93.7 FM • KXXR®
Ice Nine Kills “The Silver Scream” Summer Tour at Amsterdam Bar and Hall. With Special Guests: Toothgrinder & Hawk.
7PM • $9.37 • 16+
In a sea of subculture sound-alikes and would-be social media stars, ICE NINE KILLS stand tall as passionate artistic trailblazers. For over a decade, ICE NINE KILLS has built a thrilling new world for their band and their growing legion of fans. “INK” summons the most captivating elements of metal, punk and melody with theatricality, cinematic obsession, and literary fascination, creating a thrilling vision.
The Boston-based trio of Spencer Charnas, Justin DeBlieck, and Justin Morrow, (together with their onstage cohorts), conjured INK from the ground up, with the artistic confidence and perseverance of their favorite DIY punks and filmmakers.
After a decade of studio adventures and live showmanship, ICE NINE KILLS joins the ranks of likeminded hard rock acts like Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson, in terms of the combination of music and lifestyle and cult-band reverence.
Songs like “Communion of the Cursed,” “Me, Myself & Hyde,” “Hell in the Hallways,” “The Fastest Way to a Girl’s Heart is Through Her Ribcage,” and “Bloodbath & Beyond” have amassed more than 30 million views on YouTube alone, building a story with sales, streams, and downloads that’s evident by the massive sing-a-longs at festivals, on Vans Warped Tour, and when the band headlines theaters and clubs.
Following a fourth album that debuted in the Top 5 of Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart, and tours with bands like Motionless In White and Every Time I Die, ICE NINE KILLS spent much of 2018 in the studio with producer Drew Fulk (Bullet For My Valentine, As I Lay Dying) crafting their most diverse and impressive offering.
The Silver Scream, the fifth record from ICE NINE KILLS, is a definitive achievement. A conceptually driven post-metalcore masterpiece with the catchiness and spirit of pop-punk and the fist-pumping anthem power of arena rock, The Silver Scream is 13 songs of horror movie inspired madness. Just as their previous album, Every Trick in the Book, drew from classic literary works (including Animal Farm, Dracula, and Romeo and Juliet), each song on The Silver Scream is a tribute to a different iconic cinema classic, the types of movies that inspire the same sort of fandom as music.
The Silver Scream stars a famous movie werewolf, a great white shark, and more than one axe-wielding movie murderer. “The American Nightmare” is about Freddy Krueger, the dreamscape stalker of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series; “Thank God It’s Friday” centers on Jason Vorhees; Michael Myers, Leatherface, Pennywise, and Jigsaw get their due as well. There’s a song for the dark avenger from The Crow.
Charnas recorded some of the album’s vocals at famous horror locations, like the houses used in the original Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Sam Kubrick, grandson of Stanley Kubrick, guests on The Shining-inspired “Enjoy Your Slay.” There’s an appearance from Stranger Things’ Chelsea Talmadge and guests from INK’s punk flavored past as well, including members of Finch, Fenix TX, Mest, and Less Than Jake, who lend their horns to the Stephen King inspired “IT is the End.”
As a young kid, Charnas found himself drawn to the horror aisle of his local video store, located inside the supermarket where his mom did her shopping. “I’d gaze upon the box covers of movies like Sleepaway Camp and Silent Night, Deadly Night,” he recalls. “I became obsessed with horror. My parents were very cool about it all. Around Halloween, I would walk around the neighborhood as Michael Myers. Perhaps it was the idea that if I was the monster then the monster couldn’t get me?”
The obsession continued into his teenage years, when he and his cousins would rent movies from Blockbuster. Wes Craven’s horror referencing Scream made a huge impression. “It was the first time I ever saw a movie in the theater where the characters were talking about Jason and Michael. I immediately fell in love with it.”
Even in the group’s earliest incarnation as a high-school pop punk band, ICE NINE KILLS dabbled in horror related imagery, from song titles to merchandise designs. Last Chance to Make Amends (2006) and Safe is Just a Shadow (2010) built a name for the band, but it was The Predator Becomes the Prey(2014) and Every Trick in the Book (2015) that really cemented ICE NINE KILL’s reputation. The Silver Scream is the natural culmination of everything that’s come before, a full, immersive catharsis.
