February 20, 2024

New Fury Media

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Silver Scream 2: track-by-track breakdown of Ice Nine Kills’ ‘Welcome To Horrorwood’ slasher

Author: Alex Sievers

The Venn diagram of people who like horror movies and heavy music is practically a single fucking circle. It’s this environment that Ice Nine Kills sound very comfortable in, one that’s made them more popular than ever. Though maybe their sixth record could be seen as facing a multi-faceted uphill battle? Not just the difficulty in making as-good-as-the-original horror sequels (only Scream 2 and Aliens come to my mind), but also matching its 2018 first-part and standing out from the horror-themed music crowd.

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As a sequel, Silver Scream 2: Welcome To Horrorwood is, thankfully, blessedly, superior in almost every conceivable way. It’s bigger, faster, heavier, bloodier, and somehow more dramatic. So much so that the band stands at the precipice of what is perhaps their greatest album yet. It matches the first Silver Scream and then guts it alive.

Horror-themed heavy artists aren’t anything new: Death SS, F.K.U., Wednesday 13, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and to some extent, King Diamond. Even this band implemented horror inspirations long before their current movie-song gimmick (and it is a gimmick, just a really well-done one.) From song title references to Wes Craven flicks, Cabin Fever-like artwork,  to some classic horror literature evoked on their really quite decent 2015 album. In Ice Nine Kill’s case, they stand out from those above iconic artists, obviously in sound, but also in the greater lengths they go to in order to show their love, knowledge and creativity towards these legendary horror properties.

So comes a satisfying, violent and downright heavy yet hook-addicted record in Welcome To Horrorwood, with INK’s charm never lost, complete with silly groan-worthy one-liners that wouldn’t be out of place as taglines on a cheesy B-movie poster. It is all absolutely escapist and juvenile, but that’s the point, admitted so by the band’s leading man. Non-horror movie obsessives and those who didn’t grow up with the same 2000s post-hardcore, emo and metalcore as Ice Nine Kills will find little to enjoy. Which is fair: this album isn’t aimed at those crowds. (It’s also not a perfect record, as we’ll get into.) But anyone labelling this band as ‘generic’ after this album is only indicting an embarrassing self-report. Without further ado, let’s get our hands bloody!

  1. “Opening Night…”

Officially, there are 14 tracks on Ice Nine Kills’ new album, but there may as well be 13. As “Opening Night…” isn’t a song; it’s a husky voiceover from their vocalist presented as some kind of fake expose indicating the larger narrative of the album. It’s blatantly implying that these new songs are “case files,” implicating frontman/creative lead Spencer Charnas as a musician by day and a killer by night, supposedly having murdered his fiancé.

As it’s only 43 seconds long, the album didn’t really need it. Some might argue instead that as it’s so short, it doesn’t matter, but that point also serves my stance, too. It’s just schlock set-up and the band knows it. Though to be blunt, no one is coming to this record for this particular story. People come to albums like this for hyper-hooks and ultra-heaviness – which it definitely delivers – and wanting to sink their teeth into all of the horror references. In that sense, INK provides and then some once this short intro is left behind on the cutting room floor, forever doomed to be skipped.

  1. “Welcome To Horrorwood”

Here we fucking go! The anthemic “Welcome To Horrorwood encapsulates everything INK does well. To make a pun, this is the album’s establishing shot, beginning as a stripped-down, all-lights-on-me Broadway moment as soft acoustic guitars pick away and sombre pianos rumble, as Charnas croons up-close over light vinyl crackles. All before morphing into an operatic slasher-metalcore piece with some huge bells and whistles. Then throw in a dire sense of rhythmic urgency, shredding solos, manic screams, symphonic orchestration, choral harmonies (which are really laid on thick all over this LP), sing-alongs, and a wicked breakdown in the middle that preludes Charnas’ humorous line: “so how’s this for an establishing shot?” It’s gloriously goofy fun – an MO that informs most of this record – and I love it.

