Not content to let the band’s resurrection after 25 years be a fluke, Pitch Black Manor follows up the Monster Classics debut with a sequel that certainly lives up to the trio’s promise of being “twice as deadly.” Though still possessed of a certain irreverence and flippancy in the band’s predilections for the things that go bump in the night, Night Creeps seems to take some even darker strides toward the less jovial and more perilous facets of such grim fascinations.
The title track alone shows a maturity of songwriting and production as the distinct ‘80s vibe of the electronic beats and bass line are given a growling, almost metallic edge by the stabs (pun intended) of electric guitar, Joshua Bentley’s voice almost conveying an air of desperation as he sings “I can’t break the spell you weave so well.” The overall ambience of this song is absolutely suitable for creeping through the foggy city streets past midnight in true serial killer fashion. The same can be said of “Saturday Night Cleaver,” Chad Fifer’s bass and keyboard lines and Lyle Erickson’s staccato guitars bringing an appropriate level of funk that is dispelled by the bridge and chorus, Bentley’s howls of “Dig those sirens, dig those screams,” and “Where you gonna be this Saturday night?” like the pleasured mantra of a night stalker on the prowl. All the while, Erickson’s blend of chilled clean tones with grungy distortion, along with Fifer’s masterfully strident rhythm and lilting cinematic soundscapes gives songs like the opening “Déjà Vu” and especially “My Pretty” an almost hypnotic depth, giving Bentley plenty of room for his explosively unhinged vocals.
Of course, this is not to say that Pitch Black Manor has crashed its own party – far from it, as the “woo-woo” accompaniment in “Heatwave” is straight out of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For the Devil,” the song’s boisterous power aided by the subtle mix of vocals harmonies and plinking keyboards. The chants of “Bigger, badder, stronger, madder, meaner, leaner, ain’t no teeny-weeny wiener” on “Hellions” is almost a mission statement unto itself, as if Pitch Black Manor is revving the listener up for more raucous revelry to ensue, while songs like “Got Your Number, Baby,” “To the Grave,” and “One Way Out” are wrought with melodic hooks that simply demand to be shouted along to. On the other hand, “Over and Over Again” closes us out with an atmospheric and somber display of warbling guitars, light percussion, and wispy vocal choirs, Bentley’s almost bluesy delivery making for a rather lovely conclusion to Night Creeps.
The previous album proved that these three old friends were still capable of belting out the youthful exuberance of their late teens and early 20’s when Pitch Black Manor first took shape. With Night Creeps, the band loses none of that potency, but simply enhances its haunted sound with a slightly more insidious and sinister flavor, adding a few extra pints (or perhaps gallons) of blood to your nocturnal phantasies. No longer are they asking if that’s a spider on your shoulder… they are the ones right behind you, breathing down your neck, ready to stick the knife in… oh, what a thrill!