In the interest of transparency: Creeping Death have three things going for them right now. The first is that gorgeous cover artwork. The second is the fact that I downloaded Wretched Illusions before clambering into this airplane, and, lo and behold, theirs is one of the few albums currently available for the duration of this flight. Thirdly, and most importantly, is that Creeping Death peddles a thoroughly solid brand of death metal, and that is all and everything this weary scribe is craving at the moment. When I'm feeling this malnourished, nothing sticks to my bones quite like meat 'n' potatoes death. No bells and whistles for me, please. Just the inevitability of crushing riffage, throat-wrenching growls, and enough thrash-derived adrenaline to keep me awake, thankyouverymuch. But enough talk. Let's hit that runway, shall we?
The formula works well, and Creeping Death stick to it across the course of the album with a teeth-gritting tenacity. Big riffs, big drums, (surprisingly) big bass, and vocals that respect the comparative
big-ness of the surrounding elements. The elbow-throwing riffage and subsequent breakdowns seldom slow or tire, providing proficient pile-driver delivery from track to track with the kind of consistency that frankly dulls the senses after four or five songs. That said, there are enough scruff-snagging moments scattered throughout the fray that serve to counteract the threat of boredom before it ever sets in. Take, for example, the bit in "Sinner's Touch" where the tempo slows at the drop of a beastly roar, and then escalates once more at the hands of a chugging riff. Or, the slamming outro to "World Decay." Or, the out-of-the-gate thrashing conductivity of (highlight track) "Bloodlust Contamination." Or, the frenetic assault beginning at "Ripping Through Flesh's" 2-minute mark. Or, the militaristic "Dawn Of Time," which delivers some deliciously egregious double bass drums for this Villager's headbanging needs. Suffice it to say: the list can--and does--go on. Creeping Death seems to have made it a mission to include an attention-grabbing moment in every track. While predictable, that's smart songwriting nonetheless.
While they lean into the Grave or Obituary-esque thrash more-so than the doomier end of the spectrum, Creeping Death reminds me of Gatecreeper. There's a similarly palpable sense of intensity across Wretched Illusions, and while it doesn't quite build into something monumental, the ride is pretty damn enjoyable. The final three tracks do admittedly feel less constructive to the overall package, but I can't say that any one deserves to be cut or culled. Come their next effort, however, a little more variety will help keep these Texans afloat in the sea of promisingly proficient death metallers.
The vocals don't stand out from the crowd, but that's exactly the way I like 'em. Grunts and roars are delivered with a ragged air and a certain stoicism that allows the percussion, riffs, and leads to take the brunt of the attention. There's not enough praise for purely utilitarian vocals out there, but in the current state of death metal, I appreciate when vocals aren't trying to be the distinguishing factor.
Across the course of multiple listens, Wretched Illusions has grown on me significantly. While there are few moments that remain in my skull terribly long after the fact, I can't deny that, when tucked into the confines of this tiny airplane seat, I'm happy as a clam in the thick of my imaginary Creeping Death mosh. If you're in the mood for some good ol' death metal, Wretched Illusions comes strongly recommended. It's hard to compete with the bigger releases of 2019, but Creeping Death have most certainly earned a spot on the list of acts to watch.