Into Eternity - 14/09/2008

INTO ETERNITY was formed in 1997 by founding members Tim Roth, Scott Krall and Jim Austin and later released an eponymous, independent album in 1999. The band signed to Century Media Records a year later and then re-released their debut album. In 2001, the band returned with their second album ‘Dead or Dreaming’, an album which saw a more pronounced integration of progressive and death metal. The trend continued on 2004's ‘Buried in Oblivion’ and even further on 2006's ‘The Scattering of Ashes’. Their new (concept-) album entitled ‘The Incurable Tragedy’ was released in Europe on August 25.

INTO ETERNITY's first concept album, ‘The Incurable Tragedy’, also marked their first recording effort with new members Justin Bender (guitars) and Steve Bolognese (drums). This offering was inspired by the deaths of Roth's two best friends, brothers who succumbed to cancer within two months of one another. To make matters worse, when the band began demoing new material shortly after the completion of the Scattering tour -- a star-making year of shows that saw the band perform alongside such internationally renowned acts as Dream Theater, Lamb of God, Megadeth, Opeth, Arch Enemy, The Haunted and Dark Tranquillity -- Roth's father was diagnosed with cancer as well. Showing no mercy, the disease claimed his life last year, just 10 days before Christmas.

Roth channeled his emotions into a moving and riveting album, which is sure to propel the band to new heights within the genre. ‘The Incurable Tragedy’ features a slew of tracks with the band’s trademarked heavy grooves, stop-on-a-dime time changes, reflective lyrics, memorable choruses, shredding solos, and vocals that range from guttural growls to soaring harmonies. This album proves to be the perfect cure for those suffering from a lack of progressive metal perfection and is sure to rank upon many top ten year end lists.

 

So there is much to talk about and guitarist Justin Bender was willing to answer our questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

Your new album ‘The Incurable Tragedy’ was recently released in Europe, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it.

First of all, congrats with your new album, how are you?

Thanks! I am doing good, still recovering from the latest tour but a good solid day of doing nothing should help out.

It’s been two years since ‘The Scattering of Ashes’ came out, so it seems you took your time for the new record. How did you launch into writing material for ‘The Incurable Tragedy’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?

We spent so much time on the road for the Scattering album that we actually didn't get to spend all that much time on the new record. We started writing between tours, as much as we could, then we took 5 months off to finish writing, and recorded it.

Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

A bit of both. There are a few songs where the music just flowed out of Tim, very naturally, and just worked out perfectly right away. Other songs, like Diagnosis Terminal, and Tides of Blood, seemed to be works in progress for many months before we finally got the arrangements right.

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘The Incurable Tragedy’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

Well one goal was that we wanted to mix it ourselves, with the guys at the studio, like Buried in Oblivion and Dead or Dreaming had been done. We love the sound of Scattering, but agreed that we wanted the more organic feel of those albums, less drum replacing and what not.

Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

Definitely.

I read that ‘The Incurable Tragedy’ is a concept album, who was responsible for writing the songs and the lyrics and can you tell me a little more about them?

Tim wrote most of the music, but I wrote a couple songs as well. He did all the ballad and instrumental stuff as well, and composed all the orchestral and piano pieces on his computer. Both Tim and Stu wrote the lyrics, and were careful to wait till most of the music was done and the order of songs was set in place before solidifying the subjects discussed in the songs themselves.

Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘The Incurable Tragedy’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

It basically just sums up the tragic deaths in Tim's life, the brothers and his parents, and how nothing you can do can change what's happened now. It's all intensely tragic, and there is no cure for that situation or the disease itself of course.

Do you have any favorites on the album?

I think my favorite song for both lyrics and musical value would be Time Immemorial. That song is just so strong, to me. One Funeral Hymn For Three is another absolute favorite of mine, it's a total riff fest and I love the vocals.

A couple of months after the release of ‘The Scattering of Ashes’ drummer Jim Austin  and guitarist Collin Craig left the band. So now Tim is the last founding member left, what are his sentiments on the subject?

At this point Tim has been dealing with member changes a lot and it hasn't seemed to deter his drive. I'd like to say that he's happy with how stable this lineup has been and we're all looking forward to the future of the band.

Did the line-up changes have an influence on the new songs?

Steve definitely wrote the drum parts a lot different than Jim would have in a lot of the songs so that was a big change. Steve has a jazz background, and is influenced heavily by that. Don't get me wrong though, he's definitely a metal player at heart. Tim had been writing the scattering all by himself, so he welcomed my input as a writer. It was just hard to keep up, cause that guy is a writing machine!

Can you give us a short introduction of the new members, who they are, were Tim found you guys and what was your band-experienced before you joined Into Erternity?