ICE NINE KILLS is at the forefront of the natural crosspollination of subcultures. “Heavy music and horror are both escapes from our mundane struggles,” Charnas points out. “Horror gets a bad rap with some people who think it’s sick and depraved. But those who love it tend to be the people who get it, who realize you aren’t supposed to see Friday the 13th and then go kill a bunch of people at a summer camp. Aggressive music and horror movies are outlets for your demons not a blueprint for your actions. It’s an escape from reality. You could be having the worst day in the world, with your job or your significant other, and you can go and put on a great metal record or horror movie and forget about all of your problems.”
When nothing is off limits, you can reach your full potential.
Toothgrinder realized this fact while making their 2017 full-length, Phantom Amour [Spinefarm Records]. While retaining the slippery schizophrenic spirit that turned them into a critical favorite on 2015’s Nocturnal Masquerade, the New Jersey quintet—Justin Matthews [vocals], Jason Goss [guitar], Matt Arensdorf [bass, vocals], Wills Weller [drums], and Johnuel Hasney [guitar]—dramatically augmented their unpredictable creative palette through expanding the grasp on melody, incorporating cinematic electronic flourishes, and even going acoustic, to name a few evolutions.
As hypnotic as they are heavy, these thirteen tracks signify “progress” through and through.
“Everybody calls us ‘a progressive metal band,’ but I think the most progressive thing you can do is surprise your audience and keep yourself happy,” says Wills. “I feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing here. From jazz and classic rock to metal and experimental, everybody brings different flavors to the table. Then, we pour them into the same pot. That’s Toothgrinder in a nutshell.”
It’s also why the band quietly made a palpable impact with Nocturnal Masquerade. As Revolver dubbed them “A Band to Watch,” it earned acclaim from AXS, Metalsucks, New Noise, Metal Hammer, The Aquarian, and more as the single “Diamonds for Gold” [feat. Spencer Sotelo of Periphery] generated over 300K YouTube/VEVO views and “Blue” cracked 384K Spotify streams. The group went on to support Killswitch Engage, Periphery, Sikth, CHON, and more on the road. Meanwhile, Wills made a hilarious cameo in the Martin Scorsese-produced HBO series Vinyl tearing shit up with an oceanside show as frontman for the fictional Pink Fairies.
As the boys commenced writing in 2017, new inspirations crept in…
“There are a few things that inspired the direction of this record,” explains Justin. “As a lyricist, I decided to take a more melodic route. I wanted to be more honest and tell stories. I had to talk about personal things that are difficult to communicate with such an aggressive platform. We took it down a notch and got more intimate. Another huge influence was Stephen King’s On Writing. I read it four times before I went into the studio. I took his concept of being fearless into consideration. That translates into the music. A lot of the things I sing about are sad—not so much angry. We needed to soften the sound just enough for it to work. I think it did”
“We were so open-minded,” adds Wills. “We have your normal Toothgrinder songs, but we’re generally all over the map—which keeps it exciting.”
First single “The Shadow” introduces this evolution. Propelled by gnashing and gnawing guitars, the song slips in and out of hypnotic verses before snapping into a hard-hitting hook punctuated by off-time rhythms and shimmering electronics.
“The concept of ‘The Shadow’ was created by philosopher and psychiatrist Carl Jung,” says Justin. “It’s about the dark parts of the subconscious and how every man has the opportunity to be good or evil. You choose your side. Most people aren’t inherently evil; they decide which path they tread.”
Elsewhere, “Let It Ride” hinges on a distorted groove before snapping into one of the band’s biggest chants to date, “We’re gonna let it ride.” Driven by hushed clean guitars and pensive lyricism, the airy and artful title track “Phantom Amour” mounts into an expansive refrain hinting at a larger theme.
“When I was really young, I liked The Phantom of the Opera,” recalls the frontman. “It was the first play I saw on Broadway, and it stuck with me. I bought the Andrew Lloyd Weber score. The eeriness of the music spoke to me on a deep level. I have some family in France, so there’s always been a French influence too. I translate Phantom Amourto ‘Ghost Love.’ It imagines an illicit lover who’s a little evil and sadistic. There’s a lot of dark romance on the record. It encompasses the whole body of work based on a few experiences with girlfriends that led me down a dark road. You could say I’m making amends with those.”
