The Incurable Tragedy
posted on 9/2008 By:
Canadian progressive/power/melodeath band Into Eternity continue their revolving-door line-up (new second guitarist, new drummer) and release this, their fourth record, and a logical follow-up to 2006’s The Scattering Of Ashes. Still in place is lead guitarist and mastermind Tim Roth’s array of ever-changing fleet-fingered riffs, the whole of The Incurable Tragedy drenched in guitar heroics and tempo shifts. Also still on board are Stu Block’s truly impressive multi-octave vocals—his ability to jump from death growl to the soaring highs of "Battle Angels"-era Warrel Dane is almost unmatched. (Dane and King Diamond and, of course, Halford come to mind as possible contenders, although none of them have ever ventured into prolonged growling and rasping like Block does.) When all is said and done, fans of the previous record will be happy because, honestly, not too much has changed.
Hence the title, The Incurable Tragedy is a concept record about terminal illness, drawing inspiration from Roth’s loss of family members and friends to cancer over the past few years. (Strangely, it’s the second cancer-themed concept record in the last two years, with My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade having beaten Into Eternity to the punch back in 2006, although my mentioning that I actually knew that may be tantamount to treason in some circles. Also, the fact that I know that record well enough to make the following comments upon its substance may be grounds for abject ridicule, but I’m man enough to accept that.) With all due respect to Roth’s losses, I find that, like the MCR record, The Incurable Tragedy’s biggest missteps come in dealing with the concept—when they deal directly with the theme of cancer, the lyrics become ham-fisted and cringe-inducing. Witness lines like "Now I realize that I will never leave this hospital / I’m finished / the anguish is tearing me apart" (from the unbearably maudlin and melodramatic "The Incurable Tragedy I"). Divorcing the result from its inspiration--and in doing so leaving behind all three parts of the title track (the third of which is just an instrumental guitar wank)—the album feels like The Scattering Of Ashes, Part Deux to me. Admittedly, that’s not a bad thing, as Ashes was a strong record, but it’s worthy of note that, despite its ambitious aspirations with the concept and all, The Incurable Tragedy is a bit of a holding pattern for this band.
So what does that mean, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the band’s past efforts? Well, those that preferred Chris Krall to Stu Block will still decry this as "nothing compared to Buried In Oblivion," and it may well not be, but nonetheless, here’s what it is: it’s a progressive-styled blend of melodic death and power metal, with alternating soaring choruses and growled vocals, both high and low. Roth’s guitar leads are melodic and flashy, if not always particularly brilliant, and the songs are crafted such that there’s a surplus of riffing in each one. (To be fair, one thing The Incurable Tragedy does differently than Ashes is reign in the band’s tendency to over-stuff each tune with unrepeated segments. The songs are still choppy and disjointed, but overall, the flow seems a bit more streamlined, which is arguably good and bad.) The band’s musicianship is impeccable—that much is certain. New drummer Steve Bolognese (formerly of Beyond The Embrace) ably fills Jim Austin’s shoes, and his performance is certainly aided by an improved drum production when compared to that of Ashes.
Block’s vocals fall into love-‘em-or-hate-‘em territory, and my years of King Diamond worship mean that I’m certainly predisposed to the former. Those of you who can’t handle the vibrato-laden falsetto wailing will do well to avoid Into Eternity, but those among you who enjoy dramatic, guitar-laden, progressive-minded and melodic death metal will find much to enjoy here. Fans of the likes of Nevermore, 3 Inches Of Blood and earlier Into Eternity works should pursue The Incurable Tragedy and just skip the goofy (or rather, goofiest) parts.
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The Scattering Of Ashes
10/3/2006 Into Eternity
Buried In Oblivion
2/10/2004 Into Eternity
Dead or Dreaming