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Album Review: INTER ARMA New Heaven


Inter Arma separate themselves to the stereotypical genre nerd debates… blackened, deathened, sludgened… who cares? They play heavy, imaginative music with as much unpredictability as it has good old-fashioned riffs. This is certainly what made their 2019 album Sulfur English such a beautiful amalgamation of sounds, whether it be neofolk crescendos like “Stillness” or devastating haymakers like “Citadel.”

Look no further than their covers EP Garbers Days Revisited to hear Inter Arma‘s diverse interests, from Tom Petty and Prince to Ministry and Venom. It truly feels like this band could go anywhere, which more or less happens on their newest album New Heaven. With Inter Arma embracing discordant, abstract black metal also comes some of their most melodious music to date.

The album’s alien textures and discordant riff changes comprise a truly spine-chilling experience. The opening title track is the perfect statement of intent, with T.J. Childers‘ veracious drumming driving Trey Dalton and Steven Russell through a cavalcade of atonal anti-harmonies and spiraling flurries of notes. Even though Mike Paparo‘s vocals start on the deeper side, the vibe is much colder than one might expect after Sulfur English.

What remains intact from the band’s catalog so far is a respect for taking their time. Even when Childers blasts away on “Violet Seizures,” his urgency doesn’t keep the guitars from marinating in ethereal modulations or bewitching anti-melodies. The full entrance of Paparo‘s shrieking side solidifies this album within the caverns of experimental black metal.

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While a lot of black metal weirdos tend to approach chords the way splatter artists approach painting, real chops, and thoughtfulness are audible within cuts like “Desolation’s Harp.” Even without accounting for the excitable guitar leads toward the end, the grating clashes of notes leave enough room for emotive chord progressions within the percussive fray.

Said leads turn out to be a foreshadowing for the epic doom interlude “Endless Grey,” which also functions like a progressive rock solo section full of melodic bass lines from Joel Moore and weeping guitar motifs. Call it Pallbearer worship if you want, but it’s also a very nice shakeup from the austere tumult that proceeds it.

Any pretense that this would be a weird black metal album becomes forgotten once “Gardens in the Dark” and “The Children the Bombs Overlooked” bring things into a compelling cross-section of a gloomy, foreboding cross-section of goth, post-rock, and folk. While they share compelling baritone singing, the former cut’s shimmering drones and ethereal guitar strains build more gradually into a hypnotic dirge of cinematic bliss.

By contrast, the latter song feels like a vehicle for Childers to show off his incredible drumming ability. He keeps upping the ante, building from an evolving tribal feel to an almost jazzy solo work into the blast beats fans would expect. The guitars and vocals follow the rising action exquisitely, following the unending moments from desolate doom into an avalanche of blackened sorrow.

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Attention to the sound character also helps keep Inter Arma‘s stylistic shifts interesting, as more elegiac tracks like “Concrete Cliffs” have a noticeably warmer, beefy drum sound supporting the hazier guitar tones. In short, the doom sounds like doom just as much as the black metal sounds like black metal. They’re not afraid to change the production value to capture the essence of the music they want people to hear, from destructive extremity to the gentle alt-country of the closing track “Forest Service Road Blues.”

Such an ornate tapestry of piano, acoustic strumming, and growling singing would easily support a whole album in this style. The forlorn string sections, vivid lyricism, and lush soundscapes are worlds above the experimentation of lesser acts. This doesn’t sound like a metal band trying to play country. This is a group of great musicians writing what they want to hear.

While the beginning might have listeners assuming what Inter Arma have in store with New Heaven, the full album experience is as diverse as ever. This band simply can’t divorce themselves from creativity, because it is woven into their sonic foundations. This album isn’t one for genre purists, but lovers of pure expression created by people with a deep understanding of multiple types of music.

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