For those of you unacquainted with ancient Tibetan funerary practices, a sky burial is the process of flaying, dismembering and butchering a corpse on a mountaintop plateau before grinding the bones up, possibly burning some incense along the way. This gory tableau is then devoured by the neighbourhood vultures, in keeping with traditional Buddhist teachings of rebirth so that the earthly remains are disposed of and the soul is free. It’s also pretty fucking metal, and is therefore a perfect title for Inter Arma’s second album, a windswept, monolithic beast of apocalyptic Neurosian sludge and lashings of black metal riff storms.
First track ‘The Survival Fires’ announce its presence dramatically in a crescendo of crashing drum fills, twisted atonal riffs and echoing vocal intonations that sound like they’re being belted out from the top of the highest peaks above the swirling chaos below. An instant reference point is the feral, tribal doom of Rwake but this is from a different realm entirely than their Southern American melting pot. Inter Arma’s sound is vast and expansive, not in a pretentious post-metal way, but in an all-encompassing fashion where all the elements converge to awesome effect, and the primordial forces of nature hold sway. The brief acoustic interlude of ‘The Long Road Home (Iron Gate)’ provides some folky respite before the meandering ambience of ‘The Long Road Home’ gradually builds in intensity before exploding into life via a glorious sun-dazzled guitar solo which weaves golden light amid a dissonant backdrop of howling wind and relentless cymbal hits.
The aptly named ‘Destroyer’ burns with menacing and barely constrained restraint throughout its ten minute length as percussion and vocals are used sparingly to allow the sinister tone to creep into your sub-conscious in the nasty, unclean way that all proper drone should. In contrast the harrowing shredding of ‘sblood’ resembles The Ocean stripped of their progressive inclinations and smeared in animal blood as the chattering percussion clicks like bones being ground up for the delectation of carrion birds. The sinister atmosphere is maintained throughout the churning riffing of ‘Westward’ which conjures images of war elephants on the march to a place of battle where behemoths clash and rend the air with feral howls. By the time we reach the title track and its sprawling doomscape of blackened guitars, deformed melodies and that ceaseless, eternal wind effect, the only option is to crawl in supplication to the altar of death where the members of Inter Arma await, ritual flaying knives in hand, ready to submit your worthless body to the endless sky.
At well over an hour’s running time, “Sky Burial” is a daunting listen but it’s a journey worth undertaking for so many reasons. The influence of Neurosis looms large but the members are no mere cut-and-paste merchants for the elements that make up this monumental recording are culled from their own creativity and imagination. That three of the members also serve time in black metal’s best kept secret Bastard Sapling is a fitting revelation as the darkened storm-clouds that infuse that entity are distributed to different, yet equally devastating effect throughout “Sky Burial” and it’s fascinating to imagine what these burning wells of talent will come up with next. This is one funeral you will want to attend again and again.