By Greg Maki
Dating all the way back to Universal Studios’ classic Dracula and Frankenstein pictures, no movie genre has been more synonymous with sequels than horror. It’s fitting then that Ice Nine Kills has delivered a part two to its horror-based, breakthrough album, “The Silver Scream” (2018). Given the band’s steady upward trajectory throughout its career, it’s no surprise that “The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood” is just as creative, dynamic and listenable as its predecessor. In other words, it’s spectacular and the most purely enjoyable metal record of 2021.
After a spoken introduction tells us the songs we are about to hear have been unearthed as evidence in a murder investigation implicating INK frontman Spencer Charnas in the killing of his fiancee, “Welcome to Horrorwood” sets the stage for what’s to come. A piano/orchestral opening gives way to the full band and a singalong chorus, a pulse-pounding breakdown and maybe the longest, most impressive guitar solo the band has featured to date. The lyrics, meanwhile, highlight Charnas’s always clever wordplay.
The next dozen tracks each find inspiration from a different horror film, starting with “A Rash Decision” (“Cabin Fever”). It’s the song that’s the most indebted to metalcore here, though there are nods to the band’s early days with the ska feel of the verses. “Assault & Batteries” (“Child’s Play”) is bouncy and chaotic, without ever going out of control, and the chorus makes ingenious use of the melody of the old Toys “R” Us jingle. “The Shower Scene” (“Psycho”) is a more relaxed song—think of something along the lines of “A Grave Mistake” from the first “Silver Scream”—and incorporates those iconic, blood-curdling strings in its breakdown. “Funeral Derangements” (“Pet Sematary”), one of the heavier selections, offers a huge chorus and a breakdown bordering on deathcore, while “Rainy Day” (“Resident Evil”) has an electronic feel that recalls Rob Zombie or later Bring Me the Horizon. “Hip to Be Scared” (“American Psycho”) was the album’s first single, and it’s easy to see why: It’s INK at its most accessible and as elegantly disturbing as its inspiration.
There are a handful of guest appearances on the record—including Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, Brandon Saller of Atreyu, Ryan Kirby of Fit for a King, Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail—and the one who makes the biggest impact is perhaps the most unexpected. “Take Your Pick” (“My Bloody Valentine”) starts as arguably the heaviest INK song to date, eschewing a clean chorus, and then gets even more brutal when none other than George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, vocalist of legendary death metal band Cannibal Corpse, makes his presence known, turning the track into a full-on deathcore bloodbath. It also features the immortal lines “‘Cause roses are red and violets are blue/They’ll need your dental records to identify you.” And somehow, the same song includes a nod to the classic Nazareth track “Love Hurts.” I don’t know if there’s another band that would even attempt such a thing, and INK pulls it off masterfully.
“The Box” (“Hellraiser”) has a chorus reminiscent of “The Jig Is Up” from the original “Silver Scream,” though the song isn’t as heavy overall, and it comes with another classic breakdown. “F.L.Y.” (“The Fly”) comes the closest to the early, poppier INK sound but with more sophisticated songwriting. “Wurst Vacation” (“Hostel”) is a banger with heavy European influences, most notably a mechanized, Rammstein-like attack. “Ex-Mortis” (“Evil Dead”) rocks with a groove unlike anything we’ve heard from INK before, while horns give it even more of a theatrical flair than normal for the band. Buzzing bees and a soft piano usher in “Farewell II Flesh” (“Candyman”), a dynamic closer that finds a way to include a snippet of the classical piece “Flight of the Bumblebee” before it wraps up.
To sum up, “The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood” is Ice Nine Kills at its heaviest and most metal, and also its most melodic and accessible. Typically, a band has to go one way or the other, but INK has found a way to charge off in opposite directions simultaneously. It’s an incredibly impressive feat, and it’s why “Horrorwood” is an instant classic.
Fearless Records – October 15, 2021