Ice Nine Kills

Safe Is Just A Shadow

Written by: BL on 26/12/2010 07:38:04

Ice Nine Kills, those who know the name, tend to get excited whenever they're mentioned. Their previous 2007 EP "The Burning" was critically well received for breathing some fresh air and energy into the screamo/post-hardcore scene though it did not get the widespread exposure it probably deserved. The fans they did acquire, still to this day maintain how exceptional that release was (especially considering how many of them will look at the modern screamo/post-hardcore scene and wince). Some time later the lineup for the band was shuffled extensively with frontman and main vocalist Spencer Charnas being the only remaining member from the EP recording (or so I am aware). The year is now 2010 and Ice Nine Kills are back with a new full length debut album "Safe Is Just A Shadow". How will they fare this time round?

From opening song "Proximity Mines In The Complex", it is quite apparent that those lineup changes I mentioned has affected the sound of the band quite significantly. "The Burning" had a very raw, eccentric approach to the screamo/post-hardcore sound and eschewed what would soon become popular elements such as breakdowns or higher pitched emo-style singing like other emerging acts at the time (e.g. Blessthefall). "Safe Is Just A Shadow" however has now brought in both of those elements and some others from the current scene and so anyone who is a die-hard fan of the older sound might complain of the band trying to 'sell-out' or turning into 'mainstream crap' as I have seen some people call it. Is it warranted though? In trying to be complete impartial, I can see that the band wants to be relevant in a music scene that has somewhat moved on from when Ice Nine Kills were last a part of (in three years a lot has changed). And in Ice Nine Kills defense, they're still writing pretty decent songs utilising the same kind of core sound they've always had. Tracks like "Chris Brown's Latest Hit", "Acceptance In The Waves" and "Red Sky Warning" have some soaring hook driven choruses that are stupidly catchy, while on the flipside you have a redone version of "The Greatest Story Ever Told" which personally sounds just as good as the original while having a tiny bit more of a modern flair to it.

As you may or may not expect, the ridiculously wild level of musicianmanship maintained throughout helps them immensely in separating from the pack (think the sort of blazing axe work from The Word Alive - plenty of shredding and flavour-some riffs). The two guitarists literally blitz their guitars at every given opportunity and what they crank out is often a joy to behold as well as a lot of fun to follow along. Even when the breakdowns do come in, they're often pretty well done with fun head-nodding rhythms and aren't all that intrusive nor frequently repeated. The vocals are mostly handled by Spencer, who is supported by JD the guitarist who helps with the screaming while the singing by second vocalist Dave Sieling (who has since left the band). Spencer sounds as good as he always has done before, totally competent in his mid-range singing and his vicious screaming (now sounding even more so with a few fiery screaming harmonies with JD). Dave though, has a noticably whiny high pitched voice which when combined with Spencer's voice, works well enough in a harmony, but on it's own feels often a bit too whiny and often blights the listening experience somewhat. One can say that perhaps the band will seem a better unit now that he's gone.

So should you invest time in this album? If you've never heard the band before but enjoy your screamo/post-hardcore or even melodic metalcore then it's not a bad idea certainly because "Safe Is Just A Shadow" is a good, solid album. The re-recorded "The Greatest Story..." might seem like a bit of a standout track both in a good sense and not-so-good one: good as in it's still a great original song, not-so-good in that because it's essentially how the band used to sound three years ago so it doesn't quite fit in a literal comparison with the rest of the new tracks (the band have done a good job of trying to limit that however). Fans of older Ice Nine Kills might not all be so receptive of how the band has changed to cater much more to the newer generation of Warped Tour styled kids out there, but to be honest I personally don't see it so much as a problem. Sure the inclusion of breakdowns and more whiny singing (which will no longer be there in the future anyway with Dave's departure) might seem like a small backwards step from where Ice Nine Kills were. But at least hopefully with this album, they can perhaps start garnering the exposure they always should have had, and despite the stylistic 'progression' - they still have potential to rise above the rest.

Download: Proximity Mines In The Complex, Newton's Third Law of Knives in the Back, Acceptance In The Waves, The Greatest Story Ever Told
For the fans of: Chiodos, Alesana, The Word Alive
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 12.07.2010
Red Blue Records

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