Interestingly enough, for a band basing their songs on horror movies, this title song isn’t based on any specific horror media. The band have already done a Scream song – 2019’s killer Your Number’s Up single – yet this first proper track may as well be inspired by Craven’s iconic self-aware franchise. As it’s a big dig at movie tropes and the film industry. Thematically speaking, the entire song’s lyricism – outside of its ironic prose – is one giant meta-commentary about the band (“ink feels the page…”) their current songwriting approach (“…a classic killer completes the cast”), as well as audiences and their own fans wanting more (“sit back for the sequel of your dreams, psychos crave more shocking scenes.”) So it details violence in media and psychopathy that gets blurred between fiction and fact; taking stock of fame, horror films, desensitization, and moral panics. As I said, it’s like a meta-Scream reading without Neve Campbell or Ghostface anywhere in sight.

  1. “A Rash Decision”

As you might’ve guessed, this is a Cabin Fever piece, one of the album’s best moments, about a weekend getaway turning sickly, detailing the moral and physical horror of Eli Roth’s 2002 cult classic. Pop in break-beat drum samples in the second verse, plus lots of neck-running guitar antics set to a brisk punk tempo, and INK hit harder and sharper than ever here. “A Rash Decision” is a good reminder that this is a band that rarely forgo their dramatic mannerisms. If anything, they revel in it: the back half has towering operatic voices overlaying the track’s violent nature, making things feel more desperate. Like you’re right there in the cabin: infected, scared and alone.

Cabin Fever’s tone slides from hilarious to tragic. Compare that bizarre “pancakes!” scene to grim events later on in the plot, like when Paul finds Marcy with her face half eaten off from Dr Mambo, too weak to fight off the dog due to the virus. (Which totally exists by the way.) That erratic tonal shift of the film is a force represented within INK’s songwriting across this whole record. One minute, you get a song that’s quiet with intimate vocals and pianos, and then suddenly, you’re hit with a violent breakdown passage full of pure sonic carnage, bodies and blast-beats strewed everywhere. It’s a suitable juxtaposition and I’d strongly argue that that’s why this band’s music now captivates so many: it understands what it is, and owns it by capturing that source material exceptionally so. And it has a fucking blast letting it all rip!

  1. “Assault & Batteries”

The original Child’s Play is something I don’t care for. Having personally watched it when I was a teenager long after first discovering horror, it didn’t do anything for me. Going into this originally, my interest in an INK song about the film that spawned Chucky, and his many crap sequels, was low. But credit to the band’s creative prowess, making someone like me who doesn’t give two shits about this specific franchise, keep on coming back to this gnarly song.

Here, INK produces an enjoyably romp that’s full of polished pop-sheen, with a jingle-intro that’s purposefully reminiscent of old toy ads. It’s madly driven along by one of their most bonkers instrumentals, with hectic guitar work from Dan Sugarman and Ricky Armellino, nicely off-setting their own blatantly re-used chugging patterns and chord progressions over the course of the LP. Keeping this tacky but entertaining piece alive is its demented theatrics and creepy child choirs that feel at home in the chaos.

The lyrical blow-by-blow of ‘Assault & Batteries‘ is the possessed two-foot evil doll tormenting poor young Andy Barclay, throwing in fun references to the film. (There are allusions to later films like Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky: “Stitched back together it seems, by the evil bride of his dreams” and “when he’s planted his seed…” respectively.) When Charnas eccentrically sings in the background at one point “let the carnage continue”, you can picture him in a red-and-white polka dot suit outside a Toys R Us, spruiking new products to passers-by. “Assault & Batteries” is precisely why INK’s current approach works so well: they go all in, all of the time!

  1. “The Shower Scene”

With “The Shower Scene” and their take on Psycho, the band invites one and all into their Bates Motel, talking about how we all go a little mad sometimes. With firm and cosy wooden walls hiding something much darker built up by sky-high modern rock and soaring vocal hooks. Charnas’ vowel extension on certain words like “saying” and “drain” during the refrains isn’t the first or last time a band of their ilk will write such a chorus, but it makes for great content.

Oh, and before you ask, yes: the band most definitely includes the iconic musical stinger of the original film’s strings. Much like how they invoked the unmistakable Jaws theme on “Rocking The Boat” three years ago. It’s a totally expected yet welcome addition to one of the shorter but catchier cuts off Welcome To Horrorwood.

