Live Review: Ice Nine Kills - Academy, Manchester
4th June 2023
Support: Skynd, Defying Decay, Lansdowne
Words: Dan Barnes
I was only expecting a three-band bill this evening but was confronted by a band I knew not to be Lansdowne as I walked into the Academy’s vast hall. Hailing from Bangkok, Thailand, Defying Decay seem well suited to the opening slot as they play inoffensive Metalcore that buoys up the early crowd with some I9K-lite moves. Light and airy keyboards are at odds with the heavy bass and even though it’s not exactly ground-breaking, it does rouse the front of the crowd. DD know how to get folk onside and cover My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade which, cannot be denied, has some big and bold moments that gets the audience all kinds of warmed up.
More of a muscular experience – both figuratively and literally – is Boston’s Lansdowne whose frightening low end can be felt through the very fabric of the building. Hailing from Massachusetts means their take on Hardcore is very different from the artists out of, say New York or Los Angeles; they blend hard hitting beats and frenzied speed with slower, more measured, moments. There’s even an Industrial vibe going on at one point and you know it’s a good show when you get hands in the air from some of cinema’s most brazen movie serial killers.
I was eager to see how Skynd fared, especially ahead of the artist’s Thursday night headlining slot at Bloodstock Open Air in August. Unlike the top placed band tonight, Skynd have a preoccupation with killers and crimes committed in the real world. There is a restrained feeling about this show, that it is more of a performance than a gig, with Skynd playing the role of both perpetrator and victim.
Unlike Macabre, who move in similar musical circles, Skynd – and her partner in crime, Father – do not seem to offer a position on the actions of these individuals, rather they simply act as heralds for the deeds. Beginning with Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, we are treated to a near-operatic performance, giving Skynd the change to unleash her massive vocal range. Michelle Carter has an In This Moment sound; there’s some big electronics for Robert Hansen; the re-enactment of a bullet-riddled body at Columbine and tribal drums and a religious mantra permeate the Jonestown-inspired Jim Jones.
There’s nothing off limits for Skynd, either thematically or musically, with Edmund Kemper coming closest to what would be thought of as a concert performance. Twisted fairy tales of the darkest corners of this world are more chilling than anything even the most depraved Hollywood screenwriter or director could conjure. Tyler Hadley, the seventeen year old tearaway who murdered his parents and threw a party with their home while their corpses lay in the master suite. Or the crimes of Gary Heidnik, who raped and murdered and was sentences to die by lethal injection in 1999. Is it ever possible to reflect such heinousness through music? Skynd will be an interesting prospect when they hit the stage at Catton Park.
Although they have been active since the turn of the millennium, Ice Nine Kills started to find major success with the release of The Silver Scream in 2018, on which all the elements from the band’s previous work coalesced into something more than the sum of its metalcore/ post hardcore/ symphonic metal/ horror punk parts. Welcome to Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2 followed in 2021, expanding on I9K’s preoccupation with horror movies, creating a whole new saga of mayhem and gore. Their performance at Download 2022 was widely witnesses and deserving of the pre-show buzz and, let’s face it, you don’t get invited to support Metallica if you’ve not got something about you.
Extracurricular to fagging for the world’s second biggest metal band, the Bostonians have slotted in a quick UK tour ahead of this year’s Download; titled the Wurst Vacation Tour, it rolled into Manchester on a warm late-spring evening and set about slaughtering the place.
Anticipation was already at fever pitch when the Harry Manfredini’s Friday the 13th score played over the house PA and red balloons appeared over the crowd. Finally, thunder peeled and the Crypt Keeper was heard to pun his way through an introduction before the band hit the stage.
Opening with Funeral Derangements, the stage was awash with rapidly firing harsh lights; all of the band had taken a leaf out of Akercocke’s book and arrived suited and booted, with frontman and only original member, Spencer Charnas, wielding a shovel in keeping with the song’s Pet Sematary theme.
Tooled up marauders in leather aprons and bearing cleavers invade the stage for the Hostel-inspired Wurst Vacation which sees Spencer joining the carnage by butchering an extra on the stage and holding a severed limb aloft as a trophy.
More so than Skynd, I9K’s performance is at least equal parts theatre as it is a concert by the broad definition. Musically, the band exist in a liminal space somewhere between ripping metal and a more commercial sounding symphonic one. Not that it particularly matters as, not only are the crowd fully invested in the performance they can also sing the whole set word for word.
Welcome to Horrorwood dominates the show tonight and we get tracks inspired by Child’s Play (Assault & Batteries), Candyman (Farewell II Flesh), Psycho (Shower Scene), The Evil Dead (Ex-Mørtis) and American Psycho (Hip to be Scared) which, of all the vignettes played out, is the one Spencer was born to perform.
The Silver Scream is represented in the A Nightmare on Elm Street inspired The American Nightmare, which sees Spencer donning Freddy’s razor glove, SAVAGES, from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, represents a moment when the music and theatre form a symbiont relationship, feeding into each other and the set closer of Stabbing in the Dark, which sees a representation of the six-year-old Michael Myers standing motionless on the monitor riser, dressed as a clown and bloodied after butchering his sister, Judith.
The solitary encore of the anthemic Welcome to Horrorwood finds Spencer walking over the crowd as he sings the second verse; it’s the sort of thing you don’t see often these days, except for the Franks, Turner and Carter, it’s the sort of shenanigans they get up to.
Ice Nine Kills and Skynd, ably supported by Lansdown and Defying Decay staged an incredible night in the heat of Manchester’s Academy. My only question is: Where was Ward XVI? Psychoberrie and her horde of inmates would have had a field day on this bill.