Steve is from Boston, MA, and was a huge fan of the band. He auditioned for the band before Gigantour actually, because Adam left and he knew the band was going to need a new drummer. It's well known that Jim has been unable to tour extensively for quite some time. Jim just did the Gigantour, then Steve took over after that. Steve played briefly in Beyond the Embrace, just on tour.

Myself as well, I was a fan of the band and I lived in a nearby smaller city. It was pretty easy for me to drive down whenever Tim wanted me to and to start working on songs. However, with Gigantour and everything going on, it took me months to finally get over to his place. By then I had learned 18 songs by ear, so I went in very prepared. Tim liked that I didn't have to be taught much of anything, and that's pretty much what got me the gig. Before this I had no touring experience, but played in a few local bands that did pretty well.

Did the new guys, including yourself,  contribute to the songs or add new elements on ‘The Incurable Tragedy’?

I wrote all of Indignation, and parts of Diagnosis Terminal. Steve actually wrote the intro riff to Spent Years of Regret, and he wrote all of his drum parts on his own in Boston.

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you and is there any typical way that an Into Eternity song comes into being?

Well we definitely need to have the catchy hook chorus. Something anyone can sing along to and get into. Other than that, almost anything goes. Gotta have some wicked odd time signature stuff, and there is almost always extreme tempo changes in a song. This album we wrote in protools at Tim's house, and it made it easier to play with arrangements.

You break the traditional commercial trends with your song structures, was it a conscious decision for the band to move in that direction or was it just a natural progression?

I think it was fairly natural. We never go out thinking “let's write a radio hit” or anything like that. We have catchy choruses, but otherwise the songs are against the grain.

For those who have been living under a rock, how would you describe your style of music to someone unfamiliar with it?

A hybrid of Progressive metal, and death metal, with elements of almost every type of metal and that melody is essential.

How hard was it to come up with a follow-up for the well received ‘The Scattering of Ashes’ and what do you think are the main differences between your previous albums and ‘The Incurable Tragedy’?

Tim had the concept behind The Incurable Tragedy figured out right after Scattering came out, when Dave and Danny passed away. So from the first moment of thinking about this album, it's had it's own grand vision and direction and it was obvious from the start that it would differ from Scattering in a number of ways. A lot of emotion went into this album, and that may be the one main thing that separates it from all the previous albums. We hope that fans can feel the passion and emotion behind these songs.

How has the band's sound progressed from ‘The Scattering of Ashes’ to ‘The Incurable Tragedy’?

I'd say that the music is a bit more melody oriented on this album, and as I said, very much derived from the depth of human emotion. All that Tim has gone through has been put into this music, and I think it shows very much.

About the song writing, how can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Into Eternity?

I believe it's been a different process for pretty much every album so far, but in this case everything was demoed at Tim's house on an mbox with a drum program. It was awesome because we could fool around with arrangements without having to stand in the jamspot for countless hours. It allowed for us to really put a lot of thought into the songs. Granted, some didn't even seem to need it, a lot of this really flowed naturally.

What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?

There seems to be a never ending flow of musical ideas, so that part is not too hard, especially with a writer like Tim. And yes, the music comes first, and then the vocals/lyrics get written to suit the music.

How did the recording process proceed this time, did you work differently than on previous albums and how much time did you spend in the studio?

The recording process was pretty similar. The biggest difference being that since Steve lives in Boston, the material was written, sent to him, and he wrote his parts and then came to Regina. The recording process from there was normal, except that we didn't fully rehearse much of it as a band before laying it down. We spent a good month in the studio before we went out with Symphony X, then we came back and I spent about a 100 hours probably mixing it with Grant, then Tim came in and did the final tweaks and levels.

Who was responsible for the production, and did you run into any difficulties?

We worked with Grant Hall at Touchwood, and we all kind of helped out with the production of the album. Tim had a very solid idea of how he wanted a lot of parts to sound and stick out and flow.

Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

I have seen some previews of reviews we've gotten in some big magazines and webzines, and it's all been absolutely amazing so far. I've been blown away.

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

Well you write the music that you like to hear, and that you're passionate about. If everyone else likes it though, that is amazing. I love getting the good feedback from any source. Of course you have your haters as well, and that's all cool too. You can't please everyone, but at least you can please yourself and others seem to dig what we do. It's all good.

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

I'm completely happy with the album, I think the songs are all fantastic.

What about the CD are you most proud of?

That's hard to say. I'm very proud of the whole thing! Every end of it sounds great to me, and it has been very rewarding to be a part of it.

I’d like to talk about your personal goals nowadays, specifically as a guitar player. Is there a particular area in your playing that you are still working on?

There is always new stuff for myself or Tim to learn. I'm trying to get my arpeggios smoother and just lead styles in general. Tim's been working on mastering as many different scale modes as he can in the last while. I tend to learn a lot myself, just from what he learns. The guy is an unreal player but he never is satisfied, always has to keep learning.

