Best of 2016 Playlist

December 4, 2015

ICE NINE KILLS - "Every Trick in the Book" Review

After a year of anticipation, the new album from everyone's favorite (and possibly only) Vonnegut inspired band is here! The 4th album, "Every Trick in the Book", from Boston based metalcore outlet ICE NINE KILLS has proven to be one of the most anticipated of the year. If there's an award for underdog album, they would win no doubt. They've taken everything they did in their previous album and amplified it to the max. The result is incredible! We couldn't be more happy for the band. To buy the album on iTunes click the (link).  
**Revised review**

Staying true to the album's name, this masterpiece is all about the books. INK have pulled inspiration from various novels and literature to craft an incredible collection of songs. That seems of be ICE NINE KILLS' niche of sorts, using the written word as inspiration for their own craft. The band's name is based off the fictitious substance known as ice-nine, found in Kurt Vonnegut's most well known novel "Cat's Cradle".

With material like that, you know you're in for some great songs at in terms of lyrics. The band doesn't disappoint. The lyrics here are leaps and bounds ahead of that found on previous releases. Prior, their albums were primarily constructed of typical metalcore lines like "I'm ****ing done with you" and "Sometimes I think to myself, you should burn mother****er". But in this album, Spencer Charnas makes the most of his ability to weave incredible stories in less than 4 minutes. We'd like to think he'd make a great author as well, but for now the music's enough for us. 

The opening track, "Nature of the Beast" finds inspiration in "Animal Farm". On both fronts, instrumental and lyrical, it's a success. The song starts off soft with a piano intro and Charnas' vocals. The intricate string section backing him is like something straight out of horror movie score. The unclean vocals only heighten the theatric sensibilities, and the overall tone. The final verse in particular is great, "Where is the end, what have we done? We're what we swore we'd not become. Despite intent a noble heart still bleeds, time goes on and history repeats." 

One of the band's strongest qualities is the back-and-forth between Charnas' and Justin deBlieck's unclean vocals. As stated before, who knew you could get harmonies from unclean vocals. Charnas' clean vocals have improved ten-fold since their last album. You wouldn't think his voice would be so melodic and have such a wide range. It really shows on the album's slower songs, and their 2014 acoustic verse of "Jonathan".  Quick shout out to deBlieck's guitar work. He doesn't get enough credit for what he does. Drummer Conor Sullivan's drumming skills drift from metal to something a little toned down, but still heavy. Justin Morrow's bass contributions are best during the "The Plot Sickens" (who draws from "Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors". The bass is methodic, deep, and gives a head banging performance.  

The band have lost some of the metalcore intensity they harnessed on their previous album. And this has ups and downs. You don't have to sit through lots of breakdowns and chugs, but fans who would like another "Let's Bury the Hatchet...", they'll only enjoy half the album. That brings us to another downside. When the album does go back into their onslaught-metalcore mode, the band sticks to the usual breakdowns. Now we know we just said we would have liked to see some more metal incorporated into the album, there's a fine line to dance around. Evident from albums by similar bands, you can have metalcore that doesn't completely rely on the common blueprints.

"Tess Timony" and "Star-Crossed Enemies" are INK's first true ballads. The two songs provide some downtime for the listener, but don't lose the momentum previous songs built. The source material for "Star-Crossed Enemies" is, of course, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". It starts with a distorted guitar, then makes the shift to clean guitars and another great bass line. Charnas infuses lines from the infamous love story, and makes them his own. Overall the song feels a lot like the band's cover of "Someone like You". Which, as we're sure most of you know, is only eclipsed by the original. We're just waiting for this song to appear on the big screen, backing some rom-com montage. 

"Tess-Timony", which takes inspiration from "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", was originally supposed to feature Ash Costello, the front-woman of New Years Day. We were lucky enough to hear this version, and in our original publication of this review wrote of it. But this revised edition will only deal with the version released on the album. The song is magnificent, seriously awesome. Backed by orchestration, minimal effects and a stellar piano line, this song beats "Someone like You" (the cover and the original) every day. Charnas' vocals are filled with emotions, the very same you get from reading the novel version. There's no way to give a quick synopsis of the book, let's just say it's pretty depressing. 

Summary - 

Taking famous literary works and crafting songs around them isn't a new tactic, but the way ICE NINE KILLS does it is a fresh and excellent. While we are split on the overall theatrical tone and the metalcore cliches, we can honestly say this is a must listen to album. If not for the great instrumentals and the vocal duo of Spencer Charnas and Justin deBlieck, then for the lyrics and stellar production. INK have stepped up their game, and brought us the best "gothcore" album of the year. Fans of New Years Day, Get Scared, Wage War and perhaps fans of Memphis May Fire's recent music are sure to enjoy this superb collection of songs. 

Favorite Tracks

Aside from the singles, we recommend "Nature of the Beast", "Alice" (which takes inspiration from "Go Ask Alice"), "Tess-Timony" and "The People in the Attic" (which takes inspiration from "The Diary of Anne Frank") 

Rating - 8.5 to 9/10