If there is any definitive point to life, certainly it must involve leaving something behind that has a positive impact that is discernible well after you are gone. While most of us will ultimately fail to have that kind of effect, we all have the great privilege of being the affected. Inter Arma are a band that have obviously been affected by rock n’ roll. Sky Burial is prominently driven by elements of doom, sludge and black metal, but also affectionately embraces psychedelic and classic rock. This sixty-eight minute coalescence of influences accomplishes something that few albums can manage. It reminds me of how great it is to be one of the affected.
With such an expansive arsenal, it would be easy to assume that the resulting sound would be disjointed and chaotic. Sky Burial is the absolute opposite. The album is an exercise in tempered aggression. Inter Arma handle each component like a newborn child, cautiously releasing it into their vast, caliginous dominion. They effortlessly blur so many lines that one could be inclined to classify their sound as prog-metal. But even that label seems too limiting and evokes a sense of deliberate experimentation that is just not present here. Their execution is not meticulous, it’s organic. So much so that it would be easy to miss just how experimental this album truly is.
Any band with the audacity to attempt an album of this scale must also possess the chops to pull it off. Although the album is abound with big riffs and rapid-fire drums, more impressive is the band’s ability to create grandiose songs from such modest foundations. Inter Arma cover more ground with one note than the most noodly of prog-metal bands can manage with an entire album. They are also able to take a more drone inspired approach without sacrificing momentum. Their desire for progression is just as relentless as their devotion to aggression. While it is substantially heavy, blackened, and doom laden, there is also an unmistakably classic quality to Sky Burial. This is largely due to the masterful engineering and mixing skills of Mikey Allred, who gives this album a timeless sound that plays a role of almost equal importance to that of any member of the band.
An album like this deserves more than a critic’s stamp of approval. It’s enthralling, refreshing, and bordering on flawless. If you consider yourself a fan of heavy music, this is an album you should hear. Time will tell if it has the staying power of a true classic. Regardless, Sky Burial certainly feels like an album that metal fans will still be enjoying well after we are gone.