Monday, January 27, 2014

Ice Nine Kills-The Predator Becomes The Prey

Outerloop/Fearless Records

Formed in 2006 by high school friends Spencer Charnas (lead vocals) and Jeremy Schwartz (guitar and vocals), with the original moniker of Ice Nine being swapped out just prior to the release of the group's debut album, "Last Chance to Make Amends", Ice Nine Kills are a Boston-based melodic hardcore/post-hardcore/metalcore band whose musical exploration/evolution has been, if nothing else, "interesting". From start (2006's "Last Chance to Make Amends") to finish, with the 11-track "The Predator Becomes The Prey" serving as home plate, Ice Nine Kills' transition could best be summed up with a Grateful Dead line: "Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been". Early on the band rolled out the pop-punk/emo rock wagon and custom fitted it (by all accounts) with post-hardcore and ska! Thankfully things changed for the better and by the time the group had released the follow-up to "Last Chance to Make Amends", which would be 2007's well-received EP, "The Burning", the band's sound has been greatly-improved with welcomed-arrival of (more straight-forward) hardcore and metallic riffs. Onward the band would prowl and in 2009, after guitarist/co-founder Jeremy Schwartz left the band after having (reportedly) had enough of life lived on the road (thus leaving lead vocalist Spencer Charnas as the sole original member), members of Rochester-based post-hardcore band Remember Tomorrow were recruited to fill out the line-up. Evidently this had the effect of driving Ice Nine Kills, or if you will their sound, further down the rabbit hole of all that is melodic hardcore/post-hardcore because we have on "The Predator Becomes The Prey" is anything but emo and/or pop-punk! Spencer, now credited with vocals and screams, with Justin "JD" DeBlieck (guitars, screams), Justin Morrow (bass) and Conor Sullivan (drums) rounding out the current version of Ice Kill Nine, furiously takes hold of the reins on opener "The Power Is Belief" and never once looks back! With the benefit of a proper-production and the effective interplay that comes by way of Spencer and JD's shared "vocals", and not to mention DeBlieck's well-timed and refreshing metallic solos (something not often seen in post-hardcore/melodic-hardcore albums like this one especially when metalcore gets added to the equation) the picture that is painted when it comes to "The Predator Becomes The Prey" is one of reflection (the previously released benefit single, "The Product of Hate", was a response to the horrific tragedy that was for the Boston marathon bombing) and outright intensity ("The Power In Belief" and "Let's Bury The Hatchet...In Your Head" are just the first two numbers of this nearly 40 minute long release and the way in which they force-feed HUGE metallic riffs and ear-shattering screams down upon the listener is nothing short of CHAOTIC and DESTRUCTIVE!). Along the way tracks like "The Coffin Is Moving", "The Fastest Way To A Girl's Heart Is Through Her Ribcage" (love the tile there guys!), "Jonathan", "What I Never Learned in Study Hall" (featuring very cool guest vocals from former Woe, Is Me front-man/current Issues lead vocalist Tyler Carter) and the previously-released single "Connect The Cuts" keep the energy flowing until "My Life In Two" fulfills this band's obligation to lay waste to everything and everyone in their path with emotionally-empowering rock! Yes, just like any melodic hardcore band worth it's two cents the band slows things down when needed and they do an excellent job at showcases their humanity (as evident by the lyrical narrative of this album) even amongst all of the album's utter-most heavy moments. Still, albums like this one (if there are any ones I mean as this is remarkable fresh!) are meant to be played LOUD and enjoyed for the emotional-release that they give off. Obviously that first part (playing this one LOUD!!!!) is optional, but that second part about releasing ones pent-up emotions? Well, I wouldn't think that would be much of a choice! For a band like Ice Nine Kills, who live in the shadows of the great Boston hardcore scene, this is an album that SHOULD serve as a real door-opener. Other then the album's relentless use of screams there is more then enough of a HEAVY edge about this one to appeal to thrashers out there especially as there is no shortage of metallic solos. Let me put it another way. I would be really surprised if  three or four years down the road (that is provided this shaky world of ours survives that long!) we didn't look back upon "The Predator Becomes The Prey" as the album that broke this Boston-based collective into the mainstream. Yes, it is that strong, both musically and lyrically, and, even if you've never given much thought to post-hardcore and/or melodic hardcore, this is one of those album's that I enthusiastically endorse! It appears as if my best-off list for 2014 is already growing pretty long and we are not even out of January!

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