The first time time I heard Into Eternity, they opened for Hate Eternal on a bill heavy with growl-and-gurgle death metal bands. Imagine my surprise when the guitarists kicked into the synchronized runs of "Splintered Visions" and then-new singer Stu Block erupted into impossibly high power metal vocals. I nearly fell over laughing. However, as the set went on, the band won me over with its mix of death, prog, and power metal. Imagine late Death crossed with Dream Theater and Painkiller-era Judas Priest, and you have Into Eternity.
Formed in the late '90s, this Saskatchewan group has undergone a number of lineup changes, with only two original members remaining. However, Into Eternity has developed a singular sound, culminating in 2004's spectacular Buried in Oblivion. The album featured note-perfect, virtuosic instrumental playing, but the highlight was Chris Krall's vocals, which effortlessly went from high melodic singing down to low death growls.
Thus, Block had big shoes to fill. However, he firmly establishes himself here as a formidable vocalist. His range is higher than Krall's; Block occasionally dips down to a competent low growl, but his dirty vocals are mostly midrange rasps. His clean vocals sound less full than Krall's, but he can go much higher; he hits some seriously glass-shattering notes here.
Despite its new vocalist, the band still sounds very much like itself. The few tweaks here are small. The production is clear but beefier than before. Power metal takes slight precedence over death metal, and Block's vocals are mostly clean. The prog element is also slightly decreased, as the guitarists spend less time with technical runs in favor of catchy, anthemic chord progressions. Still, these songs would be "Face-Melters" in Guitar Hero; the extended 9ths in "Nothing" are pure Death circa Symbolic, while the last three songs have incredibly frenzied tremolo picking and double bass kicks.
On this album, Into Eternity has crafted the most cohesive, memorable songs of its career. Those hoping for Buried in Oblivion II may be disappointed, but they have few legitimate grounds for complaint. Could you play these songs? I didn't think so.