Inter Arma return with their most fully realized album to date, flawlessly pulling off varying styles of extreme metal on New Heaven.

Release date: April 26, 2024 | Relapse Records | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter/X | Bandcamp

Heavy metal loves a steadfast band. Few things seem to alienate metal fans more than a beloved band changing their sound from their previous albums. It is a fucking meme at this point to say ‘I liked their earlier work‘ or some sort of ‘first four‘ album worship that discredits things like aging and artistically changing to fit the passage of time. Getting four albums under your belt as a band is no small feat. Maintaining a loyal fanbase after that is even harder. Fortunately, Richmond, Virginia heavy music alchemists Inter Arma have never failed to deliver. On their fifth proper full-length New Heaven, Inter Arma lock into a sweet spot of growth and reliability.

I have been following Inter Arma since 2013’s Sky Burial, an album that hit me at the right time in my musical taste journey. I was feverishly seeking the coolest new bands from the metal underground to break my habits of replaying sludge and doom bands I was already well familiar with, and Sky Burial, among other albums, offered enough doom mixed with Southern rock to feel comfortable, yet unique. I have been a devotee since then.

Inter Arma has not remained static in their approach. Much like my own heavy music tastes, they have welcomed additional sounds into their arsenal. For every new shot of death metal, black metal, or atmospheric experimentation, they have never missed. While music critics tend to hype up Inter Arma, they still seem to be unsung in the greater metal community. Everyone seems to collectively be like ‘Inter Arma? Yeah, solid band!‘ and that is that.

On New Heaven, their first album of original songs in 5 years and follow-up to 2020’s covers album Garbers Days Revisited (which is excellent), Inter Arma conjure up a new batch of superlatively executed experimentation that not only gets them over the first-four-albums curse, but also should cement them in year-end metal albums lists.

New Heaven kicks off with the title track, a discordant slab of sweeping death-prog. The interplay between the guitars and bass is absolutely stunning as is Mike Papero’s vocal work, sounding cavernously guttural and menacing. The electronics provide noise patches and T.J. Childers’s drumming is a rhythmic cement truck descending a hill, demolishing everthing in its path with heaviness. “Violet Seizures” takes the interlocking melodies into a black metal meets hardcore direction, crusty yet immaculate.

Tracks and album length on New Heaven are notably more concise than previous efforts, like the whopping 45-minute single track epic The Cavern, but with that brevity comes an economy of effort. Ideas are punchier and transitioned into more smoothly. Take the guitar solos in “Desolation’s Harp”, for example. The track is a straightforward death/doom romp that lets the guitar melody carry the punishing elements of the song into a mournful yet triumphant lead and outro sweeping us into “Endless Grey”, whose doomed Pink Floyd sound offers a welcome repose after the ferocity of the previous tracks.

“Endless Grey” fades out with a Geezer Butler indebted bassline and marks a bit of a turning point for the album. Inter Arma slows things down, recalling their doom metal origins and offers up clean singing on the gorgeous goth-doom piece “Gardens In The Dark” and the epic portrayals of a harrowing world on “The Children The Bombs Overlooked” and “Concrete Cliffs.”

The drums and vocals are turned up in the mix of New Heaven, amplifying both their respective talents and the oppressively heavy atmosphere of the album, letting the bass, guitar, and synths paint swaths of melody and dissonance like an Anselm Kiefer painting, rich with texture, destruction, and mood with psychedelic solos peaking through the mire. Closing track, “Forest Service Road Blues” shifts yet again into a dark, backwoods folk song channeling Lars Von Trier and King Dude in its dark Appalachian/folk vibes.

The return of Inter Arma is always a reason to celebrate. Their endless creativity works in a way that few metal acts can match. As a result, New Heaven plays like a classic rock or pop album that purposely diversifies its songs so that each track stands out as something unique, yet fitting for the pace and mood of the album as a whole. So many other genre focused metal acts seek only to maximize what they can do in a single style. It is refreshing to see a revered band show off their range, easily switching between doom, heavy psych, death, and black metal while holding onto their Virginian roots. If you’re a fan of heavy music, this is a must-listen.

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