Review Summary: Excellent vocals, tight musicianship and just the right amount of progression, these Saskatchewanian death metallers do a great job at further progressing their sound, though I cant help but think they're still capable of more.
In 1977, business man Donald Trump married Ivana Trump. The couple had three children, but divorced in 1992. One year later, Donald Trump married Marla Maples. The couple had one child, but divorced 6 years later. In 2004, he proposed to Slovenian model Melania Knauss; they married a year later. I know, you're probably wondering what this has to do with anything, but just let me finish. Canadian Progressive Death Metal act share a common link with the Trumpman; since forming in 1997, the group has gone through three vocalists, a keyboardist, three guitarists (if you count recently departed touring guitarist Colin), and a bassist. Though not for the same reasons, Into Eternity, at least vocally, share the idea known as "trading up" with TV's most famous business man.
In 2005, singer Chris Krall left the band due to money issues. Luckily, Tim Roth, one of two remaining members, recruited a little known singer who went by the name of Stu ‘Stuie B' Block. For those worried in a drastic change in Into Eternity's sound, fear not. While Stu is definitely different than former singer Chris Krall (nobody counts Dean Sternberg), his voice is still very Into Eternity. In fact, to the average listener, you'd be hard pressed to even notice a difference, at least at first. Stu's voice is, and I'm sorry to be so up-front, a lot better than Chris'. It's not to say Chris wasn't a good vocalist, in fact it's quite the contrary, it's just Stu's voice is melodic and powerful, harsh and soothing.
Stu's strengths lay in his versatility. Formerly of Power/Proggers Omega Crom and the Black/Death outfit Self Regime, Stu handles each of these vocal styles admirably and manages to incorporate all of them into Into Eternity's sound. For those wondering, Stu has five basic voices he uses throughout the album. First off, you have his normal singing voice, which is not too far off from that of Chris Krall (imagine a slightly less irritating Dennis DeYoung). From there, you have his high pitched Rob Halford style voice, and while typically only used to hit the high notes, you'll often notice it in the background harmonizing (most notably in Surrounded By Night
). From there, you have his three harsh stylings, which are the most prevalent of styles on the album. You have a low, Mikeal Akerfelt like guttural, a blackened Devin Townsend like shriek and a croaky death roar. It may seem overwhelming, but he manages to switch between styles at the drop of a hat.
On the issue of vocals, I'm sure fans of past Into Eternity work are curious about their ‘famous' harmonies. On Buried In Oblivion
the band took things up a notch, resorting to 4-5 part harmonies. While aurally astounding, the band has stepped things down a tad to make the songs more playable in a live setting, but fear not, it's hardly noticeable. On The Scattering of Ashes
, the band has down-played most harmonies to 2 (sometimes 3) parts, which somehow makes them all the more effective. On Buried In Oblivion
the vocals were split almost evenly between Chris and Tim, but on this album the split is 90/10, allowing Tim to step back and focus more on harmonizing and, more importantly, guitar duties, though the latter somehow suffers (which I'll get to). If you hadn't figured it out, the vocals are most definitely one of the stronger points.
Tim Roth has graduated, officially, from the school of Malmsteen, and it's not for the better. While his guitar work on previous album was never without its share of Yngwie influenced shred, his leads were always memorable and not without the right amount of emotion. On The Scattering of Ashes
, he takes a backseat vocally to focus on guitar duty, but somehow his leads and solos come off as emotionless shred, sounding forced and unfocused. It's not to say the guitar-work is bad, I'm just saying a lot of the leads and solos are less than spectacular. Still, Tim's ability does shine at times, such as the arpeggiated intro to Timeless Winter
or the melodic acoustic work during the first half of Surrounded By Night. The 6 strings falter, as said, in the solo sections, something the album could actually do without. Severe Emotional Distress
, for example, only loses its appeal at the 2:08 mark when Tim Roth feels the need to show us just how aggressively he can sweep; we get it, you like Yngwie and you can certainly keep up, it's just a little (a lot) unnecessary to throw something like that into a song devoted to emotion. Still, the album further solidifies Tim's ability as a great guitarist; it just makes his writing ability seem less spectacular than it really is.
The only other real complaints I have rest in the albums stature and production. I was looking forward to this album; in fact, I was looking forward to it more than anything else. While it's outstanding, better than Buried In Oblivion
in many respects, somehow it still seems to fall a little short. I think the main reason is the album works as a whole, but has minimal stand-out points, at least in comparison to their previous work. While songs like Surrounded By Night
are definitely some of the strongest stuff the band has done, the album has some songs that really add nothing but consistency, a wholly subjective fault. It's just that with the outstanding harmonies in Paralyzed, the melodic chorus of Out
and the total near-perfection of Surrounded By Night, songs like Nothing, and Eternal are more than forgettable.
