Philadelphia rockers Creepoid headed down to Savannah, Georgia about a year ago, and the change in environs can be felt on their new album. In addition to recording the LP, they “just avoided winter,” drummer Pat Troxell told Philly-centric publication The Key. Though they’ve always worked with a dark slowcore approach, Cemetery Highrise Slum feels like trying to walk through the Savannah summer, the air hanging heavy and slowing every step.
At times, the record almost sounds stretched, struggling, as if the turntable can’t get up to speed in the sticky heat. The shoegaze of “Fingernails” lingers slowly in dark shadows to avoid the burn. Standout “Shaking” plays out like a lonely ballad stuck in syrup and cigarette ashes. “You’re the one who keeps me returning to this shell of a town,” guitarist Sean Miller sighs, the track growing from Adore gloom to something gruffer.
The album does have its hiccups, mostly when the ’90s formulas are played too close. The textbook shoegaze guitars of “Worthless and Pure” — one jangling at the top, the other churning at the bottom — battle over Miller’s shimmery, lolling vocals. “Tell the Man” combines Anna Troxell’s melancholy, Mellon Collie bass riff with a Nirvana breakdown.
The lyrics match the weight of the music, effectively sinking the listener into the album’s quicksand. “You’re searching for your voice, but you barely make a sound,” Miller sneers on “American Smile”. Troxell takes her downer turn on “Fingernails”, her icy vocals detailing “bitten fingernails in a bowl” while her husband, Patrick, clashes with the cymbals.
Cemetery Highrise Slum matches its dark title and then some, full of pain, angst, and grime. While Miller and co. occasionally go too big in their goth-y appropriation of ’90s grunge and alt tropes, the album features a fair share of subtle emotional moments to combat them. Creepoid sound suited to the sweat and grime of the Southern summer. Repeating the Philly-Georgia seasonal shift might make them the most unusual snowbirds on record, but this album suggests the decision worked.
Essential Tracks: “Fingernails”, “Shaking”