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Ice Nine Kills // Spencer Charnas

12 December 2019 | 2:23 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

"We've really dipped into the horror community and many people from that world have been very kind about it in return."

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2018's 'The Silver Scream' is a very gimmicky record, but I don't mean that in a bad way. It's such a fun, endearing metalcore LP that skirts different moods and sounds; one whose tracks are inspired by some of the biggest horror films put to the big screen. It's a record where Ice Nine Kills went all out on the musical and lyrical references and allusions to the movies they love, more so than anything they've done before. As a result, it's become their biggest and best release yet. 

You can see this in practice with the theatrical nature of the Scream-inspired 'Your Numbers Up,' off the  deluxe edition of their new LP. It's a dense mixture of their melodic, breakdown-laden, deathcore-infused metalcore that goes all the way in honoring the source material. From how the lyrics re-create the phone call from the Scream's opening scene, with guest singer Sarah J. Bartholomew basically playing Drew Barrymore's Casey Becker from the original film, lending a symphonic feel to the song with her singing. It has the cheesy knife-stabbing FX from the movies, jump-scare-esque strings, and ends with a gratuitous little skit of Sarah being murdered by Ghost Face. It even goes full meta when vocalist Spencer Charnas screams "All bets are off, I just buried Drew Barrymore!" Yet that's why it works: Ice Nine Kills go all-in with their schtick. There are no half measures, and fans love 'em for it.

One of the meatiest songs off of 'The Silver Scream', where there's just a lot happening in the instrumentation and arrangement itself but also in the lyrics, is 'Rocking The Boat.' It balances out not just the Jaws referencing word-play but also contains so many easter eggs for the band's own release history, predominantly in how it name-drops all of their previous records.

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"It just became a thing when we were putting the lyrics together," recalls Spencer.

"As it was a throwback song with having Jeremy Schwartz back in the writing process with us and singing on the song. So it was as an added bonus for the old-school fans to incorporate previous record titles into the song. Then it just became a thing that made the writing process that much more fun. It was to make a really nice easter egg hunt for our fans. But it was pretty funny: when we were done, I accidentally omitted one of our EPs, The Burning, from it. We didn't want to leave anything out, so I had to go back in and add another part melodically to fit that title in. It was so cool to see something that was just a fun idea at first that then brought out new lyrical and melodic changes to the track."

One of the most amusing moments of their latest record came with 'Merry Axe-Mas,' where Spencer deathcore growls "it's fucking garbage day!" - alluding to Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and one of the worst, campiest acted scenes ever put to film. Thankfully, most INK fans and listeners seemed to be in on the joke, or in on the meme, as it were.

"That was another fun one! I needed the track, that part, to be absolutely ridiculous and bonkers in order to mirror that scene from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. That "garbage day" scene is possibly one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in cinematic history," the frontman also chuckles.

"I was also able to use some vocal techniques that I don't get really to do, with that really low, death metal growling. I was very pleased that people had a lot of fun with it. Like the film, that's just supposed to be a bonkers fun part. We definitely didn't take ourselves too seriously with that song. I didn't have any issues putting it together in terms of laughing at the parts, but the reaction to 'Merry Axe-Mas' went the way we all hoped it would go."

Album closer 'IT Is The End' may very well be the best INK song to date; it's sure as hell the strongest cut off their latest work. A theatrical song that sees Spencer doing a solid Pennywise The Clown impersonation as this rapid, brutal metalcore track tells the tale of IT, the fate of Georgie, and the town of Derry, all backed up by cheeky ska horns from none other than Less Than Jake's own horn section.

The music video for that song dropped on September 24th, yet IT: Chapter Two arrived in cinemas before then. So what's the Spencer Charnas take on the sequel to one of modern horror's most successful films?

"We filmed that IT Is The End video way back in March 2019, nearly half a year ago. Very far before any of us saw Chapter Two. As for the film, I really did like the sequel. I do know that some people had their problems with it, but the only issue I had with it was that it was maybe a little too long. Yet one big aspect of a good horror movie is to have a very powerful, shocking opening sequence. And that film had that in spades. The casting of the adults was just impeccable and even though the first one was great, I preferred seeing the adults take the lead. I actually thought it was scarier too."

Ice Nine Kills have been around since 2002, starting off as a pop-punk, ska-influenced band, before growing into a darker, heavier post-hardcore group, eventually becoming the concept-driven metalcore band that many have known them as for the last few years. With their recent successes, an Australian tour has been on the cards for quite some time, and with Good Things 2019, it finally happened.

"It's really exciting for me, as going to Australia has always been a bucket list thing for me," Spencers says. "So to go there for the first time and have our band playing is unreal!"

My first personal INK exposure was way back in 2008, on an old streaming music website called PureVolume - a relic from the Myspace days of the alternative/heavy music scene, giving new pop-punk, emo, post-hardcore, and metalcore artists a chance.

"That is so cool," exclaims Spencer when I bring this up. "I do remember the PureVolume very well. At one point, it was a very good platform to get new music out before the likes of Spotify and Apple Music came about."

[caption id="attachment_1108401" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Spencer at Melbourne Good Things 2019. [/caption]

Whilst not my personal most-loved song, 'Savages' has since become the theme for the New York Yankees. Dropkick Murphy's have had 'Shippin' Up To Boston' plastered all over AFL and car ads in Australia, Bring Me The Horizon have also had their music adopted and played at NFL shows in America, and now INK have one of their songs used at their games and in promotions by the most famous baseball team of all time.

"That was a really big surprise and an honour for us. They're probably one of the most famous sports teams in history," mentions Spencer.

"Just coincidentally, back in July, they started being called 'the savages.' One of their coaches got kicked out of a game and in his rant to the umpire, he said that about the Yankees, "we're savages over here" or something to that effect. Their fan-base started adopting that and there was merchandise with that printed on it. It just so happened that our song 'Savages' was also going to radio at the same time."

"My father is from New York and is a big Yankees fan. He was telling me about this savages incident and was saying to me that "you gotta get the label to submit the song to them!" I did tell Fearless Records that but I'm not sure if they actually put it through. Though I would guess that any band that had a song with the word 'savages' in it probably submitted it to the Yankees. But it was so cool that they choose us and our song."

With so much love shown by the band for the films that clearly mean so much to them, I ask Spencer if anything has been reciprocated to the band or their management from the very people who were apart of these movies? Turns out, one such moment happened.

"One of the exciting things for our Final Cut version of the album is that Ari Lehman, who played the original Jason in the first Friday 13th, is an Ice Nine Kills fan. He actually sings on the acoustic version of Thank God It's Friday on this new version of the album. We've really dipped into the horror community and many people from that world have been very kind about it in return. It was incredible, and he's got such a nice voice, too. To hear this song that I wrote about such an iconic franchise, and hear his voice come on and realise that this is Jason singing about Jason, was just a real honour."

Insane bucket-list moments aside, all this talk of films begs the question: what are some of Spencer's go-to horror flicks of late?

"Probably within the last ten years or so, there was a film called You're Next. That was a really cool take on the slasher, home-invasion style. It had a great twist and it had a lot of unexpected curveballs thrown at you. One film that's more recent is this overly violent, intentionally schlocky movie called Terrifier, about a crazy killer clown, originally apart of All Hallow's Eve anthology. If you have the stomach for gore, it has some very... choice moments in it."