The Silver Scream: A Horror Film Journey
The Silver Scream, Ice Nine Kills’ fifth studio album, delivers the theatricality that its title aptly promises. The record is a film-based follow up to the band’s previous album, Every Trick in the Book, which was an analysis of Horror Literature. The record kicks off with “The American Nightmare,” and “Thank God It’s Friday,” two singles released with tandem music videos in early July. The singles allowed curious fans a peek into the band’s heaviest album to date.
The Nightmare on Elm Street retelling, “The American Nightmare,” opens with a static-ridden sample from what sounds like a 1950’s documentary about sleep, and plunges into an eerie xylophone-laden introduction, atop nearly subliminal chorals. Charnas’ skillfully crafted and layered voice leads listener’s ears through labyrinths of rapid bass and drum-fire into a chorus with a strong and steady drumbeat that will surely induce concert hall mayhem. All the little accents are present, down to a customized version of Freddy’s Rhyme sung by young girls. The track boasts incredible depth of sound, and fills each millisecond with horrific detail. Not to mention, it takes on the perspective of Freddy Kreuger, and is chock-full of sleep wordplay. The Silver Scream’s very first track establishes that it is not for the light-hearted.
“Thank God It’s Friday,” keeps listeners on their toes, it features a pre-chorus of monstrous screams that build tension before breaking into a sample of Betsy Palmer’s own “TGIF.” The sample is followed by an epically symphonic chorus that seamlessly transports listeners into the film itself. The song ends (presumably) in a pacific instrumental, followed by a sudden violent outro of “Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma’s,” which perfectly mimic Friday The 13th’s surprise ending.
Charnas croons over the rhythm of a clock, and then an alarm, in the third track, “Stabbing In The Dark.” The haunting intro is followed by a fast verse and powerful chorus with huge, cinematic vocals and juxtaposed quiet and loud instrumentals. The track also includes a suspenseful bridge featuring a police “shoot to kill” order on Michael Meyers. If Every Trick in The Book mastered the art of retelling Horror tales, The Silver Scream actually puts you in them.
Member Highlights & Track by Track:
Each track on The Silver Scream strikes fear into listeners with the same power as their corresponding films, miraculously without any visual aid. Ice Nine Kills expertly captures the pacing of murderous rampages, near escapes, and the trope of terrific epiphanies. This record marks a career-defining vocal performance for Spencer Charnas, who delivers every line with careful calculation, each inflection and scream bursting with emotion. His lyrics frequently take on the villainous persona of the films’ antagonist or antihero. This places the listeners in the position of the hunted–a much more active role than the traditional voyeurism of Horror films. He accredited some of his success to recording his vocals on the film’s sets.
Charnas serves as the ring-leader of torment in this new Horror experience, and he does expertly so. His spot-on impressions of Pennywise the Clown, originally played by Tim Curry, and truly unbridled vocal performance on “Merry Axe-Mas,” indicate that Charnas is well versed in the stories he recreates. His voice runs thick, deep, and warm on “Stabbing in the Dark,” and maniacally shrill on “IT Is The End,” but he never misses a damn note.
“It Is The End,” is a masterpiece of rapid, frantic verses, well-timed clown horns, and a beautiful, ethereal outro round of “we all float down here.” It features instrumentals from Peter JR Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub of Less Than Jake, as well as Will Salazar of Fenix TX.
As always, Justin DeBlieck works guitar magic on each track, with the most notable solos on “Merry Axe-Mas,” “A Grave Mistake,” and “The World In My Hands.” His fingers nimbly navigate the many twists and turns that dramatize the record, as if his guitar is the monster at your heels. DeBlieck is capable of creating any atmosphere, scary or serene, celebratory or lamentful.
Bassist, Justin Morrow is certainly not to be overlooked as his bass-slamming cements all other elements of Ice Nine Kills together; he keeps perfect time and satiates the need for chest-rattling depth. The two bring great dimension to The Silver Scream.Their work on the romantic “The Jig is Up,” and previously-released “Enjoy Your Slay” is headbang worthy. It is noteworthy that “Enjoy Your Slay” features Sam Kubrick, grandson of The Shining director, Stanley Kubrick.
Many fans shared concern in the wake of the departure of ex-drummer, Connor Sullivan, but Patrick Galante’s performance on The Silver Scream eliminates all doubt. “The Jig is Up,” showcases his ability for spontaneity, keeping the beat even through the most chaotic rhythms. On “Rocking the Boat” Galante sustains a watery beat, until the bridge, in which he embellishes upon the traditional Jaws theme. The song also features previous band member Jeremy Shwartz, incorporates a laundry list of their previous album names. A personal favorite is the amazing final pre-chorus shark pun, “it’s time to set the hook.” Ice Nine Kills has a knack for the aquatic (think “Acceptance in the Waves” and “Red Sky Warning”).
The Silver Scream is largely successful for its external elements, and makes effective use of sampling, artist features, and orchestral accompaniment. For example, pop-punk inspired “The World In My Hands” utilizes strings to amplify it’s deeply emotional tone. Stranger Things’ Chelsea Talmadge’s vocal feature on “Love Bites” lends a powerful feminine perspective on a male-dominated album. The Silver Scream also incorporates just the right mix of songs. Ranging from misfit anthems like “Savages,” and “Freak Flag,” to romantic ballads like “Love Bites,” “The World In My Hands,” and “A Grave Mistake,” it provides a diverse array of themes. There’s even a Christmas song!
While the two former-most songs take a traditional rock and roll approach, the creative vocal riffs on “Freak Flag,” and the strong performances from both Charnas and DeBlieck on “SAVAGES” redeem any lacking instrumental complexity. These songs provide the thrilling and care-free killing spree vibes that mirror their film equivalents, The Devil’s Rejects and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Their outcasts-only message is successful, and reminds me why I love Rock ‘n’ Roll in the first place. “A Grave Mistake,” is a piano power ballad of epic proportions, it instills a yearning that listeners can only attribute to The Crow antihero, Eric Draven’s, emotion. “Love Bites,” is the most true love song on the album, and despite its formulaic structure, Ice Nine Kills knows exactly how to tug the heartstrings. “The Jig is Up,” is the most fascinating of the bunch, a neurotic love letter between a serial killer, Jigsaw of Saw, and his victims: “They’re all just gears in my machine, I savour every puzzled scream, A piece of them to carry with me.”
Overall, The Silver Scream is one of Ice Nine Kills’ most dynamic albums ever. It’s only real pitfall is a tendency to follow tired song structures, a minute detail when compared to the record’s virtues. We at Band Over Fist are grateful that this record will be available for this year’s Halloween endeavours. Happy listening!