There was a sort of magic in the pulp horror films of the 1960s and ’70s. Creators took liberties with their use of vibrant color to make blood run redder. Their dynamic camera movements gave murder scenes a psychedelic and dreamlike quality. Grimy, grainy, and trashy though they were, there still remained this pupil-dilating and immersive aspect that, sadly, has disappeared from the horror movies of the present. It seems, though, that the present day descendants of the pulp and grindhouse bloodline have shifted ways and learned to play guitar.
Here we find Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, a psychedelic rock band out of Cambridge who still reap the seeds planted by the pulp writers and Giallo directors of nearly half a century ago. From their mysterious beginning in 2009, the band has made music that thrives on vintage sounds and evokes all that which was deemed worthy of a good and cheap scare back in the ’60s and ’70s. Imagine if Black Sabbath recorded concept albums a la Leviathan-era Mastodon, inspired by Christopher Lee’s Dracula movies or The Jonestown Massacre. That formula would result in Uncle Acid’s Blood Lust (2012) and Mind Control (2013), respectively. Their fourth LP, The Night Creeper is another concept album, again heavily steeped in its lineage and concept.
Frontman Kevin R. Starrs describes the album as having “started life as an old, cheap, grime-covered 25 cent pulp paperback,” which was then “adapted into a film noir which itself is then re-made 20 years later as an ultra-violent slasher Italian Giallo film.” It presents the story of some urban bogeyman called The Night Creeper who partakes in the more sinister vices of the era: psychedelic drugs, murder, etc. The story here, though, is not as entirely evident as it was on Blood Lust or Mind Control. With The Night Creeper, Starrs suggests that “listeners do the detective work themselves,” the way they might have had they been reading a copy of the fictional book themselves.
Instead of searching for clues while flipping through pages, though, listeners must dig into the narrative of The Night Creeper through the album’s immersive, fuzzed out atmosphere. Insidious and menacing riffs dominate the scene and nearly drown out Starrs’ wailed warnings and details of The Night Creeper’s evil indulgences. The band’s preference for vintage equipment aids in transporting listeners to the damp and dark alleyways off London’s skid row circa 1970, where a spiritual descendent of Jack the Ripper stalks his junkie victims night by night.
Experiencing The Night Creeper all at once is a true journey. The first half of the album contains one hell of an exposition with the combination that is “Waiting for Blood” and “Murder Nights”. “Downtown” sets the scene and “Pusher Man” fleshes out the characters. Interlude “Yellow Moon” offers some hope that those characters might make it out alive, but the arrival of album highlight “Melody Lane” shows there is no escape. The title track introduces their dreadful end, while “Inside” (which sounds almost like Jack White dealing exclusively in death and murder) delivers the final blow. Credits roll as “Slow Death” saunters slowly into a final menacing crescendo, only to see rain fall down on the funeral procession in “Black Motorcade”, the secret track that closes out the album. It’s tempting, though, to wait a few moments in the silence after the rain stops pattering on gravestones in hopes that a hand will reach out from beneath the ground, teasing the return of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats and their haunting brand of psych metal.
Essential Tracks: “Waiting for Blood”, “Melody Lane”, and “The Night Creeper”