Getting signed to Relapse Records is no mean feat resulting in Inter Arma’s second full length being released as the upshot. This US act is perfect on the Relapse roster, being suitably crushing but uncompromisingly diverse. Eight tunes in about 70 minutes means this is no picnic for the listener as this US act weirdly transposes the major elements of southern groove rock and metal onto a template of dark sludge laden blackness that is initiated by “The Survival Fires”, an elongated and chaotic assault on the senses that lasts over ten minutes and sees a band testing the boundaries of black sludge extremity to the point of terminal oblivion. Bands like this are genre defying enigmas with soothing saturnine horror being sandwiched between berserk blackened outbreaks all exemplified just on the opener.
The two part “The Long Road Home” starts with the intro like sequence of “Iron Gate” which possesses a menacing acoustic charm that lures you in tentatively with its rather evocative guitar work that floats on top seemingly oblivious to rest of the world. A lone keyboard with backing acoustic guitar filters into the second part and creates a spacey progressive atmosphere that maintains for four minutes which then sees the song gradually morphing into an excellent guitar solo. This song builds so wonderfully with layer upon layer of sonic beauty being embedded into the fabric of this gargantuan opus of a song. This is a fiercely savage song when it bursts into black life for the intense burst of fire power that is backed up by a throaty raucous vocal rasp.
Nothing about this album is predictable as “Destroyer” has sludge driven bass lines that reverberatingly carry the whole tune along with expansive guitar passages and a shouted tortured vocal delivery that for me has tenets of Neurosis and maybe even Iron Monkey. “’Sblood” pure and simply is sonic aural Armageddon within its relatively short duration with acts like Fistula and Eyehategod coming to mind for the morose sludge terror that is unleashed. This tune had me transfixed as it flowed into “Westward” which maximises and focuses every single note into impenetrable aural armour. As I suggested earlier some acts defy genre classification and whilst it’s true that Inter Arma love their sludge and doom as well as black sadism the copious amounts of variety belie this categorisation especially on the closing title track which starts with a concrete doom rock beat and fuzzed out bass work and whether intentional or not my ‘sounds like’ detector was ringing with Hawkwind and even really old late 60s and early 70s doom rock exponents such as Bloodrock and Sir Lord Baltimore. Granted the pace is much slower and emphasised but the way Inter Arma are able to inject such styles into their music without any rigidity in flow is tantamount to the bands unerring creativity. The eerie vocal wails are drone like amongst the distortion drenched guitar work which has touches of Kylesa just so you understand what I’m getting at. This album equates to apocalyptic auditory warfare and will make you shit your pants.
(8.5/10 Martin Harris)