Review Summary: Ice Nine Kills lies indecisively between semi-technical, catchy, and downright cool guitar parts, and horribly generic breakdowns and vocals.Safe Is Just A Shadow
has been described as far heavier than their debut, Last Chance To Make Amends
. Upon visiting Ice Nine Kills’ myspace page, I was greeted with a run-of-the-mill metalcore tour poster, and the “br00t4lly” typeset logo of Hot Topic. I’ll spare the generic ‘hot topic core sucks’ paragraph, but I came into this album with low expectations. They were warranted, right?
Upon listening, however, I was somewhat surprised. Instead of a brutal assault that could be tabbed out in binary, I was greeted with an actual innovative guitar riff. As the album progressed, there were plenty of binary breakdowns and verses, but these were rivaled by an equal number of semi-technical, catchy, and downright cool riffs. If Ice Nine Kills focused more on the sweet guitar riffing that populates every song instead of the obligatory scene “brutality,” they would actually be an enjoyable group. However, they don’t; for every well-executed bridge (that’s right, a scene band has a bridge, not a breakdown) there’s another faux-epic chorus, or tried-and-false breakdown.
Individually, each member is solid. I’ve already described the guitarists, but to emphasize, they have a great sense of riff-writing, but delve into the generic breakdown far too often. The bassist is predictably inaudible. The drums are somewhat low in the mix in places, but the drummer is one of the best in the genre, as he changes up the beats often, and most of the breakdowns even have separate drum assaults.
The vocal section is a little less impressive. According to their facebook, their lead vocalist Spencer does screams and singing and one of their guitarists does screams. Spencer’s performance isn’t anything special, but he manages to change it up enough that Safe
isn’t just the mindless screamed verse sung chorus extravaganza that is expected. The screaming is somewhat diverse from the genre, with lower-range growling, and higher-pitched shrieks, as well as the familiar mid-range yell. The singing resides almost exclusively above middle C, but isn’t so whiny that it’s unlistenable.
Ice Nine Kills has some amazing moments, like most of “Acceptance in the Waves” and the vocal harmonies around 2:15 of "Red Sky Warning," but generic, boring verses are found almost everywhere. They are definitely far better than their peers, but their peers weren’t exactly great to begin with. Ice Nine Kills have plenty of potential, but waste it with very ordinary songwriting.