Inter Arma has been blurring the lines between just about every genre of extreme metal out there for quite some time, delivering ambitious material that often spanned over an hour in length and utilized every minute. For their fourth full length album Sulphur English this approach to songwriting hasn’t chanted but the tone has gotten even darker and bleak than before. It may not be a radical reinvention compared to the leap between the last few records, but the murkier songwriting and tense atmosphere proves to be just as compelling as ever.
There’s always been a fair amount of death metal influence to the band’s writing, but it’s even more prominent on Sulphur English. “Citadel” was one of the first hints at this when it was released last month and it had bottom heavy, crushing instrumentation that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Morbid Angel record during their prime. There are bursts of this throughout, and the title track ends the album with a dense wall of nightmarish riffing and murky tonality that is up there with some of the best the genre has to offer. But since this is Inter Arma, you should have a pretty good idea that these elements only represent a small facet of what the material has to offer. There’s still plenty of sprawling instrumentation where the drums take on a methodical, almost ritualistic approach as the guitars weave around them, but some of the softer textures from before have been replaced with much bleaker ones. This best demonstrated on “Stillness” where acoustic guitars and the Americana/folk vibe from Sky Burial resurfaces, but in a much more apocalyptic and desolate fashion. With the riffs spanning everything from bleakness to terror Sulphur English does come off as slightly less approachable, but as you spend more time with it these songs get under your skin and entice you to come back for another journey into darkness.
Mike Paparo’s vocals have added to the dynamic feel of Inter Arma’s albums from the very beginning, and he only seems to get more range with each recording. There’s still plenty of higher screams to be found here that will send chills straight down your spine alongside lower growls that bleed into the murky low end and twist into something genuinely inhuman sounding. It helps that there’s just the right amount of separation between the vocals and instrumentals, allowing them to echo over the twisting and turning soundscapes without stealing all the focus. But perhaps one of the most stunning moments comes courtesy of the harmonies on “Stillness” which are just as dark and foreboding as the harsh pitches and help to anchor together the two halves of extremity.
The lengthy, sprawling songwriting spanning multiple types of metal in a single song are still here in full effect, once again making Inter Arma a band that has a sound of their own. Some of what they’re doing on Sulphur English may tread some familiar territory to their previous records, but with a much darker and destructive approach than ever before. It’ll tear away at your psyche, but you’re likely to enjoy every minute of it. These guys have yet to disappoint and have put out another record that you can expect to hear about for months to come. Sulphur English is available from Relapse Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it with others to help us grow. You can also like and follow us on the social media of your choice with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon.