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Track By Track: Ice Nine Kills’ ‘The Silver Scream’ Deluxe, With Spencer Charnas

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 7 January 2020 at 15.03

This album has so many easter eggs in it, that it's almost not a horror-themed album after all.

Seriously, how incredible is Ice Nine Kills' 'The Silver Scream'. Aside from being an incredible display of dramatic metalcore brilliance, it's also overflowing with so many easter eggs. So many in fact, that we asked frontman Spencer Charnas to talk us through each track, one at a time. Over to Spencer:

'The American Nightmare'
Says Spencer: "This song just felt like a really powerful way to bring people into the world of ‘The Silver Scream’. It just felt right - it’s upbeat and fast-paced, much like the film that it’s based on. It also has that dream-like euphoric quality that Wes Craven definitely put into the masterpiece that is A Nightmare On Elm Street. It’s a brutal film, but there are also those slow motion dreamy shots such as the girls jumping rope and doing the ‘one, two, Freddy’s coming for you’ chant. I’ve been working on making those seamless transitions between the heavy and melodic in our music for years - it’s taken a long time to perfect that, and it’s never been a light switch thing. It’s much more like a dimmer that slowly creeps up on you.

"Also, the infomercial you hear at the start is something real that we found and sampled - it’s an instructional video about dreams and what they mean and the importance of sleep. We were lucky enough to find that it was so old that it was in public domain, so people are able to use it without needing to get approval. There were a lot of other opinions about how this song should start, but for me this was the right way to start - it feels iconic. I’m so pleased to find other people felt the same way when they heard it."

'Thank God It's Friday'
"With this album I wanted the listener to feel like they were inside of the film - in terms of this song using the sound of the campfire crackling and the way that the acoustic guitar was recorded was very important. I wanted it to not just be something you listen to, but also something you feel. Another thing about this song was that I knew that we should write it from the perspective of the dead councilor. I thought that it would be cool for variety’s sake to tell this story almost like it’s a warning to future councilors about what happens if you come to Camp Crystal Lake.

"It was of the upmost importance that we got the voice of Mrs Voorhees right in this song as well - obviously Betsey Palmer who played the original part unfortunately passed away. I was a fan of the Friday The 13th videogame, and the voice actress who plays Mrs Voorhees on that was fantastic so we looked into that and came up against a brick wall with the Screen Actors Guild where actors have to go through a lot of red tape. Then it dawned on me that my good friend’s mother Janet Sheehan was a fantastic actress, and has the ability to change her voice and embody so many different characters. She just did an amazing job. She was actually my drama teacher when I was in middle school, and she taught me a lot about performing. It was really cool to get her in the mix."

'Stabbing In The Dark'
"Trying to put so much of a story into a song is definitely a challenging thing to do - but also it’s so much fun. I’m so familiar with the subject matter, and I know these movies like the back of my hand. It’s like putting a puzzle together - before writing a song, I write down key phrases or moments that need to be touched on and then use that as my guide. In this particular case it was important to cover the whole film. In some songs it's better if you focus on a certain scene, but for Halloween I felt like the whole story needed to be told - at least as much of it as possible.

"I wanted to pay homage some of John Carpenter’s work as well, because it’s so iconic. When people think of Halloween so many think of that brilliant score - not only the main theme, but there are so many other pieces of that film and that franchise that are so brilliant that I wanted to touch on them too. It’s been a pleasure to see people pick up on really subtle stuff - for instance, before the first two choruses I wanted to pay tribute to the Sandman song, which first makes an appearance in Halloween 2. It was also really awesome seeing how some of these things could slide into our style."

"It’s cool and interesting to see people picking up on the differences between this song and the rest of the record. Our producer Drew Fulk really took the driver’s seat on this one, and that explains why it’s a bit of a different feel. I did write the lyrics and the melodies of the verses, but I have to give him credit for the chorus. It’s cool, because it’s the first time we have ever worked with an outside writer, and I’m happy to see that this song is having a lot of success on radio. At first the song had a mixed reaction from our fans because they could tell that I wasn’t the main guy behind it, yet it gets such a powerful reaction live that it feels like people have adapted to it. In terms of the film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is very cryptic and not so obvious, and I wanted that to come through in the lyrical content. It’s a different song for Ice Nine Kills, but it’s still really cool."

