Devin's Sober Review: "Welcome to Horrorwood" by Ice Nine Kills
I was honestly never interested in Ice Nine Kills for the longest time. I had always had friends tell me how great they were, but I just couldn't buy into the gimmick. A band that bases songs off of classic spooky literature and film? Fuck off. At the time, I just thought that was silly and I had absolutely no interest in a "gimmick-y band". Which given my love of bands like Steel Panther and Coheed...is an incredibly hypocritical bit of irony I have been forced to deal with, considering how big of a fan I am of INK now. Trust me, I get shit for it all the time.
When I finally sat down and listened to the bands previous release, 2018's "The Silver Scream", I couldn't believe how downright fun it was. Songs based around some of my favorite slasher movies, with catchy hooks, over the top theatrics, and some genuinely brutal moments, was like candy to me. As an album, it sounded like a soundtrack to a truly fucked up horror flick, or even the set list for a horror themed musical. It gripped me in a very real way, and I immediately wanted more.
To quote Randy Meeks from the beloved slasher flick "Scream 2", when it comes to sequels, "The body count is always bigger and the death scenes are more elaborate". This also rings true when it comes to music. If you're going to do a sequel to an album, you need to amplify everything that was great about the first one to begin with, and do it twice as well. That's an interesting challenge, and its a challenge that Ice Nine Kills is having to face now with the release of their latest album, "Welcome to Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2". Lets get into it.
The record opens with a fun little narrative intro, kind of setting the listener up for an almost cinematic experience. This idea is only reinforced with the first actual song, the title track Welcome to Horrorwood. The song starts with this great acoustic intro that I could easily see being performed as part of a theatre performance, but that moment is almost immediately replaced with a harsh scream, and a crushing drum beat. The combination of these two tracks does a great job of telling the listener, "You are the protagonist of this movie, we are going on this ride, and you might not survive".
The brutality doesn't let up with the tracks A Rash Decision, based on the Eli Roth classic "Cabin Fever", and Assault & Batteries, centered around "Child's Play". Both of these songs are equally catchy and just simply disgusting. Vocalist Spencer Charnas put his whole ass into the vocals on this album, and these two tracks really showcase how much he has grown as a singer in the last few years. If I was gonna have any gripes at this point, its that I feel like Assault & Batteries leans a little too far into the sillier side of the "Childs Play" franchise. Which could be the point, but to me it just feels a little too much.
On the flip side of things, The Shower Scene, a lovely ode to "Psycho", is almost fully devoid of harsh vocals. It showcases the bands versatility in how they can give you heavy one moment but then give you an incredible melody the next. And believe me, this track has the best chorus I've heard in a while. This will definitely be one of those songs that the fans will recite word for word at live shows, I know I will. Following that is the song Funeral Derangements, a take on "Pet Semetary". This song is a classic piece of metalcore bliss. Heavy when it needs to be, with a clean hook that sticks in your ear. Also has the sickest pre breakdown lyric (The flesh is living but the souls have spoiled / The wrath of God lays beneath this soil)
Not all songs are created equal, however, and as much as I really wanted to like the "Resident Evil" themed song Rainy Day, I just couldn't. Don't get me wrong, its a fun tune, with an awesome guitar part. But it just feels...I don't know, basic? Like I know I've heard this song before from similar bands, if that makes sense.
Luckily the next few songs fucking bang!
Hip to be Scared, the lead single off the album, is just...amazing. I'm not even going to try and describe this song, I won't do it justice. Look, if you're a fan of "American Psycho", you will dig this song. All I'll say about this song is that it perfectly interpolates the Huey Lewis mega hit Hip to be Square, and that the dude from Papa Roach sings his ass off on the feature. Immediately after that, we get the song I was looking forward to the most, the "My Bloody Valentine" track Take Your Pick. Featuring Corpsegrinder. From Cannibal Corpse. No, that isn't a typo. Yes, his feature is fucking brutal. He gets a whole segment to himself, complete with blast beats. This song is just two psychos screaming at each other, its wild.
The features refuse to let up, with the "Hellraiser" homage The Box featuring vocalists Brandon Saller and Ryan Kirby of Atreyu and Fit For a King, respectively. This song has some of the nastiest drumming on the record, and has just this beautiful way of blending three very distinct metal voices on one song without any of them taking backseat to the others. However, F.L.Y. (I don't have to put the movie here, you can probably guess) Is kind of one note to me. It has a great chorus, but it isn't that memorable to me overall.
To round out the backend of the record, we have the song Wurst Vacation, which takes cue from one of my favorite horror movies, "Hostel". It has this pulsing Rammstein-esque rhythm to it, which adds this unsettling element to the song. It really makes you feel like a skeevy Dutch businessman is gonna lure you into a torture dungeon to do nefarious deeds. The "Evil Dead" tinged track Ex-Mortis completely flips the script, by making it a heavy metal showtune. This has big "local theatre troupe" energy, if that makes any sense. It also has a killer Bruce Campbell sample that makes me smile whenever I hear it.
The closing track on the record is titled Farewell II Flesh, and this song to me is the perfect way to end an album. The right mix of melodic, heavy, and with it taking from the "Candyman" franchise, its the perfect storm. The breakdown even uses the sound of honeybees in it, and as someone who has a severe phobia of the buzzy bois, makes it extra spooky. First time hearing this song, I was wearing headphones, and I flinched. So thanks for that INK.
Honestly, this is the perfect horror movie sequel.