With their sophomore album, Sky Burial, Inter Arma released one of the best metal albums of the past year. Their style of playing brought to mind the earlier days of Mastodon and Baroness, but Inter Arma was not merely borrowing ideas from the two great acts. The vibe that Sky Burial had was much darker and bleaker than any of the works of the so called “progressive sludge” scene, with Inter Arma adding on top of all that their love for Americana, progressive rock as well as black metal. That was a recipe for success, no doubt about that. Today they are back with their EP, although length wise it could probably be still classified as an album, The Cavern.
The forty-five minutes long song that Inter Arma is putting forth, is nothing short of towering. The song actually predates the material of Sky Burial having been written back in 2009, according to the band’s Bandcamp page. And it was actually their label, Relapse, that convinced the band to record the track and release it. Due to the fact that it was written quite early in Inter Arma’s career, the style does seem a bit rougher than their last album, but the same vibe and outlook are still present in The Cavern. The foundation of the band lies in the sludge scene and their riffs tell the whole story about that. From three minutes in the track they unleash their heaviest self to the listener, without any concern for human life. The more modern era of sludge riffs come in soon after that, bringing the song closer to their later days and Sky Burial, offering alongside the heaviness, an equally impressive groove.
In all that the lead work of the band really shines here. Stitching together their affinity for progressive rock and heavy rock, their leads are just devilishly composed. About three minutes in the song they start to unleash classic rock leads, which can transfer you back to the ‘70s, while at other instances, they implement moving circling melodies to further enhance the feeling of their music. And when they begin soloing, and they do a fair bit of that in The Cavern they sound as if they are a classic heavy metal band, with the multiple guitar parts, about thirty minutes in the song. The retro approach of the band was quite obvious with Sky Burial but in The Cavern it is just on another level, giving an even more personal note to the recording. Always present is also Childers drumming, accompanying the guitars in the most suitable way. Either when things need to have more of a groove he really steps up, or when the music calls for something crazier he really nails it. Check the parts about twenty-three minutes in the track and thirty minutes in the song and you will find out for yourself.
In terms of bending the boundaries of what is sonically possible, Inter Arma experiment a fair amount within The Cavern. From actually the first minute of the song you will get the delays hovering over your head as the band prepares for its assault, while near the end of the album they go completely nuts introducing extreme noise before ending the album with their effects providing a dystopian vibe. But it is their work on the background of their music that they really excel. Their underlying melodies always remain interesting and are adding even more when the main parts of the band have a more repetitive progression. Take the part about ten minutes in the song for instance, which really works miracles for Inter Arma.
As was the case with parts of Sky Burial, for instance “The Long Road Home,” Inter Arma introduces Americana in The Cavern as well. They actually start off the song in that way with the acoustic guitars setting a darker tone and increasing that post-apocalyptic aura of the record. But when it is absolutely perfect is about twenty minutes in the track, with the introduction of the violin, courtesy of Meg Mulhearn of US Christmas. Even when the heavy riffs are introduced alongside the violin, its sound does not get lost, and its performance adds an extra layer of emotional depth in The Cavern. And when that part leads to the more peaceful moment, about twenty seven minutes in, with the organ sound, played by Mikey Allred of Across Tundras, it just brings the song to another level.
Dorthia Cottrel of Windhand provides some of the clean vocals midway through the track, adding another dimension to the song. Her voice is just transparent, giving an ethereal aura to the track and acting as the perfect contrast to Paparo’s more deep and extreme performance.
The Cavern finds Inter Arma in an earlier point down their their path. The album might appear more raw than their sophomore full-length, but is equally, if not even more, impressive. A rough diamond.
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