Inter Arma – “Sulphur English” (Relapse Records)
Oh wow, heavy duty man. If Armageddon could take a musical form, then Inter Arma would be the destroyer. Complex, profound and undoubtedly intense, the band’s name is taken from the Latin meaning ‘in times of war’ so that kinda spells out what to expect i.e. a cataclysmic mix of doom, sludge and heavy psych. We sorta knew that from the band’s 3 prior albums but on “Sulphur English” these Virginians utterly destroy! I mean, this is easily their darkest and heaviest release to date and completed by a sound to match. Immense doesn’t even cover it, as the ultra thick layers of powering guitar and bass create a dense, abyssal atmosphere that would make a funeral seem like a picnic. Completed by colossal drum work and the mesmerising extreme vocals of Mike Paparo, the 9 tracks will not just savage your senses but equally your soul! Masters of the slow build for over a decade, and with a live reputation to match, Inter Arma’s trance inducement is equally formidable, droning into you through lengthy, meditative chanting along with the powerful use of ambience, for which acoustics and even a piano are brilliantly employed, be it on the shorter 2 minute numbers through to the 12 minute epics. From the dull almost tribal drumming to ‘Citadel’ with its slow, djent bending riffs slithering around your brain as background screams and Paparo’s more prominent guttural roars, it’s hard to resist the obvious lure of Inter Arma’s creeping darkness, illuminated mid song by neo classical solos to offer brief respite before descending back into the primitive sludge swamp. Droning into the wastelands led by Paparo’s screams and priestly singing, ‘Howling Lands’ is aptly titled as the dirty chopping riffs actually sound like the footsteps of soldiers, made even more so by the militaristic tom beats on this hugely atmospheric piece completed by siren wailing guitars and feedback. This effortlessly moves onto the next track ‘Stillness’ which does exactly that through gentle acoustics, tranquil vocal harmonies and some soothing slide guitar, and then occasionally popping off cosmically through space rock sounds until finally exploding into a massive soundscape of droning immensity, trippy but distant-in-the-wind vocals, and not forgetting that incredible slide guitar. Heading into the outer realms on the 8 1/2 minute ‘Blood On The Lupines’ with its slow, baritone vocal drawls and dark atmospherics of cold, clanging guitars touched occasionally by melancholic melodies, the visceral contrast of harsh, tortured vocals, powered up guitars and heavy drums couldn’t be more spiritually moving through its defiant aggression to fight out of the gloomy murk, ending in a brilliant shoegaze wall of noise and overcoming success! Completely engrossing through its mix of intensity and evocative atmosphere, “Sulphur English” is an experience that I have no reservations in recommending.