It is a great challenge for me to remain as objective as possible whenever I go to listen to an album that I’ve been looking forward to. It was ever since I first held the very first vinyl that I owned, a black copy of “Paradise Gallows”, Inter Arma’s previous album, that I was excited about this record. Granted, I’m always up for new Inter Arma no matter the scenario, but I really felt that something was going to be massively different this time around. Across three gorgeous full-lengths and a handful of strong EPs, Inter Arma has rarely shown us the same sound, and it’s through much experimentation and talent that they’ve become one of the most eclectic and organic bands of their generation. Over ten years of perfecting their unique sound across a wide range, it’s with “Sulphur English” that Inter Arma doesn’t come to dazzle or to entrance, but to lure and decimate.
Looking back at past Inter Arma records, “Sky Burial” was a true piece of a unique blend of Americana and metal coming together the likes of which we haven’t seen before while it was “Paradise Gallows” that gave us an aural kaleidoscope of sound to make for one of the most beautiful records in recent times. Now, what would be the next logical step? I couldn’t even begin to know what the fuck that answer is, but, in splendid fashion, it’s with “Sulphur English” that we find Inter Arma wanting to go against the flow and create something that’s not meant to be nice. It’s meant to be a full-on deviation from what people come to expect when they hear the name of Inter Arma. And don’t get the wrong idea! In every feasible way, this is an Inter Arma record through and through. In other words, “Sulphur English” is a record that refuses to be like its predecessors and one that’s meant to put Inter Arma even further from being lumped with so many other acts because they’re not like any other act. Sure, there are similarities across the discography and similarities between other bands, but it’s with “Sulphur English” that we see Inter Arma become an entity that has no true form and one that is all but immensely intoxicating!
There is no other fucking way for me to put it: this is the darkest and most fucked up Inter Arma record that we’ve gotten to date. Lyrically and sonically, there isn’t a single thing about the very existence of “Sulphur English” that doesn’t stride away from previous work from this act. There are many times across the discography of Inter Arma that really draw you into a hand-crafted world filled with gorgeous detail and a unique atmosphere (“The Long Road Home”, “Sundown”, “Where the Earth Meets the Sky”), crushing heaviness that’s as punishing as it is satisfying (“Transfiguration”, “2000 Years”, “The Survival Fires”), and a staggering mix of both (“The Paradise Gallows”, “The Cavern”, “‘sblood”). It all comes at you at a very steady pace to eat right up as Inter Arma proceeds normally. “Sulphur English” doesn’t give you a moment’s chance to recover from the whiplash that they give you from the instant changes in pace that Inter Arma places masterfully across these nine tracks to give you an experience that’s as deeply immersive and meditative as it is ferocious and murderous. We still get the tropes that have made Inter Arma the legends that they are, but they’re far more aggressive and murky than we ever dared to imagine them.
With all the tracks that “Sulphur English” offers us, it’s hard to pick a track that isn’t exemplary in the most exquisite way. It’s with the likes of “A Waxen Sea” and “Citadel” that we get a very calculated but sporadic amount of heaviness that knows no bounds nor how to leave survivors. But then we get very atmospheric pieces that are meditative in ways that only Inter Arma can produce as “Stillness” and “Blood on the Lupines” allows us to fall back into the cacophony of excellence and echoes that Inter Arma diligently crafted. But then we get real wildcards like “Sulphur English” and “The Atavist’s Meridian” that are unique in their own rights as they drill into your cranium with immense force to allow this record to become a creation that we haven’t seen before anywhere be it from Inter Arma or another outside force. With grand cascading rhythms, aggression that knows not when to end, and quality that we simply can’t get anywhere else along with the material the likes of which can only be produced by this truly exceptional band.
I went into this record with high expectations given the history of this band, but outside of the singles,I knew not what I was getting myself into. I couldn’t be any happier with what Inter Arma has wrought here as it’s everything we’ve come to expect yet nothing at all what we’ve heard from Inter Arma. This is undoubtedly one of my fucking favorite records of the year and I know damn well that come to the end I will be singing the praises of “Sulphur English” is all of its fiery glory! It’s been too long since Inter Arma has devastated our pitiful souls with their grand power, and it will be far too long before they return to us yet again to show us what creation they can manifest next.
“Sulphur English” releases on April 12th via Relapse Records!
LISTEN to advanced tracks from “Sulphur English” on Bandcamp here.
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