A new Inter Arma release is always welcome. 2014’s The Cavern was a stunning record that topped my end of year list, and although 2016’s Paradise Gallows didn’t ascend to the same heights, it was an album that I still deem as an essential listen, (and in hindsight should definitely have been higher up on 2016’s list).
Inter Arma’s post-metal, (loosely defined, for lack of any other suitable appellation), is unusual and diverse, boasting a wide-range of different genres and styles in its repertoire. On Sulphur English we get an intoxicating mix of, (in no particular order), doom, progressive metal, black metal, sludge, extreme metal, psychedelia, death metal, stoner metal, and many others. As always, the Inter Arma experience is a genre-defying one, which is as enticing as it is effective. Inter Arma play by their own rules. In fact they seem to create them as they go along, with some form of inbuilt talent that prevents them from taking any missteps as they do this.
The Inter Arma of 2019 is a bit of a different metallic beast than we have encountered previously, however. Not completely, of course, but the band’s new album finds them darker, heavier, and more extreme than ever before. Atmospheric appeal, emotive depth, epic vision, and build/release mechanics are still apparent on Sulphur English and continue to be wielded by experts, but, as I say, this new album sees Inter Arma travel further down a path of darkness. Of course, the band have always had a dark side, but Sulphur English seems to be a vehicle for allowing them to explore this more fully than previously.
The band use acoustic guitars and introspection to add texture and extra depth, but this album is largely about harshness, darkness, chaos, and misery. Of course, being Inter Arma this is explored in multifaceted and layered ways, but it’s still a noticeably more intense and harrowing journey than we’ve previously been on with this band. Whether the band are channelling Morbid Angel/Immolation-inspired death metal, unleashing Neurosis-esque post-apocalyptic soundscapes, crafting blackened atmosphere, unfurling emotive Southern rock, or exploring any other number of different musical avenues, this is a first-rate collection of music, and Inter Arma have once again done themselves proud.
Darker, heavier, and more extreme, while still finding time to create beauty and nuance, Suplhur English is a record for the trying modern times we live in. As always with this band, this is utterly essential.