Something that I did not expect to happen this year was a rebirth of Canadian extreme prog-metallers Into Eternity, this time without former frontman and current Iced Earth vocalist (one of my top ten favorite acts of all time, by the way) Stu Block. Although the album is performed immeasurably, I have quite a few issues with it. First of all, in a musical sense The Sirens may very well be one of the most complex and technical excursions that Into Eternity have undergone since their golden era. The record features a large amount of neoclassical influence, which certainly didn’t hurt the band, and it still manages to mix the death metal elements in with the more complex melodies seamlessly. New frontwoman Amanda Kiernan is a powerful singer and truly fits the band in every way possible, but there’s just one problem (and don’t rip me a new one for this) but I just don’t feel that her harsh vocals are very strong. One of the commenters on a Facebook post for their new single “Fringes Of Psychosis” said that it sounded like she was gargling rocks and I’d have to agree that it is a major turn-off. Though what’s more, is we’re actually shown that on the album that there is a gentleman capable of the meaty, thick growls that we remember in the band and it suddenly makes me wonder why he just didn’t take the reins for that part of the album. (Edit: This is Rob Doherty and he has been since deceased).
Not that there aren’t any great female growlers, because anyone that has followed my work for years will know that I’ve pulled out several – many that rival their male counterparts. She just isn’t one of those vocalists and it feels like she might be doing more damage to her throat than she realizes with this style – especially since she’s such a damned good clean vocalist. This woman pulls off some amazing lines on the album and that simply can’t be denied, but if I had been a billionaire, I would have paid millions to have a deep growler in the background handling those vocal sections, which still wouldn’t be a threat to her vocal skill or ability because, as I’ve said – she absolutely kills on this record otherwise. It’s just that when the heavy bass comes in, I would rather hear the kinds of thick and meaty growls that I remember from this band. As you might also expect, these harsh vocals aren’t even used that often in the album, which is not an issue for me at all.
Instrumentally, I’d give the disc a much higher rating because the vocal elements can in some ways take away from the amount of work that has gone into this beautiful monstrosity. In that sense, Sirens is the kind of disc that comes off rather notable even if you don’t like female vocals in metal to begin with. Though judging from cut “Devoured By Sarcopenia” I still notice once again, another male vocal approach that would have been perfectly fine on the album by itself, if the musician had still been among the living. Though once again and for the final time, the performance here is definitely not something to shy away from, regardless of the circumstances that made it come together. Maybe it’s not what some of the fans wanted (and there are loads of mixed opinions about this new sound, some of them probably much meaner than what I’ve said here) but it certainly shows the band at their best in several years.
My only other critique here is with the album cover and this is a slight nitpick, but why is it completely greyscale? It feels like a graphic artist created this wonderful piece for the band that was probably a bit more colorful in the beginning, but someone didn’t like it and the artist then said, “screw it, let’s just go with greyscale” which the band loved. The graphic artist in question was probably sweating a little bit while chuckling to himself as he said under his breath, “did that really just happen?” So that’s how we ended up with what I feel is the most drab cover in the band’s history and a side-effect of the digital age. It wouldn’t have been bad if they had done the album in a dark-blue, nothing too bright – just a sort of darker, watery feel. Blues would have really helped, with the band’s logo being in a sort of gold, which would offset the deep blues and hopefully some blacks used to keep atmosphere. It would have also been nice if the figures and the ship had color. Not too much color, but a decent comic artist could have done this better justice. Central Scrutinizer and I were looking at the covers for the new Sandman Universe books, and the one cover that he pointed out for being too drab, actually feels less drab than this. There was at least some color to stand out amongst the blues, and it didn’t come off quite as uninviting to me as this one does. Maybe the band doesn’t think so, but people still judge albums by their covers in some ways and fans that have not heard the band might think twice if they see something that looks like it was thrown to greyscale in Photoshop. Just a horrible, horrible decision.
(Sandman Universe Cover For Context, Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly)
It is safe to say that Sirens will be the most contentious in the band’s discography and I’m waiting to see what some of the less-forgiving reviewers will have to say about this one. While not quite an approach that I feel was necessary considering what I’d heard in the background alone, I’d still have to recommend the disc and would encourage that on-the-fence fans would at least “try it.” Just give it a listen and make your own judgement before deciding to ignore it altogether. Obviously a lot of work went into this disc, and tracks like “Fukushima” and “Nowhere Near” are proof of that. Into Eternity crafted a rather solid album that should still stand with their best efforts, even if once again – there’s going to be a lot of negative feedback here. There already is, and I think they expect that. Controversy after all, gets fans talking and it sells records based on sheer curiosity. I have a feeling that you’ll be equally curious to the album after reading this review and would ask that you check it out at the link below.
(8 Tracks, 50:00)
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)