Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Inter Arma : "Sky Burial"
The second full length by the Richmond based band that also shares half it's members with their side project Bastard Sapling,whose work I was more familiar with going into this one. Where Bastard Sapling managed to capture more of a Euro feel, this hits closer to the bands geography with the slow southern sludge dripping from the corners of this landscape often prone to vastness considering the Ambiant space they tend to allow the songs. A song like "Survival Fires" is allowed to float upward with the grace of Neurosis and then congeal back into the bulldozer rumble.
Well produced the vocals find themselves sitting further back into the mix, almost the same way black metal vocals are also produced and I suppose at times there might be justification to calling this blackened sludge as they hit a blast here and there, though I don't think they are this drummers forte. He is competent enough but these are are obviously the jazzier gravity variety.
The acoustic comes out sooner than I would have thought on the second song, which comes across more like an interlude or something from the Cowboy Junkies. This album does play better as a whole Peice rather than being broken up in shuffle mode, so this plays out like the intro for the third song, "The Long Road Home" which feels like a Nick Cave song from the onset, though the interplay between the keys and the guitar are also a little Pink Floyd. This is very well played and offers a broad swathe of dynamics as it fades down into the organ with a blast back into some nastiness for the last two minutes.
The drone of "Destroyer" is not unlike what a band like Yob is doing. The vocals are the Neurosis bellow on this one which are and angry chant against the pulse that makes scalding punches in places I wouldn't really call ita chorus by any means. When a song like this isn't really clicking for me I trace back to the source. So I know I like other music with droning hypnotic elements, the most obvious being one of my favorite bands Swans, who are a big influence on Neurosis, this bands most glaring influence. So what the Swans have to their relentless nature is layers of sonics and melody, where on this song those elements are flat and when the resolution comes in the last two minutes it's too little too late though I do like the soar of its initial burst. There a similar effect on the next track " sblood" though it think it works better here as the tempo is a intense drum assault, once again the building of layers upon this in a similar fashion that Neurosis takes cues from Swans on would make this a more compelling listen, instead it becomes almost a drum solo, sure it's well played but not plotted. The two minute mark seems to be a part of their formula as its once again where the transition occurs mainly the guitar goes into more of a chug and the vocals reach a shriek.
"Westward" leads off with a drone but this time is more sonic and captivating. The tempo shifts into a head knodding throb. The punches have the massive Neurosis lumber to them but they haven't done anything like this sense through sliver and blood so I'm fine with some idol worship here. I like the production of the vocals here, as they stay in an overdriven rasp as they songs makes you think it is teetering on the edge of chaos until in drops back down into a dirge march.
In closing with the title track the intro for some reason reminds me of Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh" before it falls back into a bluesy ambiance. The vocals go into the Scott Kelly impersonation of Tom Waits taking on a harsher quality as it builds. All of the guitar solos on this album are really dialed in it bears mentioning again if that point hasn't come across yet. I almost like the space blues sections better than the heavier counterpoints. I think it plays to their benefit when their beards are tipped more toward Pink Floyd than Neurosis asevenNeurosis hasn't been able to mimic Floyd so their own personality sines through like a crazy diamon rather than coming across like a Neurosis tribute band. Speaking of Neurosis tribute bands there's a Mastodon vibe when the song picks up near the final three minutes that is complete with a Mathy guitar interplay.
I think it's fair enough to give this ambitious slab an 8, as the songs are very well played and the drums and guitars shine through out. The vocals could use more melodic variance though are rescued by the production which helps make them a more interesting sonic layer when overdriven and left like a static coating which is the best bet for most harsh vocal stylings. This album sounds great and had a lot of work put into it and I think they really great moments it hits which lean back into the Pink Floyd realm of blues based psychedelics are what make it stand out from all the other bands doing this sort of thing.