Listener beware, you’re in for a scare. At least, that’s what Ice Nine Kills would hope for you with ‘The Silver Scream 2’. Like the original TSS, ‘Welcome To Horrorwood’ sees frontman Spencer Charnas and co. lead us through a cavalcade of horror-themed tracks, each an homage to a popular film in the genre, all told through lost videotapes unearthed in a murder case. Everything from classic 80’s slashers to gory Eli Roth sick-flicks are game here, and while there have been changes to the lineup since the last outing, the Boston quintet avoid a grisly direct-to-DVD fate and deliver a respectable sequel that proves to be a gruesomely good time despite some flaws.
One of the noticeable changes for longtime fans will be Charnas taking centre stage in vocals after the departure of co-vocalist and lyricist Justin DeBlieck. While those abyssal screams will be missed, and some of the subtlety is lost from TSS 1 in terms of lyrical references (though the puns are as loud and as proud as ever), Charnas has pulled out all the stops and thrown INK into the theme with renewed gusto. Our opener, ‘Welcome to Horrorwood’ is a symphonic emo metal track that sets the stage for our tour through cinema, and here INK’s biggest strength immediately comes to light: there is charisma in spades present on this record. The group feels so excited to be back, so engaged in the material in front of them, that it’s impossible not to be drawn into the world they’ve crafted.
It helps that returning guitars from Dan Sugarman and drums from Patrick Galante really bring out some of their best work yet to match this energy. ‘The Shower Scene’, referencing (you guessed it) Psycho, has some punchy drums and a guitar line that complements the breakdown’s Hitchcock-like strings to fantastic effect. ‘Funeral Derangements’, our Pet Semetary track, has an animalist hook and has Charnas testing his range throughout with some almighty screams, as machine gun fire drums and tyre-squeal guitars complete a madcap track. ‘Rainy Day’, a tribute to Resident Evil, plays with cleaner vocals and a more electronic metalcore sound (though it’s uncharacteristically unengaging instrumentally) and has a hypnotic chorus that is as infectious as the T Virus.
TSS 2 isn’t without its missteps. ‘Assault & Batteries’, INK’s take on the Child’s Play franchise, is perhaps too all over the place in terms of sound and skits to properly bring out the best in its rapid fire instrumentation, feeling more disjointed than it does intense. There are moments like this throughout, where the samples and thematic inserts become more distracting than anything else, and style takes precedence over substance in a way TSS 1 managed to avoid. Not that it doesn’t always work in INK’s favour, as ‘Hip To Be Scared’ features a hilarious mid-track riff on Huey Lewis and the News as Charnas re-enacts American Psychos’ seminal scene on Jacoby Shaddix in between some suitably manic metal. Then again, some tracks maybe don’t go far ENOUGH, such as ‘Ex-Mortis’, an Evil Dead inspired swing-metal track that feels a little tame compared to its chainsaw wielding source material (though it does have an absolutely hellish drum breakdown that should be praised).
When Ice Nine Kills are at their best though, they are explosive like nothing else. ‘Take Your Pick’, referencing My Bloody Valentine (not much shoegaze here, surprisingly) offers a more traditionally grisly modern metal track alongside Cannibal Corpse frontman Corpsegrinder, who provides some thoroughly dark growls and a killer breakdown that you’ll feel in the pit of your stomach. It’s one of the heavier tracks of the album and with minimal samples it gives us the purest hardcore track we’ve seen from INK since their debut. ‘The Box’, a play on Hellraiser, has carnally pleasing guest features from Atreyu’s Brandon Saller and Fit For a King’s Ryan Kirby, who match Carnas’ energy blow for blow in an unrelenting track. ‘Wurst Vacation’ sees the band, unsurprisingly, channel their inner Rammstein to deliver a wonderfully industrial take on ‘Hostel’. The closer ‘Farewell II Flesh’, meanwhile, ends the album on a suitably epic scale, feeling very much like the culmination of many of INK’s best moments throughout with a grand chorus set to soaring guitars that closes on the familiar buzzing of its Candyman source material.
‘Welcome To Horrorwood’ has a lot going against it at first glance. It’s the sequel to a gimmick album, the third of its kind, and with a relatively new lineup; but by this point, you shouldn’t be surprised that Ice Nine Kills defy expectations like all good horror films do. INK’s seemingly limitless capacity for energetic hooks and barbaric breakdowns make for some cheesy moments, but also some unrelentingly thrilling and undeniably enrapturing tracks. If you crave slasher-themed, violent metal, ‘The Silver Scream 2’ will satisfy all your desires, and even the less Halloween-adoring of us will find moments of enjoyment within the blood-pressure-raising riffs and oft-impressive vocals, in spite of some messy skits and samples. Sometimes sequels live up to the original, and your trip to Horrorwood, though it may leave you dead by daylight, will prove to be a wild experience.