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In 2004-2006 Saskatchewan power metal unit Into Eternity was a force to be reckoned with. They were on Century Media Records, on every major touring package in North America and pretty much on top of the world as it was. “The Incurable Tragedy”, overt populist metalcore disposition notwithstanding, saw the Canucks experiencing an even greater wave of popularity and visibility. Then… nothing happened. In the decade that followed Into Eternity, like so many bands of yesteryear, fell into disrepair as they lost members as well as their long-time recording contract with Century Media Records. Popular tastes and the metal scene as a whole moved on to the next fad as they are wont to, inexplicably making Swedish occult retro-rock band Ghost and J-pop sensation Baby Metal (hardly the best the country has to offer) the most popular (not to mention lucrative) items of recent memory. Then “The Sirens” was released to the sound of crickets on the M-Theory Audio label in October 2018. Twelve years removed from their last good album and a decade after “The Incurable Tragedy” the question doesn’t lie so much in Into Eternity’s innate ability as a band but whether or not the metal scene at large has moved on during their unusually long absence.

From days of “The Incurable Tragedy” and “The Scattering Of Ashes” only founding member Tim Roth (lead guitar, vocals) and Troy Bleich (bass guitar, vocals) remain. Justin Bender (guitars) has moved over to the production seat and replacing him is Matt Cuthbertson. Steve Bolognese went on to substitute original drummer Jim Austin, but for “The Sirens” Bolognese relinquished his position to Bryan Newbury. Finally, and probably most important of all personnel changes this band has seen to date, Amanda Kiernan was given the daunting task of replacing the man of a thousand voices Stu Block. “The Sirens” was a long time coming and delayed for at least two years. ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘Fukushima’ were released as singles in 2011 and 2012, respectively, when Block was still part of the band. At one point “The Sirens” was scheduled for release on much smaller Italian label imprint Kolony Records but apparently that agreement collapsed somewhere in the interim. A new contract was brokered with the equally low-profile M-Theory Audio and now, twelve years after their last offering, Into Eternity is back, supposedly one assumes, in full force.

That Into Eternity has chosen to keep Amanda Kiernan permanently in the position that she was initially hired to temporarily fill shouldn’t surprise anyone. Canada has a history with female-fronted traditional metal going as far to the eighties with the likes of Messiah Force and since 2013 there has been something of a resurgence of female-fronted underground metal in the Great White North. Those hoping that Tim Roth would hire that other Amanda (Amanda Marie Gosse from Category VI) will be sorely disappointed. Whereas Gosse has the actual high register and falsetto Kiernan is of a grittier persuasion and far closer to Debbie Levine from Lady Beast in comparison. At least there’s sense in hiring Kiernan as female-fronted metal, especially the traditional metal kind, has proven commercially successful and incredibly popular in places like Scandinavia, Germany, Asia (especially Japan) and North America. Now that Stu Block has moved on to the greener pastures of Tampa, Florida power/thrashers Iced Earth “The Sirens” conclusively proves that a decade-plus absence hasn’t dulled Into Eternity in the slightest. In fact it very much sounds like a band with something to prove.

