Ice Nine Kills are taking their deep love of horror movies to new depths with singles ‘The American Nightmare’ & ‘Thank God It’s Friday’.
I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a little weird by nature or because my dad showed me John Carpenter’s The Thing when I was 10-years-old and I could barely sleep for a week, but I adore horror movies. (Nice parenting, old man). A good horror film – the best kind – leaves you unnerved long after you’ve seen it; movies like The Thing, Alien, It Follows, The Shining, The Invitation, It Comes At Night, The Babadook and A Quiet Place. (Even a horror deconstructionist piece like Cabin in the Woods is fuckin’ great too, though for other numerous reasons).
Now, if you’re a fan of the often theatrical and symphonic-tinged pop-metalcore Boston act, Ice Nine Kills (INK), then you know that they’re most certainly fans of such media too, mainly vocalist Spencer Charnas. This is because the Massachutes group have breathed these personal influences of their favourite media and entertainment right into their music and lyrics over the years. Whether it’s B-grade movie influences showing in the artwork of their older releases; taking a leaf out of Quentin Tarantino’s book for the Inglorious Bastards-esque ‘The People Under The Stairs‘; to now wearing stage outfits of their fave horror movie characters when they play live.
Along with guitarist/co-vocalist Justin DeBlieck (who compliments Spencer’s vocals with his own screams) and rhythm guitarist/bassist Justin Morrow, 2015’s ‘Every Trick In The Book‘ LP saw every song be INK’s interpretation of a certain literary work. Fiction, historical or otherwise. So where the video and lyrics for a song like ‘The Nature of the Beast‘ were about George Orwell’s Animal Farm, others like ‘Hell In The Hallways‘ were Carrie-inspired, whereas The Exorcist was re-created within the lyrical content and visuals of ‘Communion of the Cursed‘. (With each of these three videos featuring recurring characters/actors too, as a nice little touch). Now, judging from the band’s recent two singles – taken from their upcoming LP ‘The Silver Scream‘ (get it?) – INK’s newest creation has switched from the world of books and reading over to that of gory cinema.
So, the first claw-marked cut from this new album is ‘American Nightmare‘. In which the band fully captures the theme of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, as the lyrics and visuals reference and reenvision not just the sleep-demon Freddy Kreuger (“When night comes creeping, my cruel hand will rock you to sleep“), but the film’s narrative overall too. Beyond that, there’s also the fact that the lyrics to this song were released by INK on their socials as a faux-newspaper report that looks like it’s come straight from the 1980s. The track and clip are both a little corny, sure, but so are most 80s/90s horror flicks now in hindsight, anyway. (An “Extended Cut” of the music video – directed by Daniel Hourihan – shows that the “movie” parts here are Spencer’s nightmares, as relayed to his new psychiatrist. Who is also highly suspicious that Spencer’s violent and disturbed sleep visions might not be as fictitious as they seem. Cue the “dun-dun-DUN” sound bites).
That being said, the song is competently written and well-structured too (that breakdown towards the end hits especially hard). While the catchy, clean-sung “I’m The American Nightmare, with American dreams” chorus definitely sounds like what you’d expect from a poppy metalcore band on a label like Fearless Records, I let it pass because of the solid alliterations and loving appreciation for the source material. Easily the best part of the track is the freaked-out dissonant guitars during the nu-metalcore breakdown at the mid-section, accompanied with the movie-nod lyrics of: “They all think it’s just pretend/You’ll never ever sleep again/All your friends are fucking dead“. Plus, the line “You’ll never ever sleep again” is delivered via a cold, sinister whisper from Spencer during an instrumental pause that’s just so sick when paired together and in the context of the wider song too. I don’t need a reason to like it – it’s just fuckin’ cool!
Then there’s the album’s second single – ‘Thank God It’s Friday‘.
Released on Friday, July 13th (because of course it bloody was), ‘Thank God It’s Friday‘ is, as the name hopefully suggests to you, all about the 1980 cult classic, Friday The 13th. In terms of the song, it’s not half bad; showing off Spencer’s clean and screaming range further and being more breakdown and sample-friendly overall. Though, I do personally feel it’s the weaker of the two songs. However, as per usual, the band really went the extra mile for the lyrics and their homage-paying film clip. From the schlocky font/scream sound effect that announces the music video’s title card; to re-creating the death scenes from Friday The 13th (as well the movie’s seminal final jump-scare); the band members all wearing Camp Crystal Lake shirts; the song’s acoustic intro acting like a foreshadowing campfire song; to paraphrasing the murderous and bat-shit insane Mrs. Voorhees as well. In this regard, it’s great stuff, created with care and love for the subject matter.
My own much-loved moment here is the song’s symphonic-metal breakdown for the outro, a sectioned that’s paired with the lyrics “ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma“. Which is such a great little easter egg to the sound design of the original film too if you know your shit. Look, like the band and these new songs or not, ya gotta give these dudes points for effort!
‘The Silver Scream’ opens to the public on October 5th via Fearless Records. I’m keen to see what other horror movies are referenced on this new album – both sonically and visually. (I’d love a Scream-inspired track myself).
[Header PC: Bryce Hall.]