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EP REVIEW: SALEM – SALEM (ROADRUNNER RECORDS)

5

Creeper frontman Will Gould’s new side project Salem drop a bewitching Halloween treat with an energetic & fun filled horror-punk smash debut EP. 

In 2019, whilst in the midst creating their ambitious concept record & second LP “Sex, Death & The Infinite Void”, Southampton based punk band Creeper’s frontman Will Gould found himself at a crossroads. With his personal and band life in turmoil from the stress and pressure of living up to increasingly high expectations of fans and also within the UK alternative scene, he needed an antidote. 

That comes in the form of “Salem” an outcome of a practice room session initially just for fun with Gould’s good friend & guitarist Matthew Reynolds (Howard’s Alias). With a record that was never meant to be released to the public & which was only decided to be put out for the world to listen to during lockdown. Salem’s self-titled debut EP looks to bring a hugely needed dose of fun horror punk escapism for a turbulent 2020. 

Kicking off Salem’s debut release is the opening song ‘Fall Out Of Love’ and within 20 seconds of listening you instantly can hear and understand everything this band is about, whether that be the black eyeliner and skeleton glove wearing horror-punk aesthetic, the relentless drums and guitars reminiscent of AFI’s 2000 album The Art Of Drowning or the towering chorus with which Gould first made his name. The verses are adrenaline fuelled figurative barrages which just beg for the crowd surfing of gigs past, all of this energy crescendos into a 60’s inspired doo-wop chorus which fans of Gould’s previous work will adore, as well as new listeners & fans being able to clearly identify that there’s so much more to this band than your standard paint by numbers punk rock. 

Following on from this comes the satanic love song & lead single ‘Destroy Me’. It’s clear to see why ‘Destroy Me’ was selected by the band as the debut single to introduce Salem to the world with its bombastic booming yet melodic instrumentation, while lyrically it’s the perfect synopsis of the project, with the pairing of sex and death inspired lines in the sing along chorus “Bury me in bed with you / I want to hang helpless from your noose” the lyrics being flawlessly on brand with the Americana & horror punk-soaked vibe of the record. 

‘Throat’ quickly arrives next on the track list with an Alkaline Trio-esque alternative rock tune that possibly has one of the catchiest choruses of 2020. The band slow the speed of the record down a bit in contrast to the two previous songs which is a welcome change of pace which also helps make the song more memorable & stand out. ‘Throat’ perfectly showcases all the talent Salem possess in their arsenal, with Reynolds masterfully captivating guitar riffs as well as the multi layered vocal harmonies provided by Gould & the band in the chorus which help to create an unforgettable melody which would be almost impossible to not sing or hum along to whenever it plays. 

Conjuring images of leather jackets, cheap cigarettes and pocketknives comes the song ‘Eyesore’ with a sound and feel not too far removed from the early graffiti tagged walls of CBGB’s in the New York punk scene of the late 1970’s. Closing off the record in a both perfect and fitting way is the bubble gum-punk track ‘Doomed (For Each Other)’ which could easily have been found on Gould’s previous band Creeper’s 2016 EP The Callous Heart

With a length of just under 16 minutes Salems’s debut release truly doesn’t spare any time in pulling its punches and is completely stacked start to finish with five fantastically swag ladened and fat free songs. This might be the most energetic, confident & just downright fun record you could possibly hope to hear within a quarter of an hour. Will Gould & the bands charismatic performance and tongue in cheek lyrics have created an unbelievably fun record you just want to have fun, sing along and dance your heart out to. Forget witches and the occult, who knew a night in Salem could be this much fun!? 

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