Inter Arma
Sky Burial

It has been a few years since Inter Arma scorched a trail through the underground with their debut LP. A corrosive whirlwind of doom, sludge, grind, and thrash, Sundown was a welcome blast of fresh air. Since then they’ve been scooped up by Relapse and spent the intervening years writing their sophomore full length. Sky Burial is a mind bending flash of white hot metal even more enthralling than Sundown. Inspired by a Tibetan funeral practice where bodies of the dead are left exposed on mountaintops to be consumed by vultures, Inter Arma expands upon the wide range of influences and sounds of their debut with a staid and thoughtful approach fit for the solemn subject matter.

The quintet has restrained Sundown’s notable aggression and dialed back the squalling approach. Sky Burial is meditative and deliberate in composition. Riffs are repeated more often and the breakneck genre swings are subdued. They’ve ratcheted the psychedelia up, veering off in to the territory of Subarachnoid Space, while maintaining their trademark brutality. Grinding blasts, black metal inspired passages, crawling doom and sludge, and angular Spaceboy-style math riffing all make appearances, as each style folds in to the other.

This everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach would be a disaster in less talented hands, but Inter Arma take the challenge and smoke it like fine Tibetan hash. “The Survival Fires” burns out on corrosive blasting and off kilter chugging only for them to rebuild the pyre over the course of the two track “The Long Road Home”. The first part is an emotional acoustic segue toward a towering spaced out psych monster second half. Floydian guitar drips build to a swirling, flowing lead, ultimately unfurling in a denouement of black metal blasting and throat shredding screams. “Destroyer” follows with a ten minute meditation on a single minimalist riff that stacks higher and higher as the drums build to a pounding conclusion.

“sblood” shares the minimalist approach of “Destroyer”, and serves as a roiling transition to “Westward”. Rolling toms tumble circuitously to a hard boil, building a smartly restrained tension that never breaks. The abrupt end makes the impact of the massive sludge groove a few minutes in to “Westward” all the more earth shaking. The stage is set for closing duo “Love Absolute” and the titular closing track. “Love Absolute” follows the template set by the first part of “The Long Road Home” laying a solemn memorial before the vultures arrive and the ravages of “Sky Burial” set in. Heady atmospheres and a slow burning plod ultimately devolve to a frenzy of angular math metal riffing, like Spaceboy swallowing Neurosis, for a suitably exhausting conclusion to an epic album.

Sky Burial is a genuine musical achievement. It’s an album of massive scope, a perfect marriage of image, art, concept, and musicality. Inter Arma has released a challenging, genre bending aural feast of metal that goes beyond doom, beyond sludge, and beyond the endless tagging efforts of subgenrephiles to land in that coveted spot of just fucking heavy. It’s not easy to stand out when you’re on label that hosts titans like Brutal Truth, Unearthly Trance, and Cough, but these boys from Richmond have carved out their own space and thrown down a serious fuckin’ gauntlet for the rest of the metal scene.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chuck Kucher
May 16th, 2013

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