When titling an album Every Trick In The Book, it could stand for the artists in question sitting high above their peers who have seemingly shown everything their genre has to offer and revealing a fresh new side. Contrarily, it could also stand for a gimmicky approach to standing out in a genre rife with gimmicks and sparse personality.
Fortunately for Ice Nine Kills, who have titled their fifth record the above moniker, it is certainly not the latter result. The former rings true in ways that may not be initially expected, but that’s what makes this record so enjoyable. For anyone not informed on the concept of Every Trick In The Book, its title is a clever nod to the grand (and it truly is grand) scheme of theming every song around a book that the band members are extensively familiar with. Their knowledge of the ten works of literature represented is what allows the imaginative side of the lyricism and theatrics to coincide and be on the same vivid artistic level. It took some serious attention to detail to compose such deep bodies of writing. One could even view this as re-writing and presenting these books to a new generation.
To INK’s credit the album isn’t a departure from their increasingly well-known blend of horror-themed metalcore & catchy, upbeat pop-punk. Their presentation has always been a cut above, albeit on a smaller-screen scale previously. Every Trick In The Book on the other hand features the equivalent of an IMAX-level presentation that throws playbill theatrics, dramatic monologues and climactic solutions in to portray familiar faces with unrivaled clarity.
All of these elements blend well with INK’s recognizable moveset in the strong, anthemic opener “The Nature of The Beast”. A swelling fade-in gives way to a narrated introduction backed by strings that leads perfectly into a grandiose establishing of the song’s main chorus. Things quickly get intense when the vocals of lead guitarist JD and frontman Spencer kick in, backed by a thrashy metalcore riff and rarely do they slow down in this song. It’s the sheer scope of the drama that solidifies this track as one of the best examples of the group’s ambitions on the album.
It’s a joy to be able to state that things rarely let up and lack entertainment value. The first three tracks appear to stick to a formula (aside from “Communion of The Cursed” sky-high ambitions of being an audio horror film, distorted effects and all), but everything that follows is fair game for variety. “The Plot Sickens” sounds like Sevendust recorded a track for the newest Periphery album, poppy upbeat chorus in tow with a modern groove in the rhythms. “Star-Crossed Lovers” notably slows things down for a ballad purely from the pop-punk realm. It’s not a stretch to claim that this track fits right in with the group’s cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You” with a chorus just as enjoyable. In this track especially the listener can feel the group’s dedication to the storyline of the book the track is based around (“Romeo & Juliet”). It’s a somber yet sickly sweet little number, true to its source material.
It’s right in the middle of the album that we are gifted with INK’s best track to date: The dizzying “Me, Myself And Hyde”. It begins with the sound of tolling bells and pouring rain before giving way to a piano bit that sets a heavy, depressing tone that is perfectly accented by Spencer’s melancholic reflection that laments the mental destruction and struggle of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What follows is definitive Ice Nine Kills: furious riffs, climactic breakdowns, a hugely enjoyable and expressive main chorus hook and dualing vocal deliveries. Notably both JD and Spencer act as compelling narrators. Each screams from the same perspective, as if handing the book in question back and forth, but the intensity and passion is easily shared between the two. This track alone can represent the group’s success in bringing these stories to life through a genre of music that isn’t necessarily viewed as accessible nor mainstream.
The main strength of Every Trick In The Book lies in its diversity. Each track could stand alone strongly, but they also compliment each other perfectly being on the same album. Modern metalcore is quick to flirt with other genres in an attempt to draw in wider audiences and keep an increasingly thinning formula unpredictable. Ice Nine Kills are fully aware that they’re not the only band to play the sound and style that they do, but they also don’t let that fact stop them from being one of the best examples of a substantial band existing in a crowded scene. Their layers of depth and color inside the lines (“Hell In The Hallways” depicts a vengeful death scene through audio clips. Revolutionary.) and allusions to moments from their past (“The People In The Attic” in concept should sound instantly familiar to any fan of the Safe Is Just A Shadow album) make them a constantly reliable hit amongst their fans as well as an immediate interest to any “passer-bys” who see the album artwork and are reminded of the glory days of the b-reel horror movie genre.
What’s really changed amongst the Ice Nine Kills identity, though? Nothing, really. Justin gets a few more bass-lines, Connor throws in some blast-beats, Spencer does more screams, JD leaves his mark on all up-and-coming guitarists with just a few more guitar solos than usual. But that’s just it. Ice Nine Kills already have a solid set-up. They don’t need to re-invent the wheel to impress. They took the high road and pushed forward without leaving any of their roots behind. Every Trick In The Book is no doubt ambitious. As a matter of fact there is no band in ANY genre that has done an entire record based off several different pieces of written and well-known literature, but executed each song as fully as each being an individual concept album. This is masterful storytelling that the likes of Iron Maiden reach. But most of all this album should stand for career-defining refinement and individuality against all odds of stagnation. Every Trick In The Book could have just been another trick. Instead, it’s Ice Nine Kills who are writing a new book of tricks, a book of tricks that ten years from now we’ll blow the dust off, open up and be just as keen to read it all over again.