Fitting a mold somewhere in the vast landscape between Baroness and Ash Borer, Inter Arma exist as a hulking monolith of cross-genre experimentation. Sky Burial is the sophomore full-length and Relapse debut for the Virginians who, like their music, have been slowly but steadily pounding away at the metallic psyche. The press release for the record mentions a full five genres that the band spreads its wings across, daunting and daring to be sure. But unlike so many hybrid acts seeking to carve their own unique niche in the world of heavy music, Inter Arma do so effortlessly without straying too far from their own established identity.
Sky Burial is a risky and monstrous effort, maxing out a CD at 70 minutes and pushing the limits of a single release. The meat of the album is feasted upon in the form of five double-digit tracks that weave their way through doomy sludge but never fully give themselves away. Skip to any given moment and you don’t know if you’re going to be confronted with a blackened barrage, an eerie acoustic diversion or a slow-fuse of Deep South-inspired drudgery. Breathers come in the form of Americana passages that take a break from the doom and gloom and give you a chance to relax in the eye of the storm before the cyclonic winds pick up again.
|Photos by Karen A. Mann|
Upon my first listen, the diversity and dynamic approach of the tracks left me unsure of what was fully taking place. There’s just so much to digest. The continually rising and falling tension spellbinds you as you wait for the moments when chaos unfolds in a most satisfying manner. It's rare to find slow music that can increase your heart rate and keep you on edge; at times I was left physically nervous. But providing such an emotional and engaging ride is precisely what makes an artist great.
The highlight of the album is the last quarter hour. “Love Absolute” works in partnership with the beginning of the final, titular track to prepare you for the absolute onslaught of the album’s end. Caution is thrown to the wind as Inter Arma end Sky Burial with frenetic, interplaying riffs that build off one another until exploding into a cacophony of never-ending fills and catchy melodic flourishes. You’re left in an eerily calm state, unsure of the madness that was unleashed… and you can’t wait to experience it again.