INTO ETERNITY – From Out Of The Sandstorm…
November 20, 2018, 11 months ago
Canadian prog-metal monsters Into Eternity have been around since 1997, but the last 10 years have been uncharacteristically quiet for a band that released five albums and toured extensively between 1999 and 2008. The band has been through its share of line-up changes, including the loss of vocalist Stu Block to metal titans Iced Earth in 2013, but guitarist / founder Tim Roth insists that wasn't the reason for the major slowdown. And over the course of the last decade he has been busy assembling Into Eternity's long-awaited comeback, The Sirens, in between the fits and starts that teased the band's eventual return. If you were a fan of the band way back when, The Sirens won't disappoint; if anything it will fuel the call for a full blown return to the road and the well-deserved spotlight.
"There are so many parts to that answer," Roth says of the "Where the hell were you guys?" question, "but the main thing was that my son was born 30 days after the last album was released" says Roth. "We did the Iced Earth tour, we went to Japan with Symphony X, everything was moving, but as soon as my son was born everything had to change. There was only one income - me - so I had to start working. We had an offer to go to Japan in 2009 and we did a few things, and in 2010 we started writing for another album. We demoed 'Sandstorm' with Stu and released that, which was followed by 'Fukushima'..."
The Sirens was originally intended to be an independent release, but ended up being delayed three months when word began circulating amongst the labels that Into Eternity was gearing up for a return.
"All the politics that go into this, when all the months and years go by with nothing happen, Troy (Bleich / bass, death vocals) said we should release the new album ourselves. I was shocked. I said 'We can't do that, we have to have a label...' but I left it in his hands. And then, when people found out that we were finally going to release an album, we started getting actual offers from record labels. In the end we said no to those offers and decided to stick it out, but then the rep who signed us in 1998 to Century Media contacted us about signing to his new label (M-Theory Audio). He's also working with one of our former A&R reps, one of our former managers, so we decided to stop the release and go with him. The album was coming out, but then it was like 'No, it's not, because we've signed with a label...' (laughs). "
It doesn't seem like a decade has passed since the last Into Eternity album. Chalk it up to social media keeping the band alive and well within the collective fan conscience, informing every one of upcoming shows, new projects, songwriting, thus closing up the passage of time to some degree. Roth agrees.
"I know... how can it be ten years? It seems impossible. Amanda has been in the band for six years, and it's been about seven for the others. Stu was going to do both Iced Earth and Into Eternity, but once we found out what Iced Earth's tour schedule was like we knew Stu was gone. That's what stopped us in our tracks and then we had to rebuild the band. We did small tours under the radar, like along the West Coast in the US, we did Western Canada quite a few times. We actually never stopped because we've been out on tour every year, we still rehearse, we still write songs... but you're right, Facebook really does keeps people informed and together."
Roth singles himself out as being the main reason Into Eternity hasn't been more active in recent years.
"I have a totally different life now compared to when Into Eternity started. Thank God I did my serious touring when I was in my mid-20s to mid-30s because I got to do so much in that span of time. Now I'm in my 40s and my life is totally different. But if you look at someone like Jeff Waters from Annihilator, now that his son is grown up he's touring like crazy, so it is possible to get back into that at some point."
During the downtime, however, Roth was busy putting together the songs that would come to make up The Sirens. Fans have heard "Sandstorm" and "Fukushima" before, as they were released as singles in 2011 and 2012 respectively, while the new album was being written.
"I wrote the lion's share of this album, but the next one will be different. I wrote the lyrics, the melodies and everything for The Sirens because at the time we didn't have a singer. Rob Doherty, who was Into Eternity's guitarist for Buried In Oblivion (2004) and an awesome songwriter - he's since passed away (in 2012) - I met him at a show right after we'd lost Stu and he said 'Why don't you sing, Tim?' I'd never really thought about it, but I gave it a shot on 'Sandstorm', which is how that all came about."
Roth was assisted along the way by the extended Into Eternity family, even from beyond the grave.
"In the meantime I was writing the riffs and demoing everything at home, literally spending hundreds of hours piecing the album together as best I could. What people don't know is that I had Jim Austin, who was our drummer on Buried In Oblivion and A Scattering Of Ashes (2006), he would come over and midi-program the drums after hearing the ones that I did (laughs). He would put real drums down and I would give the band full demos to listen to. Bryan (Newbury) added his own stuff, of course, but Jim really helped us out. And Stu, the first verse of 'Nowhere Near' are all Stu's vocal melodies and lyrics. So yeah, everyone helped out along the way."
"It's kind of creepy, actually," laughs Roth. "Even Rob Doherty, he's on this album's version of 'Sandstorm', which is kind of different from the versions we've had before. Rob had this idea where he would keep saying the word 'sandstorm' using an inhaled death vocal, so at the end of the song you hear Rob doing that because we left it the way Rob had originally intended it. The other versions you've heard, we cut some of that out. Rob passed away in 2012 but he is on this album, Jim Austin has direct influence on this album, and then Stu is involved. So there are old and new members of Into Eternity all on the new record."
Amanda Kiernan's contributions as a singer can't be overlooked, particularly since she's taken over for Stu Block and made Into Eternity her own. The Sirens marks her first official studio jaunt fronting band even though she's been performing live with them since 2012, and the results prove Kiernan is a formidable vocalist.
"Stu was at Amanda's first audition for Into Eternity (in 2012), and she told me how nervous she was because Stu was there watching. She had a few years of 'training' before she went in to record the vocals for this, and working with her in the studio was so easy. She has every type of voice to use as she wants, and even voices she hasn't used before. Amanda has this really gritty, witchy death vocal thing, and then she can clean up her voice and sing absolutely pristine, and then she can add this rasp or a wide vibrato. My favourite singer is Sebastian Bach; he's the king of using a wide vibrato and shaking his voice, and Amanda can do that, too. She was a dream to work with."
"She was directed a lot by me on this album," Roth adds, "but she added her own thing to every song. Absolutely, 100%. And the song 'Fringes Of Psychosis', the demo didn't have that cool Amanda vocal passage in the middle; she created and sang all that. So, she definitely added her own touches to the album. And it's cool when Amanda's singing Stu's parts live. I'll sing with her sometimes, and it's really cool to have that blend of the female and the male vocals. We sound so good together and it couldn't have worked out any better getting her into the band."