Despite third album Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records) establishing Virginian quintet Inter Arma as one of the World’s premier exponents of Harsh Progressive Metal, it’s nevertheless arguable as to whether or not the band remains in the shadow of 2014’s staggering opus The Cavern (Relapse Records). Fourth full-length Sulphur English (also Relapse), surely their most brutal yet, will lay such doubts to rest.Continue reading
It’s possible to believe that the boys of Virginian powerhouse Inter Arma gave themselves an impossible mountain to climb, given the superlative-exhausting greatness of 2014’s single-track opus The Cavern (Relapse Records). The hubbub generated in anticipation of new album Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records) shows the rapidly gained reputation the band’s output has gathered, and it’s an excitement that proves well-founded.
From the mournful acoustic beauty of opener ‘Nomini’, expanding to some incredibly affecting dual lead soloing which reappears alongside heartbreaking piano to devastating effect in the molten melodies of ‘Potomac’, it’s obvious that the unit’s collective desire to elicit emotion with powerful statements is still impossible to contain. TJ Childers’ gargantuan drumming is also to the fore and it is this, combined with growling riffs and Mike Paparo’s spacey, resonant roars, that governs the monstrous first shot in earnest ‘An Archer in the Emptiness’.
The echoing might carry into the following ‘Transfiguration’ and the chaotic, punishing Prog of the aptly named ‘Violent Constellations’: the quickened passages still implosive, the coruscating roars rebounding across the ages. Indeed, it seems the band now has more in common with the so-called ‘Caveman Doom’ of Conan than their Blackened roots, yet there’s a sense of grandeur and invention that the Liverpudlians can only dream of; a storytelling wonder which makes its lengthy tracks breeze by. The opening riffs of the future classic ‘Primordial Wound’, staccato yet oscillating and crushing, create a wall of sound, whilst Paparo’s fearful chants dwarf those of Charlton Heston’s Moses, hollering from atop Mount Sinai. ‘The Summer Drones’, meanwhile, still trampled by the footsteps of a colossus, sees a Jim Morrison-esque clean vocal soar through the skies on the back of monolithic, pregnant rhythms which grow with a fulminating tension, the middle section a dream of rampant Doors-like atmospheres yet crashing with the brutal euphoria of the Gods at war.
The title track begins with lazy Lounge airs, the undeniably sinister feel coated in a relaxed warmth. So the explosion is unexpected when it should be anything but, whilst still retaining torch-song sensibilities and more of that exquisite, Floydesque solo work easing the path of the pummeling body. Closer ‘Where the Earth Meets the Sky’ returns to the ethereal yet powerful beauty, a tragic Country lament given magnificence by echoing harmonies and that mesmerising strength, here sparing yet marvellously effective.
It’s evident that The Cavern set the template for Inter Arma’s future. Their Black elements almost gone, save the frequent obsidian rasps, the band nevertheless stand apart in making such epic-sounding, ferocious yet moving music; in turn reaffirming their status as one of the Metal scene’s most important outfits. That impossible mountain? Scaled, and some.
It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the end of another year packed tighter than Joey de Maio’s loincloth with incredible genre-pushing, eardrum-violating, neckache-inducing metal.
So we can begin to tell the story of a year which saw us give more top marks than any other year so far (and more 2’s and 3’s out of 10, too!), a year that left us inundated with so many great releases, we sought the opinions of our esteemed and respected writing team and we offer forth their albums of the year.
The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 has commenced. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.
In our first installment we bring you albums 50 through to 41.
50. HARK – Crystalline (Season of Mist)
Genre-bending aggression with doses of Doom, Prog, Psychedelia and Hardcore. Heavy as a very heavy thing.
49. THE HAUNTED – Exit Wounds (Century Media)
“The album is filled with urgency and manages to be relentlessly heavy without compromising on those insanely catchy riffs. The Haunted have come back stronger than ever… easily the band’s best effort a decade” DAN SWINHOE 9/10 Full review here
48. THE WOUNDED KINGS – Consolamentum (Candlelight)
“Favouring lengthy yet subtly evolving guitar workouts that never lapse into repetitive dirge territory,The Wounded Kings go about working their dark, smoky magic with grim elegance… Simply put, The Wounded Kings are the quintessential English doom band “ JAMES CONWAY 8.5/10 Full review here
47. SCHAMMASCH – Contradiction (Prosthetic)
“The quality of this album is obvious right from the beginning. Schammasch have created a record both challenging and endlessly refreshing, a truly remarkable sonic journey from beginning to end.” CAITLIN SMITH 9/10 Full review here
46. AUTOPSY – Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves (Peaceville)
“Tourniquets… continues in gnarly, raw and near sludgy death metal vein, but maintains their run of high quality and in fact tops anything that has come from their return.” CHRIS TIPPELL 8/10 Full review here
45. KROKODIL – Nachash (Spinefarm)
“With a heavy dose of Mastodon in its veins, Krokodil are a groove juggernaut that pummels all in its path with its three guitarists of fury” DAN O’BRIEN 9/10 Full review here
44. INTER ARMA – The Cavern (Relapse)
“The sheer gravity and fulminating power of much of the music here is oppressive yet it carries the weight easily, this blend of raw animal force, aching melody and immeasurable creativity marks out this fantastic band” PAUL QUINN 10/10 Full review here
43. DEVIL YOU KNOW – The Beauty of Destruction (Nuclear Blast)
“(with) all the promise of a powerhouse, and it delivers on all fronts. The songs are well-crafted, nicely developed and excellently executed.” LYNN JORDAN 9.5/10 APRIL ALBUM OF THE MONTH Full review here
42.BLUES PILLS – Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
“…a record that understands and curates its heritage and lineage but is fresh, contemporary and massively memorable. This is the record that you’ll be recommending to your friends for months to come” MAT DAVIES 9/10 Full review here
41. ARTIFICIAL BRAIN – Labyrinth Constellation (Profound Lore)
“Technical death metal with sci-fi themes, brilliant, utterly amazing, breath-taking and challenging from the first to the last second.” TIAGO MOREIRA 9.5/10 Full review here
Compiled by Steve Tovey
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.