At some point, a long string of colorful adjectives doesn’t accomplish much for any band. “Hypnogogic math-pop,” “blackened uber-popadelica,” “avant seapunk-rap” — it all gets a little silly. Metal, or at least the folks who describe it, often falls into this trap, present company included. Exhibit A: the second album from Richmond’s Inter Arma. Sky Burial ingests several forms of metal, but the goal is demonstrable heft. Maybe you should just listen to its opening track first; it’s called “The Survival Fires.”
Built on a lumbering Neurosis-like riff, Inter Arma subdivides the slog with rolling, battlefield blast-beats and Mike Paparo’s roaring shrieks. The 10-minute track’s melodic midsection — with its bowed bass and swung drum beat — is indicative of an album that takes chances on quiet moments. It reminds me, if briefly, of how Harvey Milk toyed with pace on 1995’s Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men. But where Courtesy brilliantly subverted dynamics to Harvey Milk’s own cryptic and sometimes trying ends, “The Survival Fires” is about musical narrative and setting the stage for the next act, be it a Pink Floyd-ian jam or something akin to the Fantastic Four’s Thing yelling, “It’s clobberin’ time!”
Sky Burial comes out March 19 on Relapse Records.