'The Jig Is Up'
"Finch have always been one of my favourite bands - I was always really into the Drive-Thru Records scene since I was a teenager, and Finch was a favourite from that world, both with ‘What It Is To Burn’ and the criminally underrated follow-up ‘Say Hello To Sunshine’. In the last three and a half years I’ve ended up becoming friends with their guitarist Randy Strohmeyer. Our bassist Joe, who lives in Salem, met him because he had moved to Salem as well. We went out one night, and Randy was there and I was like, ‘This is a guy from one of my favourite bands’. He was such a cool guy and we bonded instantaneously and we started writing music together.

"Finch has always been an influence on my writing as well. I always loved their melodic sensibility and chord choices on ‘What It Is To Burn’ and then the more experimental stuff on ‘Say Hello To Sunshine’. When I was writing this song, the chorus just had this big Finch feel to it. So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to get the guy who is largely responsible for that influence on our music playing on a song that is clearly influenced by his music’? It was a real self-referential thing, and he brought a real authentic element. It was a great and surreal collaboration, and I’m really glad with how it turned out."

'A Grave Mistake'
"The Crow has always been one of my favourite films. It’s not in a traditional sense a horror film, but it has so many elements of gothic horror - the look of the film and the original comic book has this brooding, almost darker than Tim Burton vibe. The film is just fantastic, and I remember being blown away by it when I saw it as a kid. I also became so obsessed and immersed in the horrific tragedy that surrounded the making of the film, where Brandon Lee is there filming his death scene and he actually ended up dying during the filming. It’s a really sad story of an actor who never even got to scratch the surface of what he was capable of, and what I believe would have been a long and successful film career. I wanted to pay tribute to him and show people who may not know about the film who Brandon Lee was, and just how young he was when he was taken away from the world."

'Rocking The Boat'
"Jeremy Schwartz and I built this band together for so many years; since the age of 13 - we had so much fun writing and growing up together for almost 10 years. When we broke apart and he went on to do his own thing, it was definitely a rebuilding period for me. It was so cool that I was able to reconnect with him and become great friends with him again now that we both live in Southern California. We just really jumped right back into it on this track - that magic chemistry that we always shared wasn’t hard to find again. I thought it would be really special for the old school Ice Nine Kills to get him back in there singing as well.

"There was so much name-dropping of all of our old records as well. That was such a rewarding part of this writing process as well - how do we get in all of the names of the albums within the lyrics of this song? It was funny, because I realised that we forgot to put ‘The Burning’ in there. I ended up coming up with this new bit of melody and a whole bit of this song wouldn’t have even existed if we had not forgotten to include that title. The whole section at the end, which has an almost disturbing vocal delivery, was created specially for that line and it turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the song."

'Enjoy Your Slay'
"The first time we ever came to the UK in 2016 we had to headline, because nobody would take us out - so I got a list of bands that had submitted to open the shows and Shields was a band that stuck out. I really liked their sound, and thought they would be a great addition to the Hostel Takeover Tour - so we hit it off with those guys and Sam from the band, being the nice guy that he was, invited us to stay at his house. So we rolled up and quickly realised that it was the Kubrick Estate - this was where Stanley Kubrick edited a lot of his films. That’s when we realised Sam was his grandson. He gave us a tour of the house and we ended up staying in the converted barn where Stanley edited a lot of his films. We found scripts and stuff from Full Metal Jacket and masks from Eyes Wide Shut.

"So when it came time for us to do this song, it just came to me - Sam has such an awesome scream, so wouldn’t it be cool if we got him on this song about The Shining? He was totally into it. Also, I feel like so many screamers sound so similar that when someone like Sam comes in, you almost have to take a step back because of the power of it. That’s always a good sign. I wrote the lyrics around having his involvement - there’s the line, ‘Come drain or shine / I’ll hit your whole bloodline’, and I wanted it to be a little nod to the fact that someone from the Kubrick bloodline is on the song. It adds that extra bit of texture."

