Well, this is a band I didn’t expect to see again; I actually didn’t recognize the name until several listens in, having gotten properly into metal after their mid-2000s heyday. These days, Into Eternity are possibly best known as the band from which Iced Earth poached their fifth and current vocalist Stu Block. However, they were always a force to be reckoned with and now they’re back with a vengeance after a decade since their last opus, The Incurable Tragedy. Unlike many such cases, they were not idle, taking the time to fully integrate touring-turned-permanent vocalist Amanda Kiernan (also of The Order of Chaos) into their power metal/melodeath hybrid. So what’s changed? On comparing to their older material, not much! The same neoclassical guitar runs and soaring melodies contrast the same hammering drums, thrashy riffs, and throaty screams as always, just with some reshuffling of duties. Given that, does the semi-new formula work, or has the band missed the landing on their return?
To answer immediately: the former! The Sirens offers a veteran band firing on all creative cylinders, with engaging twin-guitar riffage and drum work all around, especially on the title track, “This Frozen Hell,” “Sandstorm,” and especially “Devoured by Sarcopenia;” the latter three also feature wonderful melodic work from Kiernan, offering a glimpse of the potential of her smokey alto exhibited fully on “Nowhere Near.” All tracks also feature excellently crafted and engaging (albeit somewhat emotionally cold)1 solo work from newcomer Matt Cuthbertson and founder Tim Roth, who has also stepped back up to the mic (along with longtime bassist Troy Bleich) in Block’s absence, offering high baritones and cavernous growls to Kiernan’s alto and shrieks. Returning to the drum work, Bryan Newbury, also a new arrival since Tragedy, offers capably varied percussion across all tracks, ranging across staccato bursts on “The Sirens” to hammering blast beats on “Fukushima.” Ultimately, though, none of the above would matter if the band couldn’t write actual songs. Fortunately, they deliver on this front too, for all 50 minutes.
Overall the album is extremely strong, and a worthy continuation of Into Eternity’s legacy, but there are a few nits to pick. The piano segment introducing both the title track and the album, as a whole, clocks in at over a minute, and thus could stand some trimming by as much as half. Similarly, a few solos run a bit long, such as on “This Frozen Hell,” but this is a minor problem at most. The only other substantive criticism is regarding lyrical content, which is often excessively direct or otherwise awkward, such as in “This Frozen Hell,” a song about just how goddamn cold winters are in their native Saskatchewan, or in “Devoured By Sarcopenia,” the chorus of which centers around that clumsy title phrase. Said phrase being a(n overly) dramatic means of referring to the toll of aging doesn’t really help; while not quite comical, it does miss the intended pathos by a fair margin.
Regarding production, there’s a substantial shift in actual sound — a shift for the better in my opinion. Many of the band’s older releases suffer from typical problems of their era, namely an overabundance of polish, and often questionable mixes, but not so here. The individual track recordings are a little rough and lo-fi (and the guitar tones are weighted far too much toward the treble for my taste), but not excessively so, and the mix is absolutely wonderful, with the rich, rolling basslines and frenetic drumwork coming through clear as a bell. This is all in spite of a DR5 master; truthfully, I was shocked it clocked in that low because this record sounds fantastic.
All told, The Sirens comes across as an excellent return to for these Canadians, with stellar performances all ‘round despite some minor snags. Kiernan, in particular, proves herself to be an excellent fit for the band, bringing vibrancy and immediacy (specifically by sounding like she could eat your liver) to a record that might otherwise have disappeared up its own ass. Definitely give this a spin or six.