Which song is your favorite one to play live? Which song do you find is the most challenging one to play live?

My favorites are Splintered Visions and Elysium Dream... and from the new album, Spent Years of Regret, so far. Most challenging song.... maybe Time Immemorial or Diagnosis Terminal. But that's partially because they're new. They get easier every day. None of the songs are very “easy” though, so it's definitely a challenge every night, in a very fun sort of way.

Who are your greatest influences - both in terms of composition, as well as your guitar-playing?

John Petrucci for playing and composition, I've always dug Jon Shaffer from Iced Earth's ability to compose a song. Yngwie is the cleanest speed picker I've ever heard, I'd love to play more like he does. JP is the man though, that guy can play anything and everything and play it well, and with feel, and he can write great songs as well.

Tracking back a little bit, when you were just getting started out with playing the guitar, you obviously put in quite a few hours honing your technique. What was your practice routine like, especially during that period and compared to now?

I think maybe my practice routine was a little better when I first started out. I've worked at curing that over the past few years though, I try to put in at least an hour a day if not more. Sometimes after a tour I'll take a bit of downtime, but I like to woodshed as much as I can find the time for.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?

Well I'm personally a very a introverted type of guy, and I like a lot of nerdy sci fi stuff. Star Trek and all that. That definitely does not go for the rest of the band, I'm definitely on my own in that regard. Hahaha I'd rather sit at my computer, or with a guitar, than go out and party most nights.

What have been the highlights and low points throughout your career?

Touring with some of my favorite bands, especially Dream Theater, is the ultimate high point. As well as going to Japan. Being broke all the time is really the only low point about being a career musician, but to me it's totally worth it because I love what I do and you can't buy this kind of life experience.

With such a big fusion of styles in your music, are there any particular bands who’ve been a big influence in your song writing, metal or otherwise?

Well it's kind of always been that many different styles influenced us to write one style that uses all those different influences. As far as fusion of styles, bands like Acid Bath and Fear Factory were good early influences towards that idea of playing different styles at the same time.

Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?
At a young age, Master of Puppets. Later on, when I was actually playing music, I'd say Dream Theater’s “Scenes From a Memory” was one of the biggest.

I think Into Eternity has surpassed everyone’s expectations but Tim had big dreams, to tour with big bands, and he has made that happen. I'm not sure if we've surpassed his original dreams just yet though, he's got big plans. The most rewarding thing about playing in this band is just being able to hit the road, and do something I love every night of my life, in a different city. Seeing the world is something most people don't get to do and I love it!

How would you describe your own music and what are your musical influences?

I listen to many different kinds of music, from Nick Cave to Cash, to Paw... it all influences me in my life, but not necessarily in my music. Not in into eternity really. I kinda think that some day I'd like to write an obscure album of just whatever kind of stuff comes to mind, and I'm sure those other odd non-metal influences would shine through more in something like that. That's a long way off for me though.

What can we expect from Into Eternity in the near future, any touring plans?

We pretty much always have touring plans. We hope to get over to Europe ASAP, and in 2009 we will definitely go out and do a headlining run of the USA. It feels like the time is right.

Where do you see the band going within the next 5 years, and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?
Hopefully more headlining, we seem to agree that that's the future right there. We'll still take support slots of course, there's still many wicked bands we'd love to hit the road with. I think the next album will be a little more open context. Not exactly “anything goes” but definitely going to tread some new water I'm sure. We have only barely started writing for it, but we've got some great ideas in the works already.

Any last statement?

I hope everyone out there is digging the new album! We're very proud of it and we put our hearts on our sleeves with this one – hope everyone can feel it in the music! Thanks for the interview, take care.

Thanks for your time.

Best regards,
Eugene Straver

Current members :
Stu Block − Clean, Death, and black Vocals (2005−present)
Tim Roth − Guitar, Backing Clean, and Death Vocals (1997−present)
Justin Bender − Guitar (2006−present)
Troy Bleich − Bass, Backing Clean, and Death Vocals (2004−present)
Steve Bolognese − Drums (2006−present)

Former members :
Jim Austin − Drums and Death Vocals (1997−2007)
Chris Eisler − Guitar (1999)
Christopher McDougall − Keyboards (1999−2001)
Scott Krall − Bass and Backing Vocals (1997−2005)
Daniel Nargang − Guitar, Clean and Death Vocals (2001)
Chris Krall − Clean and Death Vocals (2003-2004)
Rob Doherty − Guitar and Death Vocals (2003−2005)
Collin Craig − Guitar (2006)
Dean Sternburger − Vocals (2004)
Adam Sagan - DRUMs (2005)

Studio albums:
Into Eternity (1999)
Dead or Dreaming (2001)
Buried in Oblivion (2004)
The Scattering of Ashes (2006)
The Incurable Tragedy (2008)