Inter Arma – New Heaven (Relapse)

Wednesday, 17th April 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

I need to get something off of my chest first: why is Virginia’s finest band, Inter Arma, so criminally overlooked? They’ve been at it since 2006 and yet the group’s pretty much stayed below the radar of most metal aficionados. Is it because the five-piece make music on their own terms? Does the fact that they craft lengthy epics with absolutely punishing payoffs keep them from being embraced by the masses? Whatever the reason, for the most part of a decade, Inter Arma has been that buried treasure, riches in aural fulfillment unlike any other band out there right now.

New Heaven, their latest opus trims much of the fat from previous releases, and it’s all for the better. I’m not saying that their previous LPs are lackluster; on the contrary, they have ways exhibited exemplary songwriting and performances on epics such as Sky Burial and Paradise Gallows. But this time around, 40 minutes of runtime does wonders for the band without sacrificing any of the power that makes Inter Arma records so potent.

Lead single “New Heaven” is an experiment in dissonant guitar parts that make sense when you approach it the way one takes on, say, a Keiji Haino record. Piledriver double bass, Mikr Paparo’s stentorian boom and banshee wails in one track makes this an instant classic in their armory. Next comes “Violet Seizures”, which is a perfect argument for having TJ Childers included in every discussion of “Great Drummers”. Guitars sharp as sawblades, vocals sounding like an elder god’s cries from below and energy that doesn’t let up in its’ entire run time. This is gonna be a treat in a live setting, definitely. “Desolation’s Harp” concludes the opening salvo of fast-as-fuck drumming and soaring dynamics anchored by Paparo’s unreal vocal performance.

Joel Moore, Inter Arma’s newest and (hopefully) permanent bass player, makes his dexterous presence known with the title track and breather “Endless Grey”, as Trey Dalton and Steven Russell solo the shit out of their axes. “Gardens in the Dark” is Mike Paparo’s most memorable vocals to date, which makes this reviewer hotly anticipate the new Artificial Brain LP with him replacing Will Smith’s insectoid gurgles. “The Children The Bombs Overlooked” is a brooding requiem for hapless victims of every senseless war that has ever raged, and in here, Inter Arma channels the vicarious pain of the helpless through the tracks moody atmospherics. It’s rightfully bleak, which is why the penultimate track “Concrete Cliffs” offer a beautiful respite. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, the beauty and the beast sides of Inter Arma melded in a way that sounds and feels natural, showcasing the intense range that this band is capable of.

And finally, campfire closer “Forest Service Road Blues” ends the LP on a calm note, the lyrics about a recluse who’s had enough of the world feels quite relatable. Five studio albums into their career, Inter Arma has shown time and time again that they’re the thinking man’s metal band. Too bad there’s a lot of fluff out there hogging the spotlight. Oh well, more for me, then.

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