All that touring with such a variety of metal acts has made INTO ETERNITY an even tighter and more musically accomplished act. That is saying a lot when one considers that the hard working Canada-based troupe was already in a league of its own, deftly combining death metal's extremity with power/progressive metal's majesty and melody. Guitarist/vocalist/leader Tim Roth would be the first to tell you that touring with DREAM THEATER inspired the act to spread its progressive wings. Combined with a few tragic events, that inspiration has made "The Incurable Tragedy" INTO ETERNITY's definitive "extreme progressive metal" album.That is not to say that it tops "The Scattering of Ashes", a feat most would find nearly impossible to attain, although as a work of art I would put it on par with it. But "definitive" in this case means that "The Incurable Tragedy" succeeds in taking a heart-wrenching concept and weaving raw emotion into its dynamic arrangements, yet still retaining the trademark speed and heaviness; hence, its most "progressive" release. While the album in no way distances the band from its patented style, it does take a few extra listens to fully absorb. Concept albums define "hit or miss" and it is damn difficult to avoid sacrificing effective song structuring for conceptual flow. Impressively, INTO ETERNITY has written a concept album in "The Incurable Tragedy" that effectively tells a story and gives the listener the option of picking and choosing individual tracks that do not seem awkwardly out of context when enjoyed in isolation. Inspired by the loss of Tim Roth's two best friends (brothers on top of that) to cancer (stunningly, the disease would also claim his father just before Christmas), "The Incurable Tragedy" is not a bloated and verbose 70-minute album choked with spoken passages and orchestral pieces. It is just the opposite, in fact. The album is kept to less than 40 minutes, the songs remain largely in the three-to-four minute range, and the style is INTO ETERNITY through and through, a couple of new twists notwithstanding. It is simply Tim Roth telling the story (through Stu Block's voice) of cancer's devastation; not poetically stated, not drowned in metaphor, just plain spoken and heartfelt. As for those aforementioned new twists, the album's bravest moment comes in the form of a piano ballad called "The Incurable Tragedy I (September 26, 2006)" with Stu Block doing something that most metal singers (a) couldn't do; and (b) wouldn't do. We're talking about letting the vocals stand nearly naked with only keyboard accompaniment, rather than hiding behind a wall of distorted instrumentation. The piece not only fits snugly with the heavier material, but ends up being a standout track. The instrumental pieces — "Prelude to Woe", the aggressive "Symptoms", and "The Incurable Tragedy III (December 15, 2007)" — the date Roth's father died and a track that ends with the sound of a flat line — are anything but filler and serve to heighten the album's emotion. That leaves the more traditional INTO ETERNITY songs, several of which could very well end up staples. "Tides of Blood" and "Spent Years of Regret" are classic IE rippers right down to Block's glass-shattering wails, interspersed with death growls, and catchy clean choruses, while "Time Immemorial" boasts what may be the album's biggest hook. "Diagnosis Terminal", "Indignation", "A Black Light Ending", and "One Funeral Hymn for Three" are good tunes as well, though collectively not as strong as the aforementioned triumvirate. It takes a pair to avoid making "The Scattering of Ashes: Part II" and instead strip your emotions bare and ambitiously write a concept album. That INTO ETERNITY has done so in a way that shouldn't alienate most fans is most commendable. This is one special band that has worked hard for its success.
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