Ice Nine Kills have been around for over two decades now, but as frontman Spencer Charnas so lovingly puts it at one point during this album ‘when The Silver Scream came out I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically’. I can’t help but agree, their previous album was amazing and definitely the best work they have ever done. It’s like they heard Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ and said “hey, let’s make a whole album like this!”. And, to put it simply, it works. Even my girlfriend, who isn’t all too into music this heavy, LOVES them, due to their catchy choruses and movie-based songs. This has been maybe my most anticipated album of this year, especially given how great every single has been, so I apologise in advance if I gush about this band all over the review!
After a brief intro track explaining the story of the album, its title track opens quietly, building a creepy yet beautiful atmosphere from the very beginning as Spencer’s low vocals ring out over a piano. We get a first chorus like this, catchy lyrically brilliant (it’s gonna be a trend, I assure you). Aaaand just as you start to get comfortable and forget who you’re listening to, you’re slapped in the face by a duel high and low scream and the whole band coming in with a fast, heavy riff. Said heaviness doesn’t stop the track from maintaining its catchy vocal hooks, though, but it does lead to one of the more interesting breakdown callouts I’ve heard in a good while with “how’s this for an establishing shot?” Said callout comes at the end of an awesome isolated, harmonised vocal part, the duel vocals being an incredible highlight of the whole album, be it cleans or screams. Oh, and there’s an awesome guitar solo nestled in the track too towards the end. What more could you possibly want from a song but heaviness, catchiness, and impressive skill. Starting us off with a bang, and it doesn’t look to stop any time soon…
Cabin Fever-inspired ‘Rash Desision’ opens on a pretty metalcore riff, Spencer’s vocals building in over the top alongside the drums, it sounding quite calming. Then, again, it suddenly bursts into the heaviness thanks to a high scream from Ricky Armellino and a crushing riff from the rest of the band. The verse stays heavy but pretty bouncy, and the ‘bang bang bang’ part is insane, catchy when chanted and it would go down so well live. It all leads to a quick yet clean vocalled, very catchy chorus, the instrument dropouts sounding awesome in time with the vocal melody. The chanting/choir part after the second chorus sounds awesome and SUPER menacing, one of the best uses of the trope in rock and metal for a long while. We then get a final chorus and pre to end things on a high, heavy note!
My favourite track over the last few months, the Childs Play-inspired ‘Assault and Batteries’ is up next. Opening with a mock news article and Chucky’s briefly sung threats, it then explodes into the most frantic, chaotic track on the album… and it’s fucking glorious. From the clean, quick verse to the brutal screams of the pre and one of the very few times I approve of a kids choir being used in a rock song (because it’s actually creepy here), the first parts of this song are amazing. Then we reach one of the craziest choruses of the album, one that Spencer all but raps and still it has been ear wormed into my head for over a month. It’s crazy good. The second chorus gives way to a half-speed, extremely catchy bridge before some chanting leads us into one of the most interesting and heavy breakdowns I’ve heard in a long while. Not a band to let a section get old, the breakdown gives way to more incredible growls before a surprisingly awesome guitar solo rips through the track. Dan Sugarman may have only joined the band a couple of years ago, but he has already shown how incredibly talented he is and how well he fits in with tracks like this. The song is then finished off by a HUGE double chorus before a comical yet emphatic ‘fuck you!’ is growled to close it out. Playlisted. That’s all I have left to say.
Somehow the Hitchcock classic based ‘The Shower Scene’ is the ballad of the album. It opens much like the first song, with Spencer’s clean vocals over a piano. However, unlike ‘Horrorwood’, it stays clean vocalled for the vast majority of its time. Speaking of the vocals, every part of them is catchy as hell, be it the verse, bridge, or chorus, every melody is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, it still gets a little heavy, the second part of the second verse, the bridge, and the breakdown are all pretty heavy, but not nearly as most of the rest of the album. The breakdown even manages to include the signature violin stabs from the movie, them fitting in perfectly and almost making me want to watch the scene with this song playing alongside it. Another amazing song.
Next up we get a run of the other three pre-released singles of the album. ‘Funeral Derrangements’ slaps you in the face with brutalness from the very beginning, the heavy screams and huge chuggy riffing almost relentless from start to finish. However, it still lets up for the now-signature clean, infectiously catchy chorus. I truly believe Spencer could write an ear-worm out of anything these days. However the track also has my first (very minor) issue with the album, the breakdown doesn’t quite go hard enough. After such an awesome call-out as a screamed ‘gods wrath lies beneath this soil’ to just continue with the stripped back, spacious breakdown that they had been doing instead of giving everything felt a tiny bit disappointing. But still, what a track!
