Into Eternity mines heavy music from family tragedy
Metal bands often mine dark subjects for lyrical inspiration, but it’s safe to say Amon Amarth never crossed swords with Vikings (“Death in Fire”) and Metallica never witnessed a nuclear war (“Blackened”). However, the bleak theme of Into Eternity’s latest CD, The Incurable Tragedy, emerged from direct personal experience.
Tim Roth, the principal guitarist and songwriter of the Regina-based progressive death metal quintet, has suffered huge personal losses because of cancer. Not only did his mother succumb in 2003, but his two best friends, brothers Dave and Danny Stephenson, died of cancer in 2006.
At that point, Into Eternity decided to make its next record a concept album about the disease. Then, in late 2007, while The Incurable Tragedy was being recorded, Roth’s father found out he too had cancer, and died just 10 days before Christmas.
Those blows led to a shift away from what the guitarist describes as the “all-heavy, somewhat one-dimensional” approach on 2006’s The Scattering of Ashes. “For this album, we knew we wanted to have more peaks and valleys, because it’s about dealing with loss,” says the 33-year-old fretboard virtuoso, calling from home.
“It’s our first concept album lyrically, but also musically. We did a ballad with just piano and vocals, which was another first for us. So we tried a few new things but also basically kept our sound that we’ve worked on for five albums now.”
That sound is anything but easy listening. Although the 12-track, 39-minute effort has some of Into Eternity’s most melody-rich choruses ever, there’s also a crazy abundance of guitar interplay between Roth and Justin Bender, plus death grunts and dog-whistle screams by Stu Block (formerly of Vancouver’s Omega Crom), whose range and diversity make him one of the greatest metal vocalists you’ve never heard of. Block rages like Painkiller–era Rob Halford on “Tides of Blood,” and provides Geoff Tate–style pathos on the orchestrated ballad “The Incurable Tragedy I”.
What makes it unlikely that Into Eternity will ever sell out football stadiums—regardless of how accomplished the music gets—is Roth’s affinity for odd time signatures.
“If we were smart, we’d just play 4/4 and 120 beats-per-minute and follow the formula, do what you’re supposed to do,” he says. “But it’s more about artistic freedom for me when I write. We’ve got lots of 9/8, 7/4, and 6/8 on this album. We have one riff that’s actually got 15 beats in it. The guys have to count while they’re playing this stuff. No jamming. The funny thing is that I really sucked in math in school. It was my worst subject, but now it turns out I need it.”
And how does Into Eternity fit in alongside extreme death-metal outfits like Necrophagist and Whitechapel on the current Summer Slaughter tour? “I don’t think we really do!” Roth laughs. “We’re going to try to stick to the game plan of playing our heavier songs. No ballads on this tour, I guess.”
Into Eternity plays the Commodore Ballroom on Monday (August 25).