The epic single-track issue isn’t quite unique, but an uncommon level of creativity and musicianship is required to make the product entertaining and involving. Virginian quintet Inter Arma possesses an outrageous level of inventiveness and aptitude, and 45-minute opus The Cavern (Relapse) is certainly not shy of it.
The sheer gravity and fulminating power of much of the music here is oppressive yet it carries the weight easily, positively gambolling through more intricate moments whilst retaining intensity. A journey through the galaxies begins with eerie then soothing atmospherics, sparing acoustic and strings before the titanic, savage yet occasionally complex riff fires home and gradually introduces the plaintive hollers of Mike Paparo, delivered from atop Kilimanjaro. It’s a powerful flexing of muscle, the soundtrack to Atlas stirring after a deep sleep. That riff deals crushing blows, aided by TJ Childers’ mammoth drums, his sticks pulverising with the power of Thor’s hammer.
It would be simple to dismiss the early stages as the product of adventurous Conan wannabes but the magic of unfettered imagination shines through, not least with some staggering lead guitar play. Some fabulous intricacies at seventeen minutes lift the track to the heavens with the assistance of some SubRosa-like mournful strings, while Thin Lizzy-esque dual leads introduce the final third; a mournful howling pattern accompanying lush orchestration, the soaring beauty of Paparo’s clean vocals aided by Windhand‘s Dorthia Cottrell, all the while retaining the tracks unearthly power and superiority. It’s this blend of raw animal force, aching melody and immeasurable creativity which marks out this fantastic band. More duels bring a gloriously overblown 70s heavy prog passage to a pounding, crushing coda, a gradually slowing yet swelling reprise of the opening structures which is close to orgasmic.
This is an ambitious effort but Inter Arma haven’t merely managed to navigate it, they’ve ridden it into the skies upon Apollo’s chariot. Euphoric, moving and gut-wrenching, quite simply this is a piece of monumental greatness, a game-changer, and essential for all fans of low-end prog.
We should all pack up and go home now. Anything else will seem average after this.