‘Rainy Day’ (based on the iconic Resi Evil franchise) is one of the least INK-ish songs on the album. It feels more like a Bring me the Horizon track, but if Bring Me were as heavy still as their fans wanted them to be. Despite the simplicity and radio-friendly nature of the main riff and structure and the almost entirely clean vocals, it is a damn good track. Its vocals will be stuck in your head for days to come and the rest is just heavy goodness that all combines into another easily playlisted song. Meanwhile ‘Hip to Be Scared’ is one of the more insane tracks on the album, to contrast. Based around the trials of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, the track features plenty of nods to the movie, be it certain lines from it or even switching the instrumental to ‘Hip to be Square’ and recreating their own version of Christian Bale’s iconic monologue in the middle. It’s fantastic stuff and somehow makes the track even better, especially when watching the video too. Outside of that it’s still pretty damn heavy and features another chorus that’ll be stuck in your head for days. Playlisted!
‘Take Your Pick’ is insane. And you may be thinking “of course it is Joe, Corpsegrinder’s on it”, but honestly I’ve done a few songs featuring the Cannable Corpse frontman recently and none are this crazy. It’s essentially a 3+ minute sprint of an extreme metal song about My Bloody Valentine… and STILL, Spencer found a way to make my girlfriend love it. If some of you are reading this and thinking the last few tracks were maybe a tad too heavy, this one may not be for you, but I loved it. It’s crazy, crazy heavy, and features the return of the ‘scared lady voice’ from ‘Your Number’s Up’, what’s not to love?
‘The Box’, ‘F.L.Y.’ and ‘Wurst Vacation’ are three more phenomenal horror-metal songs, but I don’t feel like they bring much new to the table (aside from the guests on the first two). The Hellraiser-based first track is another example of the harmonies and backing vocals adding so much to the track, there being something constantly going on around Spencer’s lead lines, adding depth and heavy evilness to the entire song. The chorus is another example of one of the best, catchiest on the album, too, and on any other album, this would be one of the biggest songs. It really goes to show just how high quality this album is. ‘F.L.Y.’ is somehow the weakest track on the album in my opinion, but it is still by no way bad. It opens and very much centers around the massively catchy, clean chorus, but outside of that and more chanted vocals at the end of each verse part, there isn’t too much going on to write about here. It’s a solid radio-metal track about a fantastic film, I just don’t have much to say about it! Finally, I admire the Hostel-inspired latter track for leaning fully into silly territory, having the topic be a movie filmed in Germany so the band goes full-on Rammstein. ‘Ein Zwei Drei Die’ gave me a good chuckle, as did the clear Till Linderman-esque lower, German-accented vocals that pop up throughout the verse. It’s industrial metal with a huge pop-metal chorus, and it’s fucking awesome.
‘Ex-Mørtis’ is another track that I wouldn’t have expected from the band, it not sounding like their usual style. It opens on a Manson/John 5 style guitar riff, more industrial influence but now turning more towards Rob Zombie instead of Rammstein. It also somehow sees Spencer at his sassiest, between the ‘Goddamn!’ and ‘May God have fucking mercy!’ parts there is a lot of attitude here. Then again, it’s based on the Evil Dead, so it kind of has to have attitude. Also, the ‘zombie’ voice cutting through with ‘singing’ has somehow managed to make me laugh each time I hear it, despite it being so catchy because it’s just ridiculous. Oh, and did I also forget to mention that this is somehow the catchiest track on the album? Much like ‘Shower Scene’, every vocal line and melody is somehow catchy as anything and has been stuck in my head for days. And it still somehow fits in a pretty heavy breakdown in the middle of the chaos too. This is a strong contender for one of the best songs the band has ever done, and if anything is going to push them to the top where they deserve it’s this. Playlisted!
The final track, ‘Farwell II Flesh’, is inspired by the Candyman franchise. It starts quite like the opener, Spencer’s voice sounding almost beautiful over the top of the simple piano melody. The atmosphere built here is fantastic though, with the double-tracked vocals and subtle strings that build the track perfectly. The band manage to wait over a minute before exploding in with the huge distorted guitar chords and big drums to fill out the sound of an almost anthemic chorus. The second verse gets a little heavier with some screams, but it again fits the track perfectly. It gets even heavier in there, with Sugarman even playing a pitch-shifted version of ‘Flight of the Bumblebees’ at one point, even more chaotic awesomeness. The rest of the song is catchy, arena-filling greatness, and an awesome way to finish off an album, with heaviness but also stuff you can sing along to.
Overall: This was downright insanity in the best way. I loved it. Every song was packed to the brim with awesome riffs, heavy breakdowns, brutal screams, and harmonies yet somehow some of the biggest, catchiest choruses in any genre today. The band captured lightning in a bottle with their previous album, but this one has refined and built on that idea perfectly. I honestly think it has what it takes to push them into the mainstream and superstardom, and it is one of the best albums I have ever heard. I surely cannot deduct have a point for the ‘Funeral Derangements’ breakdown, so….
The Score: 10/10
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