There And Back AgainReview by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.
I thoroughly enjoyed Inter Arma's 2013 release, and although FMA did not agree, I was not alone in that enjoyment.* Sky Burial was a thunderous piece of heavy music that while sludge-tinged, defied certain scene aesthetics and easy categorization. The heft was undeniable, and in all the right places. The Cavern follows somewhat quickly on that release. So why so quickly?** Still further, why make a one song album? Why make one song 45 minutes long? Why not break it up into six to nine songs, up to eight minutes long each? There are probably a lot of reasons to make a one 45 minute long song album - publicity, a bet, an internal challenge to push songwriting boundaries. But is there a cohesiveness, a theme that would justify the 45 minutes? These were my thoughts heading into this review of Inter Arma's The Cavern.
Musically, Inter Arma pick up right where they left off. Combining softer acoustic and string passages with monolithic riffs the size of loosed Arctic glaciers, the song/album/"EP"(?) is instantly familiar as distinctly "Inter Arma". This alone wins the band points. We know who we are listening to, and the music uplifts and pounds in proportional measure - almost always in the correct portion. Let's be clear here: the riffs once again win the heavy weight riff lifting contest, hands down. The vocals fit, and do not detract from, the music, which is the general requirement here in metal-land. Mike Paparo's vocals is kind of a sing growl - it's not exactly melodic but it's not indiscernable cookie monsters either.*** Heck, at the 28 minute mark he sings and its graceful, longing, and a perfect segue to another hard/classic rock solo that drifts over the sludge. It's pretty fantastic.
"Pretty fantastic", in fact, is a pretty good assessment of this 45 minute "EP"(?)^. The introduction fits and starts, slowly introducing us to the journey, at the two and half minute mark, hitting with the riffs, but Inter Arma lull then listener back from the edge of this Cavern we are about to enter, such that when we enter and travel another seven minutes of music, there is no discordance when the riffs and heft return. It feels like the first obstacle, the first real trouble after passing from the light above into the darkness, among the stalagmites. Breaking this first 2-12 minutes into several songs would be unnecessary, and would interrupt the journey. There's more "trouble" on the way, of course, but the band have woven the passages so seamlessly that by the final almost frantic final ten minutes rolls along you don't even notice that you are now 37 minutes into this thing. And the payoff is not solely at the end, its throughout The Cavern, but to me it would not be Inter Arma if there wasn't something that feels like hope or triumph in the final ten minutes of The Cavern but its interspersed with more harrowing passages. This triumph of a record is one I keep coming back to and one that puts Inter Arma firmly on the map of the metal bands moving the genre into the 21st century and beyond.^^
4.5 out of 5
* I have no source for this other than my recollection and general impressions. This is not a court of law, so for once what I say is admissible.
**Perhaps heeding my Iron Dogs advice?
***Was going to call him the "singer" but the band are good enough to merit a name instead.
^It is extended, that is true.
^^It took me 45 minutes - one Inter Arma song - to write this review.