Rating: 4 out 5 stars
On April 12, Inter Arma released a brand-new album entitled Sulphur English. This hour-long dive into sludge and doom metal continually subverts expectations as it pulls in psychedelic influences that give the work a unique character.
Throughout songs such as “A Waxen Sea” and “Citadel,” deep growls are featured with thundering drums that lead into intense breakdowns. Though nothing new, these classic metal tropes juxtapose complex guitar solos that sometimes drop back into the heavy chugging basslines and growls and sometimes drift off into psychedelic soundscapes. The abrupt changes in rhythm and mood keep listeners on their toes as they’re guided through a largely instrumental album.
Longer tracks like “Atavist’s Meridian” and “Sulphur English” allow for atmospherics and drone interludes that allow the album to build tension before its most dramatic drops. The best of these, however, comes on the first and shortest track “Bumgardner” in which a minute-long drone’s unbearable, piercing pitch distills the dread built up later in the album. These themes return in songs like “Howling Lands” and the hauntingly beautiful “Observances of the Path.”
Sulphur English falls short in places due to the muddled ineffability that sometimes dominates the layers of sludge and doom. Some of the high points of the piece come in the slow moments like “Stillness.” “Stillness” gives listeners a breather between the heavier songs surrounding it.
Inter Arma paints a brutal yet deeply moving landscape, reminiscent of the way Wagner paints the landscape around the Rhine with atmospheric drones at the beginning of his Ring Cycle. These sonic roots have been distorted into a hellish soundscape that will thrill listeners.