  1. “Funeral Derangements”

Sometimes dead is better.” That was the motto for Pet Sematary and it’s the mantra behind this insane sixth track, talking about the 1989 film that brought a notable Stephen King work to life; playful laughter, grinding 18-wheeler brakes, and tormented guilt alike. I tolerated the original, loathed the mind-numbingly boring 2019 remake, but once again there lies this group’s skill: taking something you may not like and spinning a song out of it that you come to love. “Funeral Derangements” is a damn solid song that musically replicates the film’s uneasy feeling: the sheer unspeakable horror of breaking the natural order of things and resurrecting the dead.

As for the song itself, just who the hell let INK go this fucking hard? The way it transitions from panicked metalcore breakdowns into sweet melodic lead passages is done so bloody well that I don’t care how overused it is today by other bands. When Charnas starts hitting those “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” lines in the chorus, I’m out here happily paying my respects at this cursed, grammatically incorrect gravesite. The burly, mosh-inducing pit-call of “the wrath of God lies beneath this soil” and subsequent crushing section is just pure filth. In it, we find the band burying us all under down-tuned chugs and dead-slow beatdowns, keeping drummer Patrick Galante (who joined in 2018, the unsung hero of this latest LP) up to snuff on both his endurance-heavy leg-work and early-2000s pinging snare hits.

Fun fact: the truck driver in the below music video is Miko Hughes, the actor who portrayed Gage in the original Pet Semetary.

  1. “Rainy Day”

Like Weyland-Yutani of the Alien universe, Umbrella Corp from Resident Evil is incompetent in the way that leads to high body counts. Both fictional corps have a misguided want to weaponize and commodify that which they cannot control, along with a cruel profit-over-people mentality. (Both fulfil an easy big-bad role in their respective franchises that requires basically no setup.) For “Rainy Day,” INK put themselves in the role of a hapless corporate goon for this horror series’ core villain, with zombies, BOWs and lickers stalking them from the darkness, addressing the evil bullshit of Umbrella, how their actions cause the zombie outbreak(s) and how they view their customers. (The song’s likening of gaming to zombification is pretty shallow though, not gonna lie.)

A perfectly timed track considering the current renaissance of the Resident Evil games due to 7, two killer remakes and this year’s excellent Village, “Rainy Day” is another straightforward tune. It carries a harder electronic, almost-industrial edge, avoiding the pitfalls of songs like “Savages” or “Freak Flag” and streamlines everything smoothly. To the point where if you walked into a CD store circa 2003 and saw the first Resi film’s soundtrack on shelves, you could imagine hearing “Rainy Day” on it, sandwiched between Slipknot and Rammstein. And make no mistake, this is just for the first film from Paul W. S. Anderson’s mostly shite live-action series; childish robotic voices embody the Red Queen AI from the first Resi flick, saying “game over, you died,” for a fun turn-around of the song’s rock-metalcore action.

  1. “Hip To Be Scared”

In 2006, when they were a very different band, Ice Nine Kills named a song on their debut album from a line in American Psycho: Murders and Acquisitions. In 2014, they released this edit of that iconic Do you like Hewy Lewis and the News? scene – one of the most versatile music memes to ever grace the internet. In 2021, they released ‘Hip To Be Scared,’ inspired by the cult classic film (and book) that’s all about outward projection and the social masks we wear. By no means the first time American Psycho has influenced heavy music – Chimara’s 2005 track, Bloodlust,’ or the heavy use of film samples applied to Antagonist A.D’s ‘Nothing From No One‘ LP – INK put their spin on it with a real sense of class.

An obvious play on the name of that particular 1986 Huey Lewis hit, this is an accurate horror-core breakdown of Bret Easton Ellis’ original 1991 story. Just minus all of the weird shit and truly vile moments; “weird” as in dissociated investment banker, Patrick Bateman, eating handfuls of sand on the beach and being followed by a park bench; “grim” as in Patrick murdering a small child at the zoo in one short but gruesome chapter. (In both the book and film, he’s a colossally unreliable narrator.) So too is the music video, further channelling Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation and characterisation of Mr Bateman, who was perfectly portrayed by Christian Bale.

