“Silent enim leges inter arma”. This is an old Latin phrase from Cicero, which translates roughly as “In times of war, the laws fall silent”. A universal statement that is, unfortunately, as true now as it was in ancient Rome.
History lessons aside, it was also the inspiration for a remarkable band from Richmond Virginia. Within Relapse’s roster I find Inter Arma one of their most challenging sludge/doom artists.
They don’t go for a straightforward pummeling. They’re not the ugliest band in the world like Primitive Man. They’re not trying to ascend riff by riff to Nirwana as Yob. It’s not straight from the coffin funeral doom like Lycus either and neither are they the first to mix up sludge with other blackened genres. Unearthly Trance already excels at that.
No, Inter Arma is kind of the Yes of sludge. They write intricate compositions that cover a whole range of influences.
Their most daring composition so far must have been ‘The Cavern’, a massive, single song that sprawled across more than hour an hour and was originally conceived solely as a live performance, rather than a studio recording.
‘Sulphur English’ might in that sense not be as ambitious from a structural perspective, it is still a challenging record. It starts out with a noisy, menacing intro where slowly massive riffs start pounding on the gates.
‘A Waxen Sea’ keeps a frenetic drum pace among cavernous growls and has a weird Morbid Angel type feel. They keep that Morbid feeling going on other tracks also like the imposing ‘Citadel’. In fact, I’d take those over anything Trey & co composed in the last decade.
That doesn’t mean they’ve gone all death metal though. The absolute counterpoint can be found on single ‘Stillness’ that mixes in some of the apocalyptic folk that we saw on Paradise Gallows closing track ‘Where the Earth Meets the Sky’
The piece the resistance is twelve minute plus epic ‘The Atavist’s Meridian’, a schizophrenic work where the drummer goes completely off the rails in a futile attempt to escape the drag of the murky riffing.
The brooding ‘Blood on the Lupines’ takes it down again until the title track throws oil on the fire one more time and goes out in a towering blaze.
Release date: April 12th, 2019
Label: Relapse Records
- A Waxen Sea
- Howling Lands
- Observances of the Path
- The Atavist’s Meridian
- Blood on the Lupines
- Sulphur English