Ice Nine Kills blends modern metalcore and theatrical, sweeping atmosphere to make some of the most compelling, must-hear music out there. I first heard the band at Warped Tour a few years ago, while I was waiting to see Atreyu on the stage opposite theirs. Even having heard none of their music before, I was blown away by their live performance. They managed to get me interested from note one, which says a lot about music festivals, but just as much about the band themselves.
Their fifth full-length, The Silver Scream, came out last October to widespread acclaim. Structurally, it followed their previous work, Every Trick in the Book, only instead of drawing inspiration from literature, the songs on The Silver Scream use horror cinema as their source material, running the gauntlet of classic slashers, gothic horror, and a couple of modern marvels for good measure. This past October, the record got the deluxe treatment, in a special “Final Cut” package (read our coverage here), which included a B-side, a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and a few acoustic versions of songs from the album. The original release was one of my favorite albums of 2018, and this “Final Cut” gives fans the complete experience that the Boston metallers could possibly muster.
Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street get the first nod of the album in the track “The American Nightmare,” which has a dizzying intro guitar solo and a jarring bridge section. It is one hell of an opener, and looking at the rest of the songs, it’s hard to make a case for any other track to kick things off. Following up is “Thank God It’s Friday,” paying tribute to Jason and Pamela Voorhees with a chorus that begs for a sing-along. “Stabbing in the Dark” shows off singer Spencer Charnas’ lower range, and the bridge featuring the iconic chase music of Michael Myers is genius musicianship. Come on, you can hear it now… dun. Dun dun. Dun. And so on.
“SAVAGES” is a straightforward cut, more metal and less core, as the Sawyer family of Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame gets their due. Randy Strohmeyer of post-hardcore act Finch joins the chaos for “The Jig is Up,” which manages to find several ways to chug on a low B and still make it sound compelling. That’s not a slight on the track, which uses choral elements and a Jigsaw sound-alike voiceover to give its pound of musical flesh to the game-changing SAW. “A Grave Mistake” draws on the tragic tale of The Crow, once again using no harsh vocals and a more straightforward hard rock sound.
“Rocking the Boat” sees an assist from Jeremy Schwartz, as well as a captain’s bell and another nod to the musical cues from the source film, this time Jaws. “Enjoy Your Slay” adds Sam Kubrick, grandson of the legendary Stanley Kubrick and singer/guitarist for UK outfit Shields, to the mix to pay tribute to the Overlook Hotel and The Shining. The anthemic “Freak Flag” takes the story of the Firefly family of The Devil’s Rejects fame and makes a catchy, infectious song about individuality and self-truth about it. Lyrically, it doesn’t dip into the sadism and depravity of Otis and Co., but that doesn’t take away from this mother of a track.
On the topic of individuality, “The World in My Hands” takes the comic fable Edward Scissorhands and brings it to musical life. Putting this and “Freak Flag” back to back was a smart move in structuring the track listing. The radio interlude in “Merry Axe-Mas,” which draws upon the infamous Silent Night, Deadly Night, was a genuine laugh-out-loud moment. Maybe not “Garbage day!” levels, but hey, it got a chuckle out of me. The tone goes from comedic to tragic with the power ballad “Love Bites,” featuring Chelsea Talmadge of Stranger Things fame as a vocal counterpart to Spencer. The album proper ends with “IT is the End,” which calls in three guests: JR Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub of ska punks Less Than Jake, and Will Salazar of pop-punk act Fenix TX. The clown horn is guffaw-inducing, even as Charnas’ vocals go from silly to strained. It is in this duality that proper penance to Pennywise the Dancing Clown is paid.
Starting off the bonus content for the “Final Cut” is a B-side from the recording sessions, a curious omission from the original release. “Your Number’s Up” is a wonderful tribute to Scream, with Sarah Bartholomew playing the Casey to Charnas’ take on Ghostface. I had plenty to say about this track before, but I stand by the fact that this could have and should have been on the album the first time around. Next is the aforementioned “Thriller” cover, and while I’m glad that the band tried to make this song in their image, some tracks just can’t be covered justice, and this is one of them.
The acoustic takes round out the disc, with “A Grave Mistake” leading things off. This track needed an acoustic version, as did all of the four songs that get such treatments. “Stabbing in the Dark” adds Trivium frontman Matt Heafy for some wonderful vocal harmonies. “SAVAGES” has some great vocal things, as well as a fun guitar part in between the intro and first verse that I must have missed in the original version. For the acoustic “Thank God It’s Friday,” Ari Lehman, the original child Jason Voorhees, shares vocal duties. On the topic of vocals, I didn’t realize the iconic “ki ki ki Ma Ma Ma” was something I needed to hear sung instead of chanted, but here we are.
When the dust settles, The Silver Scream is a hell of an album. Any horror and metal fan should have it in their collection, whether it is the original version or the “Final Cut.” If you’ve yet to check out the masterpiece of Ice Nine Kills, you’re doing yourself dirty. Give it a spin and remember the rules of horror along the way.
The Silver Scream (Final Cut) is now available via Fearless Records.