Friday, March 15, 2013

Inter Arma: Sky Burial (2013)


I’m not quite sure what to make of Virginia’s Inter Arma. The band’s sophomore full-length Sky Burial defies categorization while sounding completely familiar. They combine a lot of different elements, but primarily they take the sound of current-day U.S. black metal (e.g. Castevet) into the tempo and song structures of an arty kind of groove metal. It reminds me a great deal of France’s Eryn Non Dae, with some caveats.

Are they boldly combining influences in new ways, or do they lack identity? That’s largely a function of how good you think it is, and in all honesty it’s little of both, but I’m leaning more towards the lack of identity.

Case in point: the short acoustic/clean tracks don’t seem to belong, not adding anything significant to the experience. And what’s with the Western flavor to “The Long Road Home (Iron Gate)”? Elsewhere, you can point to a lot of obvious influences. “The Long Road Home” begins as Pink Floyd tribute complete with mellow guitars, synth, and wind noise. In the last few minutes it suddenly changes to full-on black metal, the transition sounding remarkably like what Panopticon did at the beginning of Kentucky. The slow, hypnotic “Destroyer” and its howling vocals reflect Ramesses and the longest cuts out of early Mastodon, while the last portion of the title track is a clear nod to Crack the Skye.

The record also suffers from being too long, but this should be read as both compliment and criticism. It’s a criticism of the album, because there’s simply no reason it needed to have 10-13 minute songs and go on for 70 minutes. But it’s a compliment to the band’s potential, because even though it does drag, it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as the track listing suggests it should. I don’t know whether this will make any sense, but it only feels like a 55 minute album full of 8-10 minute songs.

So, in short, Inter Arma has a lot of potential, but Sky Burial could use a lot of streamlining. But the shortest proper metal song, "'sblood," is pretty damn cool.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I've been a fan of Inter Arma since their debut and I really am enjoying this so far and don't find it drags at all. I totally disagree about lacking identity, there's a definite Inter Arma DNA running through their work (or at least I think so). Maybe our differing opinion stems from my ambivalence towards most black metal, so I approach this as proggy sludge with BM elements rather than a BM album.