The centerpiece remains the acoustic “love song” “Jubilee,” which ends with banjo plucked by Wills. The name references the group’s elephant mascot, gracing each cover since their Schizophrenic Jubilee EP through Phantom Amour and aging along the way.
“His growth symbolizes ours,” adds Wills. “It’s like a visual representation of where we’re at.”
In the end, Phantom Amour signals a moment of progression for both Toothgrinder and the genre at large.
“When people listen to this, I want them to feel what I felt picking up a really emotionally heavy album,” Justin leaves off. “That feeling lasts.”
“I hope this pushes some boundaries,” concludes Wills. “It’s a breath of fresh air for fans that love the heavy shit and something aggressive for fans of lighter music. It’s the best of both worlds.”
“I don’t know how to keep stuff short.
This or the Apocalypse made some moves about 4 or 5 years ago to make a new album under a new name. We put our all into the record- self produced big chunks of it, worked with different producers, then spent enough to put years of debt ahead of us. The album wasn’t released and there are no hurt feelings; we gained more than we lost.
TOTA became Hawk years ago and kept it off the internet. I guess we finally started to agree with some of the A&R reps in the inbox- there was a phone call with a few of us in the team regarding a contract offer contingent on a name change and it lasted a couple of minutes. I just said “How about we call it Hawk”, a couple of us said “Yeah that’s cool”. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. We were preparing to lose to one of the last remaining “founding” members of the band and filling his slot felt like the last step out of what we were doing, emotionally at least. TOTA toured between 32-35 times across the US alone, I’m not even including all of the international tours. We gained the perspective/understanding that a lot of musicians don’t get because people are just really transparent and honest with a band that comes through 3 or 4 times a year without popping. We were playing for promoters that I regularly texted jokes to, our booking agents and managers were personal friends who sugar coated nothing. It wasn’t emotional, we embraced the change and got to work. For a lot of different reasons that don’t belong here, the brakes locked on the whole thing and we ended up rebuilding our whole business from the ground up.
I made a studio for us to spend years trying stuff out in. My mentality was that musicians needed to be in control of their own material and the quality of it to not be helpless. We wrote for, produced, played on, and mixed over 30 records in there. We genuinely care about every single band that stepped in there. I’m so proud of everything that we accomplished in it. Then we could bring what we were working on back to our band. We just wanted to be “worth” entertaining others, not guys who felt as if they were owed something for showing up and getting on a stage. This whole time everybody’s been asking where we’ve been and it’s funny because we’ve never been more productive. We weren’t going to come out swinging on everyone until we were truly ready to do it.
So yeah, Hawk. Pronounce it however you want. Say it like you’re getting something out of your throat if you want, we don’t care. We are playing new music now and it’s all material we had a hand in producing.
Mileage is the first of about 20 songs on deck. Every member produced their own performance, I mixed it, Andreas Magnusson, head producer of Dead Years, joined in when we did the live drums down in Richmond and he mastered the track as well. Spencer Charnas from Ice Nine Kills sang some harmonies on the chorus- We didn’t even ask him to. I just sent him the song and he immediately sent me a bunch of unsolicited audio files of his voice. We put a video together to tell a story about mental illness with the help of videographer Eric Dicarlo and a group of our best friends playing different monsters. We spent a lot of evenings after rehearsals gathering everything we wanted to use in the scenes and it’s full pop culture references and nods to our favorite movies. It’s also every type of weird that’s out there.
The band is myself and the only other “original” founding member of TOTA Jack Esbenshade. We have played together for about 15 years. Adam Reed stepped up from assisting and editing all of the tracks at the studio for 3 and a half years to our full time drummer. I think people are going to be shocked by how tight he is. He also conducted the whole “teaser” video with me and edited the whole thing (Spencer Charnas also did some voice acting as the old woman working at the post office). Bern Stabley is hands down the best bassist I’ve worked with and bringing him into the mix was criminally easy.
Good to be back. Sup. ”
— RICKY ARMELLINO