'World In My Hands'
"This was one of the first songs, including ‘A Grave Mistake’ and ‘Stabbing In The Dark’, that I wrote with piano. I’m not a pianist, but I found that it’s added a really nice dimension to my songwriting and expanded a lot of my melodic ideas. So I write a piece and then dummy words, a technique I use a lot, that would sound good and the circle back and then write the actual lyrics. So I wrote this melody and thought what horror story it would actually work with - it wouldn’t make any sense to have this almost rock ballad telling the story of someone killing people at a summer camp. It just came to me immediately that this was Edwards Scissorhands. It could be this plaintive song about a guy that has a golden soul but a cutting touch, so to speak. The brilliance of Tim Burton and the story really moved me and led me to believe it would be a great subject matter to write a song about.

"Very much like the connection with Finch, I was always a huge MEST fan, and I became really good friends with Tony Lovato. I thought that this would just be a perfect song for him to sing on - he delivered an awesome performance, as I knew he would. It was also really cool having him involved because the night that I formed the band was at a MEST and Goldfinger show at the Worchester Palladium. It was a really nice nod to one of our early influences within the punk world having him on this record."

'Merry Axe-Mas'
"‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ is a really sleazy film - it’s heavy on gore, and it’s heavy on comedy, intentional or not. It’s just bonkers - as is the sequel, and that’s why I love it so much. There are people who don’t get it and take the whole thing too seriously and say that it’s horrible and in bad taste, but that’s the whole point. I wanted this song to mirror that - I wanted the breakdown to be the most ridiculous thing, much like how the ‘Garbage Day’ line in the film was. We had a lot of fun with it, being able to have this almost thrash song with a satanic blink-182 chorus, followed by a deathcore breakdown with the lowest growling I have ever done. I also got to do some voice acting in there as well with my impersonation of the Grandfather character at the beginning. I’ve always been the guy who learns all of the dialogue of films and does impressions. It’s the sort of stuff that’s lived inside of me for so long that it’s been fun putting that side of me out there - it’s better doing it on these tracks than annoying my friends doing it."

'Love Bites'
"This was another really fun song to put together because of how different it is from the rest of the record - my intention was to craft a classic rock sound coming out of a big Marshall amp stack. I was just so excited to do that, but also involve Chelsea Talmadge who’s a friend of mine and also an immensely talented actress and singer. The first time I heard her sing was at a karaoke bar where she sang an Alanis Morissette song. I knew she had to be involved. Her involvement with Stranger Things is cool as well, because of the horror elements of the show and the whole retro thing being so in vogue right now. I’m also really excited about how she’s in Doctor Sleep, the upcoming sequel to The Shining where she stars alongside Ewan McGregor. I’m so happy for her about that."

'IT Is The End'
"I remember writing the introduction to this song on an acoustic guitar. It started off with me thinking about how Les Miserables, one of my favourite musicals, crafted their melodies - it started to take on a life of its own from there. I wanted the chorus to be very punk rock, and with the theme of the circus within the story of IT I could just hear horns - so wouldn’t it be cool if we could get a band like Less Than Jake on this song? They recorded it in a two-day gap that they had between two European tours, so they really had to hustle but they did such a fantastic job. It was surreal having them involved.

"Another guest appearance and co-write on this song was another one of my favourite pop-punk bands in the form of Fenix TX. I saw them so many times back in the day, and we played with them a few years back at Slam Dunk and became close. I went to San Diego to write with Will Salazar and I knew that I wanted him to help with the chorus because I loved his hooks. I had the ‘Da da da da da da’ bit in my head and he said, ‘That’s what you have to use as the basis of the chorus and make it the refrain’. He did such a great job with the pre-choruses and a lot of ad-lib stuff in the finale of the song.

