally shares the common factor of an almost constant backing by the buzzing synthesizer.
The theatrical vocals of Curtis are always the highlights of Creature Feature’s works. Even with the soft dynamics of “Here There Be Witches” the lyrics are still delivered with flourish. Syncopation is nearly nonexistent in “Dem Bones” as every word and beat line up perfectly, vocal exaggeration and all. American Gothic helps prove the point that it doesn’t have to be Halloween to get into the spooky mood.