Inter Arma: The Cavern EP

“The Cavern”, the one 45-minute song that makes up this EP, is truly worthy of the word “epic” and is a welcome addition to the pantheon of metal music.

Inter Arma

The Cavern EP

Label: Relapse
US Release Date: 2014-10-14
UK Release Date: 2014-10-13

The release week of October 14, 2014, for metal albums has a consistent theme. It is the week of the long song. Pig Destroyer widely released their Mass and Volume EP, which features a 19-minute song. The Acacia Strain released Coma Witch which boasts a track that runs almost a half hour. However, Inter Arma has both of these groups beat with The Cavern EP. It just features one song, one very long song that runs 45 minutes and 46 seconds. It’s interesting that The Cavern is being dubbed an EP, even though it runs at an album’s length. This really questions the notion of the EP: what defines it? In an age where the Fiery Furnaces can release an album-length EP, and bands are now releasing proper albums that are less than a half-hour long, the aspect of what is an album and what is an EP is being constantly challenged. So, if The Cavern is an EP because it only has one song, one veeeeery long song, what does that make its antecedent, Sleep’s Dopesmoker, an album featuring one track that runs for more than an hour? Is that an EP, too? These are all questions to ponder, for sure, but that would take away from the music of The Cavern.

It turns out that “The Cavern” was originally written during the spring and summer months of 2009, but was never recorded and only played live a handful of times. It wasn’t until the band got the support of a staff member at Relapse, who found out about the song, that they decided to make an album out of it. While the song took nine days to record, the mixing lasted for two months – likely due to the track’s epicness and shifting parts. And “The Cavern” is certainly ambitious, owing a great deal to prog rock and less to “Dopesmoker” as it features multiple movements, and there isn’t a great deal of musical repetition until you get towards the end of the composition. And, this being dark metal, the song’s lyrical concerns are about wandering lost in life in a desert, until the protagonist meets a figure of death that pulls him into the darkness of sleep.

It is, in a sense, a song about making your maker, facing a figure that is a higher power, and coming to accept the inevitable that faces us all. The lyrics have the feel of an ancient poem, and this wouldn’t be out of place in classic Greek literature. It really is an Odyssey. Or, perhaps more apt in a sense, a Rime of the Ancient Mariner. While no albatross makes an appearance, the song’s protagonist is haunted by something seemingly supernatural as he faces the great beyond. Had this song come out when I was in high school, it might have been something to write a comparative essay to another work of literature about. There is much to chew on, even if the story told in the lyrics sheet does seem straightforward.

What makes “The Cavern”, though, is the music. Punctuated by violin, occasional female vocals, and bowed bass, the song starts off with a nod to classical guitar. Given its length, you can also expect extended instrumental passages of guitar noodling, which doesn’t come off as pretentious in one wit. There’s a particularly enjoyable instrumental passage that is almost Rush-like after the 30-minute mark, at least in its guitar theatrics. What’s particularly memorable is the pounding guitar riff that more or less opens and closes the album – it’s laden with a sense of doom.

However, “The Cavern” is notable in that it doesn’t stick to one genre of metal, instead employing a wider palette. It’s black metal and stoner rock. This sense of ambition works well for the band, showing that they aren’t willing to stick to the same thing, which is astounding within the context of a longer song. Even “Dopesmoker” is pretty stoner throughout its more than 60-minute runtime, so “The Cavern” really does seem like an attempt to break free of boundaries within the context of its length. But trying to put this all into words is a little like dancing about architecture; it is something that is meant to be experienced more than anything else. This is an album where you’ll want to sit down and make time for it. It’s thoughtful and quasi-experimental, and really requires all of your listening faculties at work to really get at what Inter Arma is doing here.

You have to give points to Inter Arma for their ambition. Even though “The Cavern” does boast multiple false endings, and you could argue that it could use a bit of a trim, you do have to marvel in the fact that this is grand in scope. Inter Arma is stretching out, doing something daring, and even if the long song isn’t exactly new in metal circles, it does still feel like something of a novelty. That three bands have decided to release longer material on the same week signals that something seismic is shifting in the metal community. Perhaps it is unconscious competition that so many are releasing long songs all at once, but there’s a palpable sense of raising the bar, of trying to stretch out and do something outside of the norm.

For all of that, “The Cavern” is truly worthy of the word “epic” and is a welcome addition to the pantheon of metal music. It isn’t perfect, but it is highly entertaining and one can enjoy the fact that the band is truly pursuing an arty path on this release. And it does raise the question of format: when does the line between an EP and a proper album get blurred and become one or the same? For that, The Cavern EP offers a lot to chew on, and succeeds as an intellectual exercise. But, beyond that, the song (or EP, or album, or whatever it is) simply rawks, and that’s all you really need to know.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.