A strange duality is what defines “The Sirens” for the most part. The five new cuts are probably some of the most technical, melodic material Roth has penned to date. ‘Sirens’, ‘Fringes of Psychosis’, ‘This Frozen Hell’, ‘Nowhere Near’, and ‘Devoured By Sarcopenia’ all clock around (and upwards of) 7 minutes. ‘Sirens’ even opens with an extended piano - and orchestral piece. The two preview singles that preceded “The Sirens” lean more towards their 2006-2008 era and not nearly contain the amount of proverbial fireworks and bravado that their new material does. The inclusion of ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘Fukushima’ is far more damning especially in light of both having been around for many years at this point. It’s understandable that Roth decided to record them with Kiernan at the helm, but that doesn’t change the fact that that space could have been put to better use for another new song. ‘Sandstorm’ and closing track ‘The Scattering Of Ashes’ are the most conventional in length and the latter sort of has the feel of a refurbished b-side of the accompanying 2006 album. “The Sirens” tackles a wide variety of subjects, both fictional and real. ‘Sirens’ is about the singing creatures of Greek mythology. ‘Fringes Of Psychosis’ and ‘Nowhere Near’ are about mental deterioriation and depression. ‘This Frozen Hell’ is a cut decrying the ungentle Canadian winter very much in tradition of Cryptopsy’s ‘…And Then It Passes.’ ‘Sandstorm’ chronicles Operation Neptune Spear and the capture and killing of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. ‘Fukushima’ is, should the name not be enough of an indicator, about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Roth’s loyalty to Touchwood Studios in Regina is admirable and “The Sirens” probably sounds far better than it has any right to considering there wasn't a major label behind the funding. It has what is probably the gnarliest production work Into Eternity has yet seen, especially compared to the Century Media Records releases of yore. Bryan Newbury’s energetic and versatile drumming in particular sounds probably worse than Nicholas Barker on Dimmu Borgir’s “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”. It would behoof Into Eternity to consider recording drums at a different facility such as The Grid Productions in Québec with Christian Donaldson or at Wild Studio in Saint-Zénon with Pierre Rémillard. "The Sirens" is rough around the edges and it absolutely takes no prisoners, to say the very least. The Mattias Norén artwork is line with Into Eternity’s prior releases and very much cements that Roth and his cohorts never left the 2002-2008 sphere. “The Sirens” lacks some of the overall polish and gloss that its Century Media releases had in abundance. It very much is the album that directly should have followed 2008’s semi-conceptual “The Incurable Tragedy”. A decade has passed since that release and Into Eternity is pretty much in the same place they were in 2006-2008. At least they are consistent.

Ultimately “The Sirens” is very much a victim of its prolonged gestation period. Had this been released in 2012 its impact would have been considerably greater. There’s only so many people Into Eternity can reach now that they no longer have the clout of the Century Media Records promotion department behind them. It speaks volumes about the sorry state of the industry when an established band like Into Eternity, who has plenty of experience in the studio as on the road, has trouble securing a long-term recording contract. How come Nuclear Blast, Spinefarm, AFM, Massacre, Season Of Mist, or Napalm Records weren’t involved in a fierce bidding war to sign these dyed-in-the-wool Canucks? For the longest time it looked as if Into Eternity’s hiatus was going to be permanent. Thankfully “The Sirens” proves otherwise and obviously Tim Roth has many songs still in the tank. Few bands can manage to bounce back from an extended hiatus so strong and convincing as Into Eternity does here. Hopefully it won’t be another decade or so before they come around to releasing a follow-up to this kinda, sorta “comeback” album.

Nervosa now is probably more popular than they ever been before. Nervosa are to the 2010s what Sepultura were to the 1980s and 90s. Brazil’s biggest and most popular mainstream metal export. It would be folly to expect them to do things differently on their third album. “Downfall Of Mankind”, like “Agony” before it, is straightforward, high-octane thrash metal with little in the way of nuance or even variation. Three albums in and Nervosa still shows no signs of evolving beyond the basics that “Victim Of Yourself” laid out four years prior. Those hoping for an evolutionary jump the same way their once-popular forebears experienced between “Morbid Visions” and “Schizophrenia” to finally arrive at “Arise” better look elsewhere. “Downfall Of Mankind” confirms every fear that “Agony” only alluded to. Nervosa is slowly but surely becoming a victim of its own rampant popularity and they show limited growth within the confines of their revivalist thrash sound.

‘Kill the Silence’, the lead single for this record, lays out pretty much everything you need to know about “Downfall Of Mankind”. While Fernanda Lira’s vocals are probably at their most raspingly evil, and her rumbling plucked bass guitar licks are funky as ever; Prika Amaral on the other hand has apparently reached her limits as a songwriter. “Downfall Of Mankind” is, in a trait that is either admirable or unfortunate, exactly the same record that “Agony” or “Victim Of Yourself” was. Nothing more, nothing less. Not even Luana Dametto, one of Brazil’s most promising young drummers and the force behind death metal band Apophizys, is able to elevate Amaral’s songwriting to the next level. “Downfall Of Mankind” is, for the lack of a better term, reliable and efficient. Which doesn’t mean that it offers up a great deal of variety or replayability. In fact, it doesn’t. Which is sort of the problem. Dametto clearly is the most technically proficient skinswoman Nervosa has yet been able to rope in. Yet we can’t shake the impression that Luana would be better served in a band as, say, Malevolent Creation. What is also becoming increasingly evident is that Nervosa is in dire need of a second guitarist. Amaral currently performs both the rhythm - and lead sections leaving not a whole lot of room for her playing to evolve. Even that other popular Brazilian export Krisiun managed to overcome that particular shortcoming in the studio. As of now Nervosa is clearly stuck in a creative rut. An efficient, fun one – but a rut all the same.

