Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma take their name from the Roman expression Inter arma enim silent leges – in times of war, the law falls silent. It’s dubious how the following would translate back into Latin, but let’s give it a go: on Paradise Gallows, the law of genres falls silent. Inter Arma’s third album, released in 2016, sprawls across light and heavy, taking a subgenre–agnostic approach and bookending it with melancholic country to reach skyward.
Inter Arma had already straddled these divisions on preceding albums Sky Burial and Cavern, but, thus far, it has been on Paradise Gallows that they have been at their most ambitious and fluent, covering death, stoner, doom, prog and black metal as well as the aforementioned country over 70 immersive minutes.
It would have been easy for this mix to enter up in a clutter, but Inter Arma avoid this by making the most of each idea, developing nine cohesive songs, and in the case of ‘Nomini’ and ‘Potomac’, reprising riffs. Inter Arma want you to go through each and every chapter of that story with them, and to this end, Paradise Gallows sounds complete, its experimentation partnered with an absolute sense of purpose. Although the lyrics don’t tell a single, concurrent story, they do share the common themes of journeying, enlightenment and the apocalypse. Following on from those awesome song titles, check out lyrics like:
“Lead me to the archer’s hold
Where the curses reach no ear
I’d tether my dreams to the crescent of his bow
And hang my anathemas from the point of his arrow”
– ‘An Archer in the Emptiness’
“We, the strutting herd, drift proudly beneath the corpses of trumpeters hung from long-dead trees; scorning
the beggars who drink from foul ditches along these timeworn, furrowed streets.”
– ‘Primordial Wound’
The adeptness of this imagery, all biblical and Milton–esque, reinforces how Inter Arma are the complete package – there’s no sense of slap and dash here. Instead, the attention to detail is the defining element, down to the mix, with Inter Arma using reverb to make parts of the album (‘Primordial Wound’ in particular) sound like it was recorded at the bottom of a canyon, without this trick becoming their master.
The impact of this album, besides expanding ears and minds, has been to show that there are still epic albums to be written through the coupling of top–draw riffs and a bigger picture. The importance of this album is that nothing else – not even Inter Arma’s other albums – sounds like it.