an interview with Inter Arma, and new song stream, “Primordial Wound”
by Dylan Kilby
Virginia five-piece Inter Arma made waves back in 2012 with their full-length Sky Burial and again with 2014's 45-minute long-form single track The Cavern. The upcoming Paradise Gallows will be their third release on heavyweight metal label Relapse Records, and it is an enterprising, sprawling seventy-one minute opus of ferocity and emotion. They've already shared "Transfiguration" and the title track, and we're premiering another song from it, "Primordial Wound."
Starting off with a minute-long guitar drone, "Primordial Wound" leads into vocalist Mike Paparo's clean bass vocals that trade off with his characteristic doom-bearing scream. T.J. Childers' plodding percussion flows like a death march, providing the framework for Trey Dalton and Steven Russell's slow guitar strum. Swaths of feedback punctuate the delivery of Paparo's tortured vocals, especially toward the seven and eight-minute mark, whereby Paparo's high-pitched screech that was formerly heard on Sky Burial's "Destroyer" takes over the song. There's neither bombast nor flirtation with excess: "Primordial Wound" demonstrates the immense control that Inter Arma have over the art of songcraft. Listen below.
I called lead vocalist Mike Paparo in Virginia, where the band is gearing up for a major country-wide tour (with Withered) in support of the album. We talked about adventures, recording processes, and exciting releases from other artists that influenced Inter Arma's eclectic, exciting take on modern heavy metal.
The album will be out on July 8 via Relapse (pre-order). Read on for our interview, and the new song stream:
Can you give us some details on the writing process behind Paradise Gallows?
It was pretty much like any other recording process that we have been through, other than the fact that we were touring a whole lot more. There's not a whole lot different: we wrote a good chunk of it before our US tour with Yautja in April to May of last year, and when we came home we finished it.
Sky Burial was acclaimed for its mix of sludge, black, doom, and southern metal. What influences did you work with on Paradise Gallows? For example, I heard a lot of traditional doom metal in your baritone on "Primordial Wound."
We try not to limit ourselves genre-wise! We think that's kind of silly. We all listen to different types of music. Like with Sky Burial, it was combining all of our influences to make the record. That being said, some of our death metal influences came out more, which is something that hasn't been in the past. For the most part it's a combination of our previous attempts at music. We didn't set out to say "we want this to sound like this." It was a very natural process.
I remember in previous interviews, bands such as Swans and Radiohead get discussed. And isn't TJ [Childers, drums] an old-school country fan?
In fact, TJ has probably never even heard of Swans. (laughs) I don't mean that in a derogatory way. He's from a classic country and rock upbringing, but he's definitely into heavy metal, as well.
Some of you have quite a bit of experience in the Appalachian mountains and that Paradise Gallows was written during a busy touring schedule. Are there specific geographic influences this time around?
The song "The Summer Drones" was influenced by us driving through the Mojave Desert. I'm obsessed with the desert. I think it's one of the coolest places on earth, and it provides me with a lot of inspiration. "Nomini" and "Potomac" are the two rivers that run through the county that TJ is from. Things like that. I'm very inspired by geography and topography. I'm in awe whenever we're touring and I get to see everything the world has to offer. That's that, really! Traveling is one of those things that I love to do. A lot of themes and lyrics have to do with searching and longing. We'd love to play Alaska at some point; that'd be pretty cool.
The roots of The Cavern stretch back to 2008 or 2009. Do any songs on Paradise Gallows stretch back further in time?
We were recording the song "An Archer in the Emptiness" as early as late 2014. We were playing a version of "Primordial Wound" in 2014 as well, especially on our European tour. Some stretch back that long, and some of them were literally finished a week before we went in to record.
How was the recording process? Any stories worth sharing? How long was the process?
It was two weeks. We stayed in an Air BnB that was owned by this guy called Bobby Bear Junior. He was in this band called Bear Junior back in the nineties that had a minor hit. That was interesting! We stayed in his house during the process. It was a normal recording process. I was not personally in the studio all that much, just kind of sat back most of the time in the house that we were renting and worked on lyrics over and over again. Put the pieces together over and over again.
I'll be seeing you guys when you kickstart it on the fifth in DC!
We're really excited to be touring with Withered, too. We've known those guys for a long time, and we're glad to be touring with them.
Are there any releases in heavy metal or non-heavy metal from the past year or two that you are listening to right now?
Trying to think here... We've been listening to the last Mgła record quite a bit, Exercises in Futility. Listened to that one quite a few times. Shout-out to our friends in the Virginia band Valkyrie. That Yob record, Clearing the Path to Ascend - that got a lot of plays. The last Kendrick Lamar record got a few too! Also, Budos Band, we've been listening to a lot of Budos Band. Start with the last one, Burnt Offering. There's a few more bands too, but I'm totally forgetting right now!
How's the work with Bastard Sapling [A black metal band featuring three members of Inter Arma]?
We just started writing for a new record, too. It's going slowly but surely! It'll be cool.
Inter Arma / Withered — 2016 Tour Dates
Jul 5 Washington, DC DC9
Jul 6 Philadelphia, PA Boot & Saddle
Jul 8 NYC/Brooklyn, NY St Vitus
Jul 9 Boston, MA Great Scott
Jul 10 Buffalo, NY Waiting room
Jul 11 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
Jul 12 Detroit, MI Pike Room
Jul 13 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Jul 14 Milwaukee, WI Cactus Club
Jul 15 Minneapolis, MN 7th Street Entry
Jul 16 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
Jul 19 Seattle, WA Barboza
Jul 20 Portland, OR Dour Fir
Jul 22 San Francisco, CA Thee Parkside
Jul 23 Glendale, CA Complex
Jul 24 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
Jul 25 Phoenix, AZ Rebel Lounge
Jul 28 San Antonio, TX Limelight
Jul 29 Austin, TX Sidewinder
Jul 30 Dallas, TX Three Links
Jul 31 New Orleans, LA Gasa Gasa
Aug 1 Birmingham, AL Spring Street Firehouse
Aug 2 Atlanta, GA The Earl
Aug 3 Asheville, NC Mothlight