Last week, a bunch of self-satisfied millionaires released an album called Dead Magnets or something, and in all the name-calling and fan-rage that ensued, I became so emotionally shattered after being called a “talentless hack” who should “go play Guitar Hero” that I was forced to delay a review for a release that was actually worth listening to. My only hope is that we can all put this behind us and mend the chords of metal brotherhood with reinforced steel so that we might be united once more in our elitist musical sausage fest.

Arriving just in time for the peace offering is Into Eternity’s The Incurable Tragedy, an album that manages to be so credibly metal, yet so vastly accessible, that there’s something for everyone. If you’re like me, you most likely began to hear the buzz about them around the release of their 2006 breakthrough, The Scattering of Ashes. If you liked that album, then I can only tell you to run out and get this one now, as there’s no chance you’ll be disappointed. Into Eternity have not skipped a beat since 2006, and you’ll be waltzing into capable but familiar territory.

After a soulful acoustic intro track, it only takes Stu Block’s sustained and then quadruple harmonized falsetto scream to assure you once and for all that he’s the best thing that ever happened to this band. This man has a set of pipes you rarely hear outside of the overproduced Euro-power stuff, and personal experience dictates that he is just as capable on stage. His ability to shift styles effortlessly between death growls and Painkiller-type vocals adds variety and appropriate moodiness to the group’s blend of melodic-death riffs, prog dexterity and resplendent, classic metal choruses.

The band’s other shining star is lead guitarist/songwriter Tim Roth who shreds tastefully and nimbly throughout. The Incurable Tragedy continues the band’s previous lyrical themes of emotional anguish, this time as a concept album about a man diagnosed with terminal cancer attempting to come to terms with his inevitable death. The story was reportedly inspired by Roth’s own personal experience of losing three close relations, a report that seems to be substantiated by the three part title track, each subtitled with a different date in the same year. The album does a good job of keeping all the songs consistently linked by this subject matter, but while I found it enjoyable to listen to, it failed to provoke too much of a personal emotional commitment. In particular, “The Incurable Tragedy Pt. 1” laid on the drama a bit too thick, with both a grand piano and a synth orchestra, for me to feel very moved by it.

Overall, Roth is writing pretty far inside his comfort zone – he still knows how to make you rock out and “One Funeral Hymn for the Three” and the crowning jewel “Time Immemorial” are sure to make fine additions to the live show. Block and Roth both do such a tremendous job on this album, however, that they eclipse the other members; the rhythm section may be tighter than size 28 jeans but second guitarist Justin Bender’s contribution is rather undetectable, perhaps as a result of Roth’s longtime commitment as songwriter.

At the end of the day, The Incurable Tragedy is filled with adept playing and outstanding vocals, and is filled to the brim with catchy hooks suitable for just about anyone looking for a cure for disappointing September metal releases. Though Into Eternity haven’t progressed very far from their last release, many of you might be pleased to find them again exactly where you left them.

(3 out of 5 horns)


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