Ice Nine Kills: A Scary Good Show

Words by Courtney Thomassen




And now, for our feature presentation…


A light rain falls over the venue where fans have gathered for what is likely to be a killer show. The large banner concealing the stage drops to reveal two television screens that flip through a handful of channels before landing on American Case File, where a profile on singer Spencer Charnas is airing. A voice over welcomes the audience as fog pools on the stage floor. The silhouettes of Ice Nine Kills appear.


At the crossroads where horror film and metal music meet, Ice Nine Kills is building a world for fans of both. While the casual listener would find it hard to miss the countless references to classic films in their music, the band offers an immersive experience that goes so much deeper. The band’s 2018 album “The Silver Scream” introduced fans to a cinematic universe of sorts, weaved together with cutscenes at the end of each music video. The clips focus on frontman Spencer Charnas as he shares details of his nightmares with his new therapist. At the end of the story is a gruesome twist that sets up “The Silver Scream” sequel “Welcome To Horrorwood” released in 2021. The second album’s story closely follows an ‘“investigation” into Charnas, but this time the world has expanded beyond music videos with a fictional television show, “American Case File,” and a full book, written by in-universe news anchor Roy Merkin, available at their shows in physical print. Earlier this month Rock Sound voted Ice Nine Kills “Best Live Act,” and it’s clear why; the level of detail in their recorded material carries over into the band’s live shows – which come complete with props, costume changes and stage actors.


On a crisp November evening, Ice Nine Kills brought their award-winning show to Jacksonville. Temperatures that lingered in the high ’60s were perfect for the outdoor concert and, even though it rained quite a bit throughout the night, the pavilion over Daily’s Place blocked most of it. By the time it hit the pit, all that was left was a light mist not even strong enough to smudge the “IX”s painted on the most diehard fan’s faces. 


As showtime approached, the stage was set with blood splattered risers and racks of garment bags stuffed with bodies. A goblinesque figure attached to Charnas’ mic stand sat front and center and, as the lights from the television screens to the rear died down, the creature’s glowing red eyes shone through the fog. Just as the ghoulish laughter of the introductory voice over began to fade, the opening notes of “Hip To Be Scared” rang out through the speakers. One by one, guitarists Dan Sugarman and Ricky Armellino, bassist Joe Occiuti, and drummer Patrick Galante appeared, all wearing matching tuxedos and sunglasses. Charnas wore a striped button down paired with suspenders, black gloves and a classic red tie. 


Between verses of the track inspired by the film “American Psycho,” Charnas was helped into a clear raincoat before picking up an ax to complete his Patrick Batemen look. As the bridge began, a drunken business man stumbled up onto the middle riser, taking his place for the first kill of the night. The crowd excitedly sang along with the lyrics, which playfully mirror the dialogue from “American Psycho’s” iconic ax scene. Charnas lifted the weapon as fans shouted the callout “Hey, Paul!” before swinging, chopping to the beat of the breakdown. Fans went wild as the singer lifted a prop head, resembling that of the actor playing Paul, high over his head. 


Once the first song ended the stage went dark for just a moment, giving the audience a short window to holler and cheer before a pair of zombies hobbled onto stage for “Rainy Day.” The set, consisting mostly of tracks off of “The Silver Scream” and “Welcome To Horrorwood,” charged on with catchy choruses, heavy breakdowns and gory propwork. Fan favorites “Meat & Greet” and “Stabbing In the Dark” saw spikes in moshing and crowd surfing as characters influenced by films “The Silence of the Lambs” and “It” claimed their victims onstage. 


While energy remained high throughout the entire performance, “The American Nightmare” kick-started an exceptionally strong finale. Immediately upon seeing video from “The Shower Scene” play on the back screens, fans shrieked in excitement, singing along as Charnas waved around a large prop knife. Silhouetted by a shower curtain, the singer stabbed along to the instantly recognizable screech of violins from Alfred Hitchock’s 1960 classic “Psycho” in one of the most expertly integrated references of the 2021 album. A scene from the fictional trial of “Charnas appeared on the screens to introduce the closing song, the title track of Welcome To Horrorwood.” For one last time, fans screamed along with the band as CO2 blasters punctuated the final breakdown of the night. 


To maintain the element of surprise for those who choose to see this show in person, a detailed account of each character, kill and dismemberment has not been listed here. Instead, consider it a recommendation for those who fancy all things macabre along with fantastic musicianship; Ice Nine Kills’ show is not one to miss.