Review Summary: “I had a Bokononist vision of the unity in every second of all time and all wandering mankind, all wandering womankind, all wandering children.”
I am a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut. Without a doubt, two of his novels would peak in my top ten favorite novel’s ever made; “Cat’s Cradle” being my all-time favorite. It’s just something about the black humor and interesting characters that always manage to give me a good laugh. I always found the name of the Doomsday weapon, “Ice-Nine”, catchy and highly memorable. One day I was looking through some information about the novel after me and a buddy had an argument about a character’s name and I discovered there was a post-hardcore band that was named after Vonnegut’s “Ice Nine”. This band was named Ice Nine Kills, and at first; I scoffed to myself about the ridiculous word put on the end of the weapon to form the band’s name. At first, I was highly skeptical of listening to the band, but my anxiety got to me, and I had to listen to this EP.
Ice Nine Kills is a post-hardcore band, and with that, screaming occupies a large portion of the vocals on the album. The screams are higher pitched then what you would find from a metal core band. They retain some decent aspects but I feel that the screams are sub-par at best and aren’t worth mentioning as a positive of the album. The screaming has improved in the later album “Safe is Just a Shadow” due to the inclusion of two new vocalists who are able to provide different screams to fit the music. Spencer’s clean vocals shine however, producing some of the best vocals I have found from an underground hardcore band to this day. He takes a breath with each sentence he spits out, and you can just feel the emotion he puts into his performance. I don’t feel this with the screams however, and most of them just come off as boring and ill-conceived.
The band backing up Spencer does its job correctly, but doesn’t bring anything quite knew to the table. The drums provide the same double bass pedal most metal core acts bring to the table, but Ice Nine Kills use it in a way to increase tempo at different points in the song session. What would normally be considered a dry and boring bass kick is transformed into fast and sharp tempo changes which spice up the music to a higher level. The guitar work in this album is mostly positive, especially on “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. The song starts with a short guitar piece which is followed by the breakthrough of drums. The song tells the story of a man who loves a girl, but she is swept away by another man just so he could kill her as they slept together. The man is revolted by the murder, yet he decides that his love for the girl is too much to bear, and he kills the murderer as Spencer sings “So you’ll be sleeping with the fishes tonight.” I found this story to downright nail the influence of Vonnegut’s satire on the dot. A man who claims he “Could never have committed the crime cause I could never hurt a fly”, later ends up cutting off another man’s head, and mails it to his victim’s mother. Overall, a well-made song, backed up by some great story telling.
After most of the album is hell bent of providing you a post-hardcore experience that is rather enjoyable, with maybe one or two forgettable songs; an acoustic closer finishes off the EP. The track goes by the name of “What I Should Have Learned in Study Hall”, and it is by far my favorite track on the entire record. As soon as the acoustic shard started off the track, I knew I was in for a treat. Spencer sings 100% cleanly for the entire song, and tells another satirical story of a man whose girlfriend moves far away, and even though he loves her very much, is unable to venture to Denver due to his fear of flying. I realized that the song was funny, yet emotionally touching as well. I felt sorrow for the man, which is something that does not happen to me much when I read a story or listen to a song. It’s a very touching song, and it deserves more admiration.
Listening to this album now, I don’t enjoy it as much as I did the second or third listen I did a few years ago; but what is there is good. Cut slightly by the uninspired screams and two forgettable songs (“You Scratched my Anchor” and “-Moral Quandary”), the memorable acoustic finale and the hardcore beat down of a story are fantastic and deserve much more attention than some songs produced today. My verdict, give it a listen. It might not be for you if you are expecting something of Vonnegut’s caliber, but what is written on this short record is great.