Reviewers the world over can agree; compartmentalizing bands into neat little genre labels can make life easier, but don’t necessarily do bands justice. Case in point: Virginia’s Inter Arma are equal parts Southern rock, sludge, doom metal, 70’s prog rock, and cavernous death metal. Even then, describing the band as such doesn’t exactly paint an accurate picture of what the band sounds like, nor can rattling off a whole list of bands to compare their sound to. 2013’s Sky Burial saw the band’s stock rise considerably, despite (or maybe because of) the genre-skipping gymnastics. With Paradise Gallows, the band is determined to strike gold with their heady mix of sounds and influences.

Make no mistake, at just over 70 minutes, there’s a lot to digest, but things start off peacefully with “Nomine,” incorporating acoustic guitar melodies before launching into a 70’s Southern twinge, with beautiful twin-guitar harmonies and a simple driving drum pattern. Said peace and tranquility are quickly dashed when “An Archer in the Emptiness” rolls forth, sounding like a cross between Covenant-era Morbid Angel and Neurosis after a really bad day at work. The riffs by Trey Dalton and Steven Russell are smothering and thick, but played with enough sharpness to cut when necessary. Meanwhile, T.J. Childers builds such an imposing aura behind his drumkit, exhibiting necessary flashes of cymbals when needed, but also blasting and pummeling like a steroidal yeti out of fresh kill. Further enhancing the feeling of dread is vocalist Mike Paparo’s cavernous growls and hisses, taking great care to utilize his repertoire at the right times for maximum effect, so when the song slows down to a near crawl before he lets out a howl from the depths of Hell at 4:38, you will be making that Holy FUCK face in disbelief and awe. Easy Song o’ the Year candidate if there ever was one!

Thankfully, the rest of the album holds up to the lofty promise of the first two songs. Mid-album instrumental “Potomac” picks up literally where “Nomini” left off, but unravels the song further with dreary piano melodies and soaring lead guitar trade-offs between Russell and Dalton. “The Paradise Gallows,” one of the slowest, longest numbers on here at over 11 minutes, builds layer upon layer of atmosphere thanks to some rather deliberate pacing and absolutely stunning leads. “The Summer Drones” – one of the shortest songs at a hair under seven minutes, lives up to its name with a lumbering bassline by Joe Kerkes, and another stellar Kirk-Windstein-meets-dog-from-Hell performance by Papero on the choruses. The album closes off with “Where the Earth Meets the Sky,” a somber acoustic ballad that showcases Paparo’s strong clean vocals, and does a great job closing out the album like a sun setting on a brutally hot summer day.

There are a few issues with Paradise Gallows. The pacing of the album could use a bit of a shuffle, as once “Potomac” closes, you’re hit with two back-to-back 11-minute monsters in “The Paradise Gallows” and “Violent Constellations,” with the latter feeling too long. Also, “Primordial Wound” could cut out the part with the distorted talking in the second half, as it detracts from the overall song. Finally, this is not the easiest album to sit through in one go-’round at 70 minutes, well-crafted as it is. That said though, Inter Arma did a fantastic job marrying so many influences together to make their own sound. The last time something like this was done in the realm of doom and prog metal was Mastodon, which should tell you just how revered these guys will be soon, if not with this album. Mikey Allred’s mix also adds to the power of Paradise Gallows, infusing Southern-fried warmth and depth without sacrificing clarity or dynamics.

It takes skill to add this many influences to your music and still make it sound distinctly like yourself. Inter Arma performed this difficult task almost flawlessly, and they’ve crafted an incredible album in Paradise Gallows. This will be on my Top Ten(ish) come year’s end. Whereas Sky Burial had legs, Paradise Gallows has wings. Get on this.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 8th, 2016

  • Chris

    My ears love you. My wallet hates you.

  • This is interesting….

    • Monsterth Goatom

      No, it’s interarming….

  • Kevin Dillon

    I love the colors in the album art.

    • Martin Knap

      pastel colors always do the trick

    • Grymm

      That is a beautiful album cover, indeed!

      • Reese Burns

        I’m pretty late to this one, but I wanna say thanks for reviewing this! It’s earned itself a spot on my year end list for sure.

  • Reese Burns

    I’m ashamed to say I had completely forgotten that these guys even existed. Making a note to check this one out.

  • Scourge

    Loved The Cavern. This has been on my most anticipated list for months. Hopefully I’ll see them live when they roll through town in August. I think these guys might get huge pretty quick.

  • Thatguy

    I like what I’ve heard of this. Great review Grymm.

  • Blueberry Balls

    Well slap my ass and call me daddy! This is pretty good shit!

  • Luke_22

    Digging what I’ve heard from this so far. First time digging into this band.

  • SegaGenitals

    I feel that in 10 years guys reading this blog will be like, “I listened to them before they were cool.” So much potential.

  • Name’s Dalton

    AOTY candidate as far as I’m concerned.

  • GardensTale

    I need to get this in my ears asap. Mental note taking commence.

    • GardensTale

      Okay, I finally got to listening to this, and it is giving me feelings. Cavernous is certainly an apt description, this would give a whole new feel to the Mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings.

  • Westpaceagle

    Old Dominion representing! There is no definitive sound, but good bands emerge from VA, and if nothing they tend to be original or distinctive in some way, GWAR being a prime example.

  • Lasse Momme

    I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. Loved their ep “the cavern” from 2014, and this sounds like more of the same goodness

  • brklyner

    I’ve had a hard time getting into these guys in the past, but this may finally do it. I feel like this is one of those bands that require a real investment of time and lots of repeat listens to get what’s going on, but the payoff will be great.

  • SegaGenitals

    HUGE Swans influence on this album.

  • Innit Bartender

    Sky Burial was ok but still I did not go regularly back to it like I should have, I myself don’t know why. I’ll give this one a deep listen…

  • Tom Hardy

    That embedded track gave me a bit of a headache. Maybe the rest of the album gels better? I’ll give it a shot cos Grymmy’s usually on point.

  • Stuart Leeds

    Another recommendation I’ve bought…..waiting. I might get their other stuff too…

  • basenjibrian

    This sounds killer. more wallet draining ahead. :(

  • Ruzbeh

    I saw them live last night at DC9 club … Wow! What a performance! Thank you AMG for telling us about this wonderful band … :)

  • contenderizer

    This reads more like a 4.5, especially in the closing paragraph. And the album deserves it, imo.