Until being picked up by Relapse Records for the 2013 release of ‘Sky Burial’, Inter Arma were one of the metal underground’s best kept secrets. Since then, the Virginian five-piece have been celebrated by both the press and fans for their multi-faceted sound, managing to incorporate elements of death, black, doom and prog metal all into a single record, while still sounding cohesive and deadly. ‘Sulphur English’ is Inter Arma’s fourth release and a continuation of the sprawling, murky soundscapes that listeners have become accustomed to, while introducing a new addition to the fold, bassist Andrew Lacour.
What’s immediately noticeable is that the band aren’t carrying quite as many strings in their bow for this album – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve accidentally picked up a Grave Miasma or Svartidauði record when listening to tracks such as ‘Citadel’. Inter Arma have set aside the vast majority of both doom and prog influences to allow for their death/black metal sound to shine through. This is the most sinister and definitely the heaviest they have ever sounded, with double bass pedal assaults, chugging riffs and solos that sound as though the guitars are having the life choked out of them – Mike Paparo’s vocals sit atop all of these, a bestial roar into an instrumental thunderstorm.
A skill that Inter Arma have never quite mastered is trimming the fat, and at well over 60 minutes in length, ‘Sulphur English’ does occasionally drift into self-indulgence and filler – the mid-section of ‘Howling Lands’ is especially guilty of this. However, the vast majority of this opus is absolutely devastating and well written enough to forgive and overlook any absent minded noodling or vanity. This latest effort is a triumph and, while they may have simplified their sound, they have never been more refined without becoming overly polished.
(9/10 Angela Davey)