Music

Inter Arma Have Created Another Stunning Collection with 'Sulphur English'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

From Sulphur English's all-encompassing reverie to the LP's themes of the arcane, Inter Arma are most certainly in their wheelhouse, continuing to redefine what it means to be a modern-day metal band.

Sulphur English
Inter Arma

Relapse

12 April 2019

Richmond metal lords, Inter Arma, continue to ride the crest as one of the last few saving graces who continue to reconfigure the genre of metal and what it has the potential to offer. While their sophomore LP, Sky Burial proved their skillset to incorporate a span of genres from mathy-prog assaults, to psych-rock sojourns, and harrowing themes of decay and dread, Inter Arma continue to manifest these ideas carefully and thoughtfully with their fourth album, Sulphur English. Serving as somewhat of an extension from 2016's Paradise Gallows, Inter Arma have somehow managed to reach an even grander peak – a group possessed by something fantastically nightmarish and divine all at once.

Sulphur English begins like a horror flick. With a silvery, wavering tone that quietly hangs in space, Inter Arma immediately create a foreboding presence that conjures images of vulnerability and despair; you can't help but anticipate the worst. But while the outfit can transfix their listeners, they, too, can immediately break that aura and pummel them with their cinematic and jarring take on experimental metal. But to put your personal stamp on anything isn't always seamless. The few who manage to surpass the forgotten have an innate quality to mix the solution and offer their interpretation. Inter Arma continue to be one of the selected few who persevere as a group quickly living up to prodigy status.

Sulphur English isn't necessarily a surprise – that's not a jab on any level, either. Considering their discography, Inter Arma have proven themselves quite some time ago. What makes their new LP such a success is their continued dedication to reconfigure and elevate their already grand efforts. From production quality to simple vocal manipulation, and the variety that encapsulates these new songs, it's these types of small touchstones that position the group in a realm all their own. Our first taste was "Citadel", a quintessential reintroduction to Inter Arma since Paradise Gallows – a confident track that gradually blooms with slow builds and vocalist, Mike Paparo's unwavering, guttural howls.

But while we can rely on Inter Arma to produce near-perfect metal tracks, they can shift direction, offering something entirely different. "Stillness", the LP's centerpiece gem is a scaled-back, psych odyssey, showing the group at their most pensive. Albeit the track eventually manifests with more ferocity and fervent, Inter Arma produce it quietly and with conviction, a feat they've been perfecting more and more over time.

Songs like "Blood on the Lupines" follow this trend. It could easily be mistaken for a Swans track. In all its cryptic glory, Inter Arma paint images of pure apprehension while "The Atavist's Meridian" pushes past traditional metal structure and opts for mathy passages that are highlighted by Paparo's devilish, vile spew. But despite Inter Arma's ability to harness different styles and genres, their efforts never come off as desperation, in fact, the fluidity which flows through not just Sulphur English, but their previous efforts is wildly impressive. They possess the quality of the underdog, pushing past labels by establishing new ones for themselves.

While its running time that manages to break an hour, Sulphur English has the potential to be one of the most talked-about metal LPs of the year. Inter Arma achieve this prospect quite easily. Songs like "Howling Lands" bustle with cannonade drum strikes while Paparo utilizes vocal variations throughout. "Sulphur English" calls to mind Mastodon's technical precision with black metal potency lingering in its core. Inter Arma's blueprint is intoxicating, but while Sulphur English throws advancements throughout its tracks, the group never find themselves in limbo despite its slight predictability. They've created another stunning collection. From its all-encompassing reverie to the LP's themes of the arcane, Inter Arma are most certainly in their wheelhouse, continuing to redefine what it means to be a modern-day metal band.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

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

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