Her journey began in November 2011 when Into Eternity put out the call for a “touring only” singer. She jumped in with both feet.
“I found out about the audition and called (Into Eternity drummer) Brian Newbury right away,” Kiernan says. “I just wanted to push myself to the top and prove to myself and others that I can actually do this, and that there are no limitations. After I called him we both went to my studio and spent two days recording the audition songs that Tim (Roth/guitars, founder) wanted me to do.”
Roth recalls the events leading up to having to place the ad that eventually snared Kiernan...
“We (the band) were rehearsing on a Friday, and after a whole weekend of rehearsals Stu hit me with the news that he’d joined Iced Earth. And then he hit me with a CD of him singing some new Iced Earth stuff. So not only did he tell me, he showed me some of the material they’d already recorded. I was just floored. Stu and I are best friends, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, so it makes sense that someone would come in and invite Stu to join their band. Jon Schaffer (guitars) knows talent, I know talent, and Stu has always been that shining diamond in the rough. When I’d seen him in his previous band he really impressed me. I knew I had to have a guy with his kind of vocals in Into Eternity.”
There was, of course, a truckload of trepidation on Kiernan's part going in. Block didn’t get snatched up by Iced Earth for putting in a half-assed effort, and his vocal acrobatics set the bar out of reach for many seasoned metal singers.
“It’s very intimidating because they’re big shoes to fill,” Kiernan agrees. “I’ve been listening to Into Eternity since high school, and I even remember when Stu joined the band. I wasn’t very happy about that, so I understand how everyone would be feeling right now. Then again, I can’t believe that I get the honour to take on such an amazing opportunity. I don’t know… why me? But I’m so thankful and I’m going to give it all I’ve got. It’s a huge challenge singing Stu’s parts. It really helps that I’ve been in my other band, THE ORDER OF CHAOS, for seven years, so it’s almost like I got a head start. But then again, these Into Eternity vocals are a whole new level for me.”
Block is still a member of Into Eternity, but Roth is a realist. Iced Earth isn’t a disposable weekend warrior garage band, and it’s very possible that Block may one day be forced to ditch Into Eternity if he wants to keep what’s now his day job.
“That’s how it could end up,” Roth agrees, “but we don’t want to close the door because you never know what’s going to happen. Maybe in two or three years Jon Schaffer will decide he wants to work with someone else. Or maybe Stu will go off and do a solo thing rather than come back to Into Eternity. I mean, he’s at that level now where… why would he really have to come back? At the same time, he loves Into Eternity’s music and he has an emotional attachment to the songs that he helped to write. We’re hopeful, but at the same time we have to move forward because Iced Earth is blowing up now with Stu up front.”
“Stu now has a real job playing music, which is what we were always working towards, so that’s another reason we’re so happy for him. We had shows booked in Calgary and Edmonton, but Stu was in the US recording the Iced Earth album, so he literally had to fly back to Canada just in time to make it to those shows. But, Iced Earth paid for that flight to accommodate Stu, so they showed us respect, which was great. It’s different now because Stu is with them full time, so things are operating separately. His full time is with Iced Earth now.”
It turns out that Kiernan didn’t have to resort to crossing her fingers and hoping for the best when it came time to prepare for taking on Block’s role. He was on hand to guide her through the process of following and hopefully matching his footsteps.
“Stu actually came to my audition and taught me to get into the music and own every word,” she reveals. “That helped the most, I think. He has so much control with his vocals and just listening to him sing even only after two days, I’ve learnt so much from him. I’m actually singing in a much different way, and my other band has even noticed that I’ve gotten so much better in just three months. Stu is amazing and I know I’m never going to sound exactly like him. It’s going to be my own style and I’m going to put my 110% into it. The only thing I have a hard time with is the really low growls, but I’ve become a part of the most amazing talented group of people in Into Eternity, so it’s not a problem.”
At press time Into Eternity had just wrapped up a string of Canadian west coast tour dates, the first of two tours taking place this summer to “re-introduce the band to the fans” according to Roth, based on the strength of their ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘Fukushima’ singles, released in early 2011 and early 2012 respectively. By all accounts, what could have been an unpleasant uphill battle turned out to be a career affirming experience.
“The fans are amazing,” says Kiernan. “At first they’re very skeptical and they don’t know what to think and I understand all of that. But it seems by the end of the show they respond positively. They’ve all been so supportive. I never know how it’s going to go and I get nervous, but the way the fans have reacted… so very awesome! And it blows me away when they say the things they do. It makes me blush (laughs).”
“It feels really natural working with Amanda,” Roth adds. “She has the set down plus some new songs we threw at her. ‘3 Dimensional Aperture’ is a new song in the set that we haven’t played since 2005. She’s really stepped up to the plate for us. The fans have been falling in love with Amanda. She’s been getting marriage proposals and full-on love letters via Facebook; she's been overwhelmed by the great responses, so thanks to all the understanding fans.”
Into Eternity’s rebuilding process also includes a new management deal with Extreme Management Group (EMG), who are currently working to secure a record deal. The release of the band’s catalogue on vinyl through War On Music and Century Media has also served to add some much needed and long overdue exposure. The question remains, however, once a record deal has been secured and the new material is laid down in the studio, who is going to be fronting the band?
“Stu appeared on our two new singles and he’ll be singing more songs on the new album,” Roth reveals, adding that he’d like to get Kiernan on the album as well. “So far he has demoed his vocals on three other unreleased tracks that are fully done instrumentally. Stu is on tour with Iced Earth right now so when he has time we ll get him in the studio.”
Live photos used with kind permission of J Kiernan Photography.