Review || Ice Nine Kills - "The Silver Scream 2: Welcome To Horrorwood"

 Much like every sequel that follows a successful original franchise, "The Silver Scream 2: Welcome To Horrorwood" sees Ice Nine Kills in a newfound position. The follow-up to 2018's critically acclaimed "The Silver Scream" was a very successful experiment which not only skyrocketed the band's popularity, securing opening slots in tours and introducing them to a whole new audience, but also ensured that the quintet got one more opportunity to not hang up their boots. Ice Nine Kills rode that wave and supported their brand in the most impactful way possible; they took their shows to a whole new level with grotesque stage makeup and very quick costume changes to match the theme of the songs, light design that enhanced the storytelling, three vocalists able to second mainman Spencer Charnas at all times and an associate/human prop who would assume different identities of horror film leads every night and who would get murdered multiple times on stage. With a hype like this, and after almost two years of performing inactivity, the balance that they would have to keep in order for this new album not to flop was crucial.

Now, we should keep in mind that Ice Nine Kills are not amateurs; they are seasoned musicians who have a very good knowledge of the metalcore genre and are fully capable to fuse catchy melodies with heavy-ass breakdowns. "TSS2" moves a step further from that and takes a more theatrical turn. After the intro "Opening Night...", you would expect the first track to kick of in a thunderous way. On the contrary, the title track kicks off acoustically and starts building a more metallic character as it goes. Its position in the tracklisting resembles the structure of a metalcore opera where this track serves as some sort of "exposition" (with smart callbacks to the OG album) so we can start the new narration. 

I was very reserved with the singles, especially the melting pot that was "Assault & Batteries", and in my initial notes while listening to the album for the first time I had a remark regarding the songwriting but I scratched it. Although I still feel inclined to say that INK was influenced by the butt rock bands they toured/were scheduled to tour with, the ingenuity of their songwriting is brilliant. The structure of the songs still keeps a balance between melody and heaviness, as we are used to, but it feels amplified in order to get more desired airplay and at the same time throw bones to the oldschool fans (following the path that Of Mice & Men established with the numerous EPs they dropped this year). The genericore element is less present and Charnas himself takes a turn towards more clean singing, with prominent, big, yet not anthemic, choruses -something I guess we all saw coming at some point, and presumably paying homage to his punk rock roots. 

Furthermore there's small details that you can ignore at first spin but which will subconsciously stick to the listener. The verses of "A Rash Decision" for example feature a couple seconds of tempo change where the ska-like patterns match the end of Spencer's singing phrase, during "Shower Scene" the strings adapt the stabbing motions from the scene in "Psycho" and of course the stellar juxtaposition between almost bubbly singing and crushing breakdowns. I love those. It is also crucial to acknowledge the creative contribution of Francesco Ferrini's orchestral and choral arrangements, which dress in a haunting ambience INK's works (and have been since "Every Trick In The Book"), which is more often than not overlooked in the fandom and consequently a personal pet peeve.

Objectively "TSS2" is a very good album and meticulously put together, proving that you don't change a winning songwriting team -if anything, you drop more experienced writers in the mix. Personally however, it fails to tick some of the boxes I was expecting it to. More specifically,  I'm not entirely sure I understand the order of the tracklisting, which feels split in two, the easycore first half and the seemingly heavier second, where most singles come from. The deathcore elements are present, with Dan Sugarman skillfully displaying his roots and legacy. However, and seeing as technical solos had never been integral to INK's music, the addition of a licks over breakdowns sometimes feels unnecessary and this approach in a way shoots itself in the foot. For instance, the breakdown of "Funeral Derangements" misses out on a great opportunity to create the most eerie, haunting metalcore breakdown of the year, straight up rivaling Lorna Shore. There, I said it. And to put some final insult to injury, while some songs were clearly written to be performed, a good portion of the album doesn't seem to be translating well live, exactly because the theatricality lies in the intricate details not being lost in the mix,  and the programmed drums, which I assume weren't programmed by an actual drummer, feel that they'd require a human octopus to play at times.

If I had to pick favorites, those would be "Rainy Day" with its Motionless In White-esque/BMTH-esque vibe, "Funeral Derangements", "The Box" and "Farewell II Flesh".

Overall, and despite being condemned to be compared with "TSS" for eternity, "Welcome To Horrorwood" is a very good sequel that has all the traits that can attract fans of heavy sound; sickeningly contagious hooks as it delves a lot more into theatricality, punishing guitars, good guests but lacks the elements that made me fall in love with INK, the only band I'd call genericore without any sort of negative connotation, in the first place. It's not a matter of maturity or progress for the band and their sound, but rather Ice Nine Kills not getting trapped into a box they so cleverly designed. 


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