Generally speaking, I like my coffee downtuned and doomy, just like my metal. Never been a big fan of the blackened stuff, but Inter Arma caught my ear with their 2013 Relapse debut Sky Burial, which owes about as much to Neurosis as it does to Emperor. Hailing from the same Richmond, Virginia scene as labelmates Cough and Windhand has clearly injected a heavy helping of southern grit that you won’t find up in the frozen woods of Norway—in fact, this effort is much slower and sludgier than its predecessor, with very few black-metal moments remaining.
Paradise Gallows is certainly an ambitious effort, with nine tracks spanning just over 70 minutes. Instrumental intro “Nomini” displays shades of Candlemass, what with its slow tempo and clean guitar tones, before it fades out into the blackened sludge barrage of “An Archer in the Emptiness.” This seven-minute number sees some NOLA-style guitar riffs collide with frantic, black-metal drumming and vocals that have a foot in either camp, creating an effect largely akin to Primitive Man.
“Transfiguration” drops the pace pretty noticeably, delivering a slab of guttural death-doom aux Coffins for the first three minutes, before being whipped up into a two-minute, mid-paced, black-metal vortex à la old-school Satyricon. (Pretty sure I’ve got a copy of Dark Medieval Times sitting around somewhere…) But then it’s back to the sludge, with some slow, punishing riffs that hit you in the gut like a doom-metal dump truck. Tis a rather heavy load, indeed.
“Primordial Wound” is even heavier than its predecessor—if that’s even possible—a super-slow sludgy slice that sounds sorta like Graves at Sea at its bleakest, albeit with a more guttural vocal. “The Summer Drones” adopts a meditative, Middle-Eastern vibe à la OM, though this song is notably heavier than anything Cisneros and Amos have been peddling over the past few years. “Potomac” brings back that opening riff from “Nomini” before adding piano to the mix—a welcome mellow interlude after all that punishing sludge, though it eventually builds into a crashing post-rock crescendo of its own.
And they leave us with a pair of lumbering juggernauts before all is said and done. The nearly 12-minute title track also starts off slow and mellow, a sparsely strummed guitar ringing out over a pulsating drum beat. We actually hear some clean singing here—and it actually kinda sounds like Scott Kelly. (Their Neurosis roots run deep!) After a little more than three minutes, the drums get louder, the riffs more sinister and the vocals deeper and growlier, though they still crawl alone the same snail’s pace, eventually injecting some soaring clean guitar riffs into the mix.
The jarring transition of the kick-drum intro that begins “Violent Constellations” jars us out of our reverie, before building up into a relentless stop-start riff assault, while bringing the long-buried black-metal attack back to the front. But this 11+ minute number also has its share of slower Neurosian moments thrown in for good measure.
“Where the Earth Meets the Sky” leads us out on a lighter note, a strummed-guitar and clean-vocal ballad that sounds like Scott Kelly solo with some soaring country & western backing vocals. An eerie end to a haunting masterpiece.
Inter Arma on tour
Jul 8 NYC/Brooklyn NY St Vitus
Jul 9 Boston MA Great Scott
Jul 10 Buffalo NY Waiting room
Jul 11 Cleveland OH Grog Shop
Jul 12 Detroit MI Pike Room
Jul 13 Chicago IL Empty Bottle
Jul 14 Milwaukee WI Cactus Club
Jul 15 Minneapolis MN 7th Street Entry
Jul 16 Fargo ND The Aquarium
Jul 19 Seattle WA Barboza
Jul 20 Portland OR Dour Fir
Jul 22 San Francisco CA Thee Parkside
Jul 23 Glendale CA Complex
Jul 24 San Diego CA Soda Bar
Jul 25 Phoenix AZ Rebel Lounge
Jul 28 San Antonio TX Limelight
Jul 29 Austin TX Sidewinder
Jul 30 Dallas TX Three Links
Jul 31 New Orleans LA Gasa Gasa
Aug 1 Birmingham AL Spring Street Firehouse
Aug 2 Atlanta GA The Earl
Aug 3 Asheville NC Mothlight