"This was an example of a song that when the industry people heard it before it came out they said, ‘This is interesting but also this is kind of weird too. What’s going on?’ - I said ‘Trust me’, and I’m glad it has resonated with our fans. I think it’s another case of us not following the pack and trying something a little bit different."

'Your Number's Up'
"The girl who’s singing on this song is our guitarist Dan’s girlfriend - her name is Sarah Bartholomew, and she’s a fantastic actress and singer. I knew I wanted someone for this song who not only had a good voice but who could bring life and, in turn, bring death to the character and I knew she could nail it. When we were recording the death sequence at the end of the song, Drew Fulk and I were the only other people there and she was literally writhing on the ground like she was actually dying. She’s a bit of a method actor, and those screams you hear weren’t fake. She was actually doing it.

"I basically wanted the audience to feel the same way that I felt when I first saw this scene as a kid. Obviously it doesn’t play out exactly as it does in the film because I wanted to give our own take on it, but I was happy to see that people felt that it was just as disturbing. That’s what we were going for. Also being able to do it as a 911 call made it all the more disturbing."

"I remember being so obsessed with the ‘Thriller’ video - you used to be able to rent it on VHS so my parents would get it for me and I would watch it religiously. I also remember watching the behind the scenes feature which was also on the tape, which not only broke down John Landis’ brilliant direction but also Rick Baker’s special effects and make-up which were just incredible. That was one of the first music videos that was an actual movie - and a horror movie at that. It had such an effect on me subconsciously.

"I have to give credit to Vinny Rockwell over at Octane SiriusXM because the whole idea of us doing this song sparked from when we went in to play ‘A Grave Mistake’ live there a year ago. He asked us to pick a cover and if he had it his way we would do ‘Thriller’. That’s where the first idea came from and I sat down with my acoustic guitar and worked through it. If we played the chords like Michael Jackson had played it, it wouldn’t sound like INK, so we changed the chords and made it our own and that’s what you hear on this full band cover."

'A Grave Mistake' (Acoustic)
"This version of the song was done very last minute. When you’re putting out an album there's so much going on with playing shows and interviews, you don’t have too much time to prepare other things. We had to wing it really, and that’s partially why it turned out so great because sometimes the natural progression of things add an authenticity and a spontaneity that wouldn’t exist if it had been planned out so meticulously."

'Stabbing In The Dark' (Acoustic, featuring Matt Heafy)
"We’ve been fans of Trivium for a long time - we always admired them and Matt’s vocal range. We were on tour in Denver and someone sent us a link saying, ‘Check this out’ and it was Matt from Trivium doing a cover of ‘Stabbing In The Dark’. I was not only blown away that someone of that status and that success would be a fan of our band, but also his version was so cool and gave this dark gothic Johnny Cash meets Ice Nine Kills meets Michael Myers version of the song. I remember showing it to my parents and them saying ‘This guy has an amazing Broadway voice’. When it came to the time for us to do an acoustic version it was a no-brainer to get him involved. His version really influenced how I wanted our version to sound, so without him this song wouldn’t sound like it does."

'Savages' (Acoustic)
"I wanted this song to have the vibe of the hot Texas sun bearing down on your neck. We recorded all these acoustic songs with Steve Sopchak, a long time collaborator and producer of ours, and he is just fantastic at bringing those sorts of idea to life. The textures and sound design behind this track work so well with what we had originally worked on with Drew. I might even like this version more, I’m not too sure."

'Thank God It's Friday' (Acoustic, featuring Ari Lehman)
"I had definitely been aware of Ari Lehman for a long time and his band First Jason - I knew that he had this great voice that sounds like the glory days of rock and roll. I had never met him before, but I had always seen him on the Friday The 13th documentaries and he seemed like such a nice guy. I started thinking how cool it would be to get him involved in the track, so I emailed him and he emailed me back within a couple of hours. To my surprise he was a fan of the band and would love to be involved! That was a dream come true for me - he gave such a beautiful delivery of those lines and it gives me chills hearing the guy who portrayed the original Jason, and was a part of one of the most iconic scenes in horror history when he jumped out that lake, singing these words that I had written."


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