Review Summary: A voyage through a tempestuous ocean of metal influences.
There’s something of a paradoxical trend in metal music at the moment. In recent years, metal (black metal especially) has been fracturing into smaller niches and more specific sub-sub-sub-genres so that every listener can be precisely certain of what they’re about to hear before they hit play. Yet novelty is still a precious commodity, so enough bands have used a variation on the phrase “resists categorization” to describe their own music to turn the phrase into a cliche, despite there being more categories to choose from than ever before. A handful of bands (Cobalt and post-hiatus Swans come to mind) really are difficult to categorize, and thus earn a reputation of bringing something truly new to the table.
Richmond-based five-piece Inter Arma is yet another metal band that claims to "resist categorization," and while they're not quite as difficult to categorize as the bands mentioned above, attempting to encapsulate their sound with a single genre label would be insufficient. Rather than combining all their influences at once into a single defining sound, as Cobalt does, Inter Arma’s approach on their third full-length album, Paradise Gallows
, is to shift between a variety of different styles, from doom to black to death, morphing each ever so slightly in order to create a cohesive experience. “An Archer in the Emptiness” is a pummeling death metal track that would not be out of place on an Immolation record. “Transfiguration” begins as a pounding of war drums before exploding into a maelstrom of black metal blast beats. “Primordial Wound” and “The Summer Drones” showcase the range of sounds that exist under the “doom metal” umbrella; the former mixes the feedback and repetitive chugging of Sunn O))) with the heavy chords and drum work of YOB, while the latter lays swirling, U.S. Christmas-esque guitars over an Om-like bass-and-drum groove. A soaring, David Gilmour-inspired riff forms the foundation for opener “Nomini” and interlude “Potomac,” and a guitar solo makes yet another nod to Pink Floyd on the otherwise Neurosis-influenced title track.
Yet Inter Arma manages to combine all of these disparate styles and influences into a cohesive package. The echo-laden production deserves a lot of credit in this regard, as it makes every track on Paradise Gallows
feel huge, in the way that the tempestuous ocean feels huge to the solitary ship on the album cover. This expansive sound ends up being the thread that ties all the pieces together and makes Paradise Gallows
feel like an album from a band with a solitary vision, rather than just a metal sub-genre sampler. There may not be much on Paradise Gallows
that is particularly novel, but Inter Arma pull off every style that they include with enough talent, panache, and consistency of vision to make the album a mesmerizing experience.