If ever a band deserved to be called monolithic it’s Inter Arma. With a sound that can only be compared to mountains moving they’ve been making waves on the American doom metal scene since 2006. Their sound is profoundly unique and oftentimes simply sublime. Sure, there may be a wave of doom metal bands dominating the underground right now, but Inter Arma stand out as some of the best. Even their latest opus, the 40 minute plus track The Cavern is a simple paean to the crushing glory of this band. No other band in the world sounds quite like these guys and no other band in the world ever will be able to sound like them. Simply put, there’s a reason that my Inter Arma patch sits right above my heart.
I think that a large part of what makes this band so interesting is their rapid and oftentimes impressive evolution. Their first full length, Sundown is crushing and powerful, but it feels like it’s missing something. Sure all of the classic doom elements are there, but the band had yet to really transcend the genre as they have now. It was with their second record, 2013’s almighty Sky Burial that the band really came into their own. Garnering a spot in many a year end top 10 list, this record established the band as a veritable heavy metal force with brash guitars and crushing rhythms that few of their peers could ever fuck with. This year they put out The Cavern a track which was actually written before Sky Burial but recorded only in 2014. It sounds like the stepping stone in between Sundown and Sky Burial proving that the band didn’t get to their current, incredibly iconoclastic sound by sheer luck.
Yet there is something much greater to the Inter Arma sound, a strange sort of symphonic twist that permeates their music. The thing is, that you can’t attribute this weird magic to any one member, together the five of them take on a sort of sixth element. I think it’s because, simply put, Inter Arma get it, this is a band who are pursuing a wonderfully distinct sound that not a lot of people might understand, but those who do will immediately fall deeply in love. Inter Arma sound massive and I think that’s ultimately what allows these guys to have such a glorious reign over their peers. While most other doom metal bands these days are caught up in Sabbath worship (Not that there’s anything wrong with that) Inter Arma seem to be bent on taking their own path. Sure, touches of Black Sabbath can be heard here and there, but this band goes far beyond that. They are formulating a sound that fuses so many genres it’s impossible to even start trying to describe it, you can hear black metal alongside Americana, death metal alongside ambient ideas, and that is only the beginning. For me it is this inspired, complex, and varied sound that makes this band incredibly special.
So what’s going on with these legends in the making? How are they advancing and growing their careers? Well now they seem to be on the brink, trying to balance work with tour life. As they go on the road more and more we’re starting to see Inter Arma really take off. At the end of November they’re going on their second European tour, and hopefully the spring will see another big American trek. As for new material, the band have hinted at a true sequel to Sky Burial building on the unique and inspiring ideas found on that record. If all pans out right, these guys will have put out records for three successive years, a feat very few metal bands can aspire to.
As for the source of this gushing creative wellspring, it seems that at least a part of it comes from the bands diverse tastes. I never believe it possible for me to get into mainstream rap, but Trey, the bands guitarist was the guy who got me into Juicy J. Much like Noisem, whose singer Tyler Carnes has claimed “Charlie XCX is my girl” Several key members of Inter Arma don’t feel obligated to only listen to metal. It gives the sound the ability to grow and evolve beyond what many might think possible. The fact of the matter is that this type of music is rapidly growing and sooner than we think the musicians are going to hit a wall. You can expand upon the glories of Sabbath all you want, they’re my favorite band too, but you’re going to need to grow past that, and that’s exactly what Inter Arma do.
I think part of what gives the band the ability to access this unique sound is that 3/5ths of the band also play in Bastard Sapling, a black metal act who sound nothing at all like Inter Arma. This kind of thing forces the band to fuel diversity in their riffs and come up with something deeper and darker for both bands. It’s a strange exercise to listen to these bands one after another, they sound profoundly different, and seem to speak to different realms of the human psyche, yet somehow it works. Bastard Sapling may be a sort of demented offshoot (although it could be argued they broke into the scene first) but the fact remains; their 2011 debut, Dragged From Our Restless Trance also found its way onto top 10 lists across the globe clearly demonstrating that these guys are not just stellar musicians but also songwriters.
In my eyes, the final proof of this bands greatness lies in their stellar live performances. The heart of the matter is that Inter Arma have all of the trappings of what makes a metal bands live show truly great. Mike, the bands singer has what some refer to as “crazy eyes,” they bulge out of his head during shrieks and seem to flare during the sickest growls he can muster. Anyone who can see his ferocious headbanging and unearthly stage moves knows that this guy is the real deal. Yet, beyond that, the band is gifted with four musicians who love to improvise and enhance their live shows beyond the realm of what I ever thought possible within this genre. Perhaps most significant is the bands drummer, TJ, who says “I never play anything the same way twice” Yet the rest of the band don’t seem too artistically confined either, I’ve seen them do versions of their classic Survival Fires that seemed almost entirely improvised. The bands guitarist Stephen succinctly summarized it for me saying “When it’s a house show you just go with the flow dude.” The band apparently feels no restriction to exactly reproduce what you hear on the record, instead they are going beyond and exploring sonic landscapes that might only exist for one night in one tiny basement in some shitty neighborhood out in the projects, but by God is it satisfying.
You may claim that I’m just waxing poetic about a band I happen to really like right now, but truthfully, it’s not just me whose freaking out over these doom lords. Webzines across the globe have expressed their adoration for this band, and Relapse, their label, are loving it. Regardless of what you want to say about this band and their startlingly unique sound, they are hot. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that it’s not just a bandwagon effect either. Last night I took a friend who had never heard of the band to see them and at one point during the set he leaned over and said to me “They’re incredible!” At the end of the day, Inter Arma are turned onto something greater, and they are a blessing to this entire scene of freaks, geeks, and electro space hippies.