Review Summary: With a unique, unified songwriting ethos, Inter Arma have finally made their myriad influences cohere beautifully.
For pretty much their entire career, Richmond’s Inter Arma have had a daunting task to accomplish. The band started with a laundry list of disparate influences, from Neurosis to Immolation to Pink Floyd, but couldn’t quite work out the difficult alchemy of melding them all together into a stable compound. Paradise Gallows
came close, with an expansive production job that tied the separate tracks together admirably, but in many respects it still felt like a sampler platter of metal music: a helping of doom metal here, a taste of black metal there, a smattering of David Gilmour throughout, and so on. It’s understandable that Inter Arma would need some time to mature and a few tries to get the formula right, and in the meantime, their music was still often captivating. But eventually, the disconnected feel of their albums needed to be rectified. Thankfully, Sulphur English
hits that mark, and hits it hard.
Inter Arma certainly haven’t cut down on their myriad influences on Sulphur English
; they are still clearly a band of manifold forebears. But unlike on previous albums, Inter Arma have crafted a unified songwriting ethos that permeates the entirety of Sulphur English
. The album privileges simple, minimal progressions over face-melting riffs; subtle, measured shifts over hair-trigger technicality; and methodical repetition over soaring, fluid melodies. Inter Arma practice phenomenal restraint, taking only what is necessary from each of their influences to adhere to their unified vision. The end result is less like a sampler platter and more like an intricately-crafted entree, each ingredient hand-selected and exquisitely prepared to harmonize its flavor with the others.
Inter Arma’s consistent songwriting ethos not only brings all the tracks together into a cohesive experience, but also allows each individual track to flourish as unique, novel, something that the band can claim as entirely their own. The Morbid Angel-inspired “A Waxen Sea” is appropriately explosive, but the explosion occurs at a strangely deliberate pace, like watching the tree on the album’s cover catch fire in slow motion, one branch at a time. The folk and psychedelic guitar work on “Stillness” becomes ritualistic, a mantra repeated louder and louder until it’s being howled. The mammoth centerpiece “The Atavist’s Meridian” rides a steady quintuple-meter motif for several minutes before dragging it through a drone-soaked bog for several more. Every track is simultaneously a chapter in a vast voyage and a journey in itself.
On Sulphur English
, Inter Arma have finally found a way to make their many varied influences cohere, and beautifully so. A spectacular experience in its own right, the album is also a remarkable milestone in the band’s career. Having solved the biggest challenge that they set for themselves, Inter Arma can explore their newfound potential unfettered, and it will be very exciting to see what they discover.