The ladies also seem under the mistaken impression that quantity equals quality. It does not. It never does. Outside of a completely superfluous and very unnecessary intro (aptly called ‘Intro’ to avoid all possible confusion), the regular edition of “Downfall Of Mankind” consists of 13 tracks, with the special editions adding ‘Selfish Battle’ as a bonus. Instead of picking the 9 or 10 of the best songs and releasing the remainder of the session as an EP, once again there’s an abundance of very similar sounding material present. ‘Never Forget, Never Repeat’ is probably the meanest Nervosa has sounded at this point and it allows Dametto to flex her muscles and show her stamina. “Downfall Of Mankind” possesses a greater vocal presence from Amaral and her deeper register vocals beautifully offset Lira’s serpentine rasps. ‘…And Justice For Whom?’ and ‘No Mercy’ are the closest the trio has ever come to classic Slayer territory. ‘Kill the Silence’ was chosen as lead single for a reason and it perfectly summarizes the record. More than ever before does Lira’s bass playing mirror that of Cannibal Corpse’s own Alex Webster in tone and delivery. Amaral’s leads are probably at their most scorching on this record, but none of them tend to be very memorable despite their explosive brevity and fieriness. "Downfall Of Mankind" remains criminally underdeveloped in its ideas and while intense in a very straightforward and superficial manner, it doesn't possess an inch of the innate musicality and muscle of Metallica's youthful "Kill Em All".  Expecting a band to show growth eight years after forming isn’t too much to ask, is it?

The Hugo Silva artwork is emblemic of Nervosa as a band. At this point in time you’d reasonably expect them to finally sport that long pined after Ed Repka, Dan Seagrave, or Eliran Kantor canvas. There’s certainly nothing to complain about on the production end of things. Lira's bass tone sounds nearly identical to that of Webster on Cannibal Corpse's "The Bleeding". The quandary lies in the fact that “Downfall Of Mankind” simultaneously meets expectations as well as falling short of them for the exact same reasons. Nervosa is a painfully, frustratingly limited band as far as their songwriting is concerned. Even with Dametto behind the kit the average tempo does not change. There are no sudden bursts of speed, neither are there any great diversions into more compositionally dense or more structured material. No. Nervosa plows forward in a pretty straightforward manner with simply structured songs that never build on any of the ideas they have. Those hoping to hear them write their own ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’, ‘At Dawn They Sleep’, or ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ will be left sorely disappointed indeed. Nervosa in 2018 is identical to that of 2010. It almost makes you question whether these ladies are truly worth all the accolades they have been getting these past eight years.

That “Downfall Of Mankind” is everything you’d expect it to be is admirable in a way. Nervosa has proven to be very reliable in what they do, but their assault is starting to wear thin. Nervosa has yet to show any kind of compositional growth. “Downfall Of Mankind” sounds just like “Agony” two years before and that sounded just like “Victim Of Yourself”, itself but a mere extention of their “2012” demo (later re-released as “Time Of Death” upon signing to Napalm Records). How we’d love Nervosa to up the ante and go that extra mile to add a layer of sophistication to their compositions. There’s no contesting that Amaral, Lira and Dametto can play, the problem is that their songwriting tends to be one-dimensional and doesn’t offer up a great deal of variation. As with past records most songs tend to blur together with only few offering some respite, usually songs chosen as singles. “Downfall Of Mankind” is no different in that regard. It’s more of the same and it lives entirely up to expectations if that’s what you expect and nothing more. Those hoping to get something more out of the record than a serviceable whipping of crunchily produced, energetic revivalist thrash metal will be left with their hunger. “Schizophrenia” or “Arise” this most certainly is not. And that’s a pity because these ladies certainly have the chops to write something far more engrossing. This is not that album, and that’s perfectly alright. In two years from now, maybe? We'll see.