Witty references to the plot layout the larger themes of American Psycho, as well as Patrick’s daily life. The brand awareness in the intro services the original’s subtext of 80s capitalism and consumerism, his religious beauty routines, smug yuppie privilege, and a direct reference to the ‘returning some videotapes’ excuse he uses to get out of awkward situations. We get a quick nod to the business card scene, screening all his calls, the Huey Lewis skit (Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix features there, delivering a harmony part with Charnas for the final chorus), and Patrick’s phone call confession to his lawyer following a psychotic episode that makes for a buck wild verse. To perhaps no one’s surprise, INK applies the same nihilistic final line from the film to conclude the song: “this confession has meant nothing.”

The only thing that could’ve potentially been added was a nod towards Dorsia or that eerie interview between Patrick and Willem Dafoe’s character, Detective Donald Kimball. That’s just how comprehensive “Hip To Be Scared” is, even using a musical quotation of the “Hip To Be Squared” instrumental, implementing 80s drum machines during a breakdown. (This band is on their own level, I swear.) Really, the only thing I cannot stand is the obnoxious clock tower bell that rings on the downbeat every few measures – it’s so distracting.

  1. “Take Your Pick”

“Take Your Pick” means business. It’s a hectic death-metal fused smack to the temple that’s heavier and bloodier than most any other INK track. It’s the “Merry Axe-Mas” of this newest album, basically, with pinch harmonics and double-kick barrages everywhere among the meat-grinding breakdowns.

My Bloody Valentine and that deadly ice-pick is the focal point, with Cannibal Corpse’s own Corpsegrinder helping the song to drag you kicking and screaming into the dark, dank pit of Hanniger Mine – it’s a brutal standout. (Cannibal Corpse even have their own loosely inspired song for the film.) Corpsegrinder’s full-chest growls make for an admittedly surprising but well-implemented guest feature, one that helps authenticate what INK are doing with this ludicrous song and their current era. Like, come on, how many other albums are you gonna hear the dude from Papa Roach singing on the same album as the thickest neck in all of death metal channelling the rage of Harry Warden?

  1. “The Box”

It’s time for some Cenobite sadomasochism with “The Box” as the band get hellbound, paying worship to Clive Baker’s Hellraiser and the Priest Of Hell himself, Pinhead. With more hooks than the entire Hellraiser franchise, it’s matched with some eerie music-box twinkling to set the original film’s odd mood, as it calls upon the “master of sin.”

The biggest talking point is that it features Brandon Saller from Atreyu in the wide-open choruses, as well as Ryan Kirby from Fit For A King lending his screams at various points. INK are clearly influenced by Atreyu, evident by the kind of hooky metalcore they write, so to have Saller appear here would’ve been a BIG deal for them. (Charnas also appears in this cringe-worthy Atreyu music video.) To be blunt, Saller’s contributions to this one song are better than anything off the last two Atreyu albums, and I say that as someone who loves their first five records. Either way, he’s a great vocalist and that shines here. As for Kirby, however, his screams don’t really add anything special or unique to the song or INK’s sound overall. Just like FFAK’s overall contributions to metalcore. Said screams could’ve come from Charnas or another band member and it would’ve had the exact same result.

While it’s undoubtedly more of the same, “The Box” tows a decent line between the varying rock, pop, and metalcore sides of the band to a nice degree that’s really quite infectious. Which is more than I can say for the next song…

  1. “The F.L.Y.

With “The F.L.Y.,” Ice Nine Kills drop the ball. So hard that I’m wondering how it even made it onto the record. Biggest issue? It’s a nothing-song that doesn’t go anywhere. It guest stars Buddy Nielsen from Senses Fail – Buddy returning the favour as Charnas appeared on “Death By Water” earlier this year – but even that doesn’t help. That brings me no joy to say: I adore Senses Fail and have for over 14 years now. (Though I didn’t really like “Death By Water,” so at least I’m consistent.) Buddy doesn’t get little individual time to shine vocally, hearing him in the bridge briefly and in the choruses alongside Charnas. Speaking of, it’s got one of the weakest and most forgettable refrains of the whole record. It’s a real miss on an album that is almost entirely all-hits.

Obviously, it’s all about the 1986 David Cronenberg classic, The Fly. (I have no fucking idea why the song title is an acronym, as that’s never spelt out in the lyrics.) The track makes for a somewhat interesting pre-movie story about Jeff Goldblum’s mad-scientist character and his god complex, tackling his eventual insect fusing and him going off the deep end once he transforms. Though given what the band had to work with, I feel this song should’ve been far more compelling. This should’ve been good – all the pieces are right there – but it’s a failed experiment. Like something nasty got caught in the band’s songwriting teleporter. If I was Goldblum, and you showed me this song, I’d tell you to fuck off and never come near me again. Body-horror? Nah, just horrible.

