Formed in 2019 by lead vocalist Antony Ellis, who had left Bigfoot that year, and signed to Frontiers, Kreek come highly recommended by my go to melodic rock maven, Chris Franklin of Raised on Rock, and I've learned to pay attention to his recommendations. Then again, with an opening track like At the Bottom of Hell, I didn't need much prompting.
This is a long song for a rock album like this, running over six and a half minutes when precious little else makes it past five, but it's a manifesto of everything what the band want us to know they can do. There's an intro, a build and an unusual vocal part to grab our interest. There's a confident lead vocal from Ellis, which is clearly designed to start out memorable but so far within his capabilities that we will learn what he can do as he goes on. There's a strong melodic line that's underpinned by musicians who are somehow patient and urgent at once. The drums especially don't quite do what we expect and the bass goes particularly wild late in the song. The guitar solo is good. The chorus is good. The feel is good. And we end with the sure knowledge that, if we didn't like this one, we might as well go home.
I liked this one. And that means that I like this album.
Kreek are emphatically a hard rock band, though there are plenty of moments that remind me of Iron Maiden. It's there in the way Ellis's vocals build. It's there in odd melodies throughout. It's especially there in some of the more frantic intros like the one to Missiles, which reminds of Back in the Village. But it isn't there in the intensity that a metal band goes to, though I'm sure Kreek will be heavier on stage than they are here on record, because that's not what they're aiming to do. They fit very well in what I'm hearing from the New Wave of Classic Rock.
Million Dollar Man, the opening single, brings an American flavour into a British style; there's some Sammy Hagar swagger in this one and there's some Aerosmith to be found elsewhere in the album as well. Mostly, though, this is British through and through. Stand Together in particular feels like it's encapsulating decades of British rock 'n' roll because this song runs the gamut, reminding at points of Budgie, Saxon and Wolfsbane, even the Beatles. Everyone will want this one to be faster but we'll eventually realise that it works at this slow, grinding pace because it's a statement.
In fact, many of these songs, especially late in the album, remain stubbornly slower than we're likely to want them to be, including the refreshing anti-ballad, You're on Your Own, that closes the album, but it may be that they stick in our heads better for that. They make us feel like Kreek have confidence in what they're doing a little more. And, of course, I'm sure they'll be speeding them up on stage for a wildly different effect.
The biggest problem this album has is that it peaks early, nothing able to match that killer opener, At the Bottom of Hell. The strongest point this album has is that, even if the other nine songs are lesser to that one, they're each only a single notch down and they remain consistent in quality throughout. Sure, this isn't the killer album that the opener promises, but nonetheless it's reliable and solid and a strong debut for a band that ought to go far. You can pull any song off this and you're in good hands.