The production is actually not as bad as I am about to nitpick it to be, but it's something I can be harsh on in my analysis. I feel the production on an album, while not necessarily always make or break, is a majorly important aspect of the music. The production on the album is actually pretty good, except in regards to the drums. For those wondering, Jim Austin's drumming is unbelievable, no ifs ands or buts about it. Sadly, the tone and sound of his snare and kick drums is well, fake. I'm being serious, they're literally fake. The (kick and snare) drums on this album are sampled; this means that while Jim is in fact playing what you hear, everything he plays is then sampled and a new tone is added. It sounds kind of terrible. Much of the cymbal work is much too clean and precise, though this isnt due to sampling, and the kick drums sound much too clicky for my liking. It's a shame, because the drumming on the album is quite outstanding and wonderfully innovative. Severe Emotional Distress
for example shows the band having Jim do a "deadly chicken" over clean vocals. For those wondering, a chicken beat is not unlike a blast-beat, but Jim clarifies to say that with a blast beat, you hit the kick, snare and hats (whatever cymbal) at the same time, but with a chicken beat, you hit the cymbal and kick at the same time then a snare to follow and repeat. All silly Saskatchewanian terms aside, the bands idea to put a blast beat (deadly chicken, whatever) over a clean chorus as opposed to some generic 4/4 passage is one of many subtle, but awesome progressive elements. The drums are, as said, amazing, and if you can get over their sound (as I have), you'll be impressed, I assure you. There's seemingly no bass on the album (with a few minor exceptions), however. That's a major issue I have with well, nearly every album it seems.
The album as I said, works on a whole, but as abovementioned, it's not without its "classics". Severe Emotional Distress
, while lyrically a little juvenile and cliché (not unlike much of the album, sadly), is a great way of kicking things off (I refuse to count the unnecessary and pointless intro Novus Inceptum
). The track kicks off sounding almost like your typical radio-rock song, but instantly speeds up when Tim's layered guitar playing leads to fast drumming and Stu's shrieked vocals. The passage manages to incorporate an excellent two part harmony, and then leads into a guttural part before the previously noted "deadly chicken" chorus. Much like the title track off Buried In Oblivion
, Surrounded By Night
shows that IE can do melodic, acoustic work better than you could anticipate. The track begins with acoustic, latin-flared guitars until Stu's emphasized voice goes between subdued melodies to more forceful harmony with Tim. At 50 seconds the bass kicks in, and you realize it's an atypical Into Eternity acoustic track, as you suddenly gain a sense of urgency. As soon as the ‘ooos' kick in, the song really takes off, securing its place as the top song on the album. Nearing the two minute mark, that former sense of urgency fulfills itself as the song as the tempo builds and electric guitar makes its way into the track. It's astounding how the band manages to mix acoustic guitars, Strapping Young Lad-like blast passages (see: 2:23), harmonies and precise riffing. This is a formula they've built upon over the years, one they should keep varying and utilizing…if they know what's good for them.
Other standouts on the album include Paralyzed
, an album closer if there ever was one; the track essentially manages to sum up everything on the album in just over three minutes. Timeless Winter
, another excellent track, begins with a frantic alternate picking before Stu enters, varying his vocals between gutturals, shrieks and the Halford like howls. As said, the album is consistent mid to fast-paced melodic death metal with just the right amount of progressive flair. Sure, some songs are forgettable, but they always remain consistently good.
Fans of progressive Death Metal, this is your album. Fans of Into Eternity, this is your album. Those looking for something new, and unique, well…you get the idea. While I can't help but want a little more out of The Scattering of Ashes
, I'd say their new line-up has changed for the better, at least vocally. While some of the more forgettable songs may blend together, it's hardly enough to deter from the excellence of the stand-out tracks. The Scattering of Ashes is a consistently amazing experience, one that has to be heard. I look forward to see where they go from here, and hopefully, having just lost their recently added second guitarist, the band can finally secure a solid replacement. You'll notice each of their past two album covers featured a black crow, but on The Scattering of Ashes, where you'd typically see that familiar black symbol of death, sits well, scattering ashes. With the assumption that the scattered ashes are those of the beloved crow, and thus the band's supposed mascot gone forever, I suppose you could once again say it's time for Into Eternity to start anew.