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Inter Arma - "Sky Burial" (CD)

Inter Arma - "Sky Burial" CD cover image

"Sky Burial" track listing:

1. The Survival Fires (10:13)
2. The Long Road Home (Iron Gate) (3:41)
3. The Long Road Home (10:08)
4. Destroyer (10:31)
5. 'sblood (6:33)
6. Westward (9:48)
7. Love Absolute (4:03)
8. Sky Burial (13:02)

Reviewed by on April 23, 2013

"'Sky Burial' is one of the more accomplished releases so far in 2013, a simmering feast of the best that metal has to offer."

Bastard Sapling’s last album, “Dragged From Our Restless Trance,” saw placement on this writer’s year-end list in 2012. It so happens that the vocalist and two guitarists from that band also make their residency with Inter Arma, who put on an eccentric display with their second album “Sky Burial.” Other than hoarse screams from Mike Paparo and a few choice tremolo-picked sections, there’s little in common between the two bands. Inter Arma dwells in a dynamic spectrum, where a clashing of styles is an impressive attribute ready to be exploited at a whim.

The “Destroyer” EP released last year was the catalyst for what would evolve into “Sky Burial.” “The Long Road Home” and “Destroyer” are brought from the EP onto this album, though not without suitable upgrades. The songs have been expanded to over ten minutes each, as the band uses the extra minutes to tactfully bludgeon their core sludgy doom sound. The former is a masterful performance of sly instrumental jamming, followed by a black metal-inspired progression that transformed the previous seven minutes into defused chaos.

“The Long Road Home (Iron Gate)” precedes the track with what amounts to a fleshed-out acoustic intro. Following the traditional “The Survival Fires,” it could feel like a jolting shift from a comfortable direction. To Inter Arma’s credit, they put in the effort to make this a compelling interlude pivotal to the development of “The Long Road Home.” Same goes for the melancholy “Love Absolute,” which provides a reprieve leading up to the momentous 13-minute title track.

Normally, when a band decides to have multiple songs gearing past the double-digit mark, there some unfortunate filler or instrumental crap to slow the proceedings down. Inter Arma doesn’t fall victim to padding the album, as each song has its purpose in the overall projection of a grim underbelly. Some songs leave a far greater impression than others, like the title track or “The Long Road Home,” but there is not a moment of plodding torture to get through on “Sky Burial.”

Much of the excitement from “Sky Burial” comes not from the guitarists (who, in their defense, do provide a few effective guitar solos), but from the manic hands of drummer T.J. Childers. What a marvel his performance is, featuring enough wild fills and tight hand work to provide a bump to the most tame melody. When the rhythm playing reaches its breaking point during a tense build-up on “'sblood,” it’s proof that Inter Arma know how to conduct a song with substance.

“Sky Burial” never ceases to do something noteworthy, throwing enough twists into their sludgy desolation to make the 70 minutes fly by. This is an album that rewards diligence, and it should be sat down and digested whole. Picking it apart song by song will only frustrate those not accustomed to lengthier material. “Sky Burial” is one of the more accomplished releases so far in 2013, a simmering feast of the best that metal has to offer.

Highs: Variety to their sludgy doom sound, fantastic drum work, love the acoustic interludes, songs that fly past 10 minutes with no hitches

Lows: Requires a lot of patience, due to its 70-minute running length, album doesn't pick up until after opener "The Survival Fires"

Bottom line: A rousing sophomore effort from Inter Arma that further cements them as a top-tier metal act.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)