  1. “Wurst Vacation”

Hostel takes centre stage with “Wurst Vacation,” another gory and demented heavy track that makes me wonder if INK will convert a lot of fresh fans with some of these songs. It’s a debauched view of humanity and the violence one is willing to inflict on another person for their own gratification (and for the right price, as per the movie). We see it from the perspective of the film’s terrified and helpless protagonists, even with a skit re-doing Josh’s death scene, as well as some quotes from the villains, too. Mixing in electronica and drum-and-bass samples, as well as some of the band’s homage-paying sound bites spoofing the torturers and torturees, some even hilariously screamed in German for its jaw-dropping ending (Hostel was set in Slovakia if I recall correctly), it’s good dumb heavy fun.

At this point in the record, things are feeling a little tiresome, though that’s not for a lack of trying on INK’s end. The band constantly serves up exciting riffs, deathcore screams, and brain-haemorrhaging breakdowns to keep the song (and blood) flow moving along nicely. Torture-porn films are a special kind of tasteless, and in some regards, this song is too. It’s mindless but it’s also very easy to get wrapped up in the experience.

  1. “Ex-Mortis”

“Ex-Mortis” is a jazzy, big-band rock’n’roll number that acts as a page-by-page reading of Evil Dead; like an underworld party for any and all Deadites. Is it groovy? Sorta! It doesn’t fully evoke the chainsaw-on-arm madness you might initially expect when picturing INK making an Evil Dead inspired song, but it’s not half bad either. The brass instruments are a great addition – though they are a far cry from the Less Than Jake horn section on “IT Is The End” – as are the put-on, husky vocals before the swinging chorus pulls you into the dirt. Slip in a lyrical reference to 1992’s Army Of Darkness during the bridge, and Ash would be more than proud. And yes, there’s a “swallow this!” one-liner, stop asking me!

“Ex-Mortis” took a couple of listens to really appreciate it, but now I see it as the best Used song that we’ve heard since 2009’s Artwork. It does end on a slow fade-out, the song’s refrain looped over and over, which is a letdown as a closing moment… when looking at the track individually. However, when looking at the record as a complete whole, as I’m doing for this essay, it’s actually a fitting transition into the understated, serious piano ballad finale of “Farewell II Flesh.” (This is a rare fade-out that actually services the larger record.) Now it’s time for the end.

  1. “Farewell II Flesh”

The timing of this sweet final song is apt: it’s about the Candyman, named after the 1995 sequel to the original, Farewell to the Flesh, just in time for the new Candyman of 2021 (which is the superior movie.) Bees buzz, fairytale pianos skirt, knowing lyrical nods to honey and mirrors, fast riffs of guitar and piano varieties reflect in dramatic fashion, and the gruesome tragedy of how the Candyman came to be – tortured, butchered and killed by an ignorant racist mob during the late 1800s – fill the sticky pages of “Farewell II Flesh.” Less tongue-in-cheek and more serious, the band do not forget some wonderful wordplay. Take the line “How ’bout a hand for the honey bees?” That is just too good of a pun about Candyman’s hooked right-hand and the bees that stung him alive. This shit must write itself!

“Farewell To Flesh” is another clear musical piece, just without the stage. It’s a solid and grim end to what is a mostly terrific record, a happy medium track of all that this band does, leaning more to the straight-faced side of things given the subject matter. (However, it’s solely focused on the mythos of Candyman, never the film’s commentary about racism, gentrification, and intergenerational trauma in black communities.) Although, as an album closer, and when stepping back, it ain’t even on the same planet as the ridiculous song that ended the first Silver Scream. Then again, very few things are.

It’s also an end that makes me ponder just where the hell the band will go next. Will we see more classics like The Fog and The Thing get turned into horror-core songs for Silver Scream 3? Or will modern gems like You’re Next or Hereditary receive that same theatrical treatment? Whatever comes, I’ll be waiting patiently, ready to write another fucking thesis for the third time.

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