Virginia’s Inter Arma are one of the better acts in contemporary extreme metal, producing a compelling blackened doom blend that is both expansive in scope and consistently experimental.
For ‘Garbers Days Revisited’, the band have recorded eight cover tracks of varying genre and tone that are each playful enough to remain intriguing and engaging.
Drummer T.J. Childers has said that “Hunter Thompson used to punch out pages of Ernest Hemingway on his typewriter just to get the feeling of what it was like to write that way. The same can be said for anyone learning a great cover song; there’s a lot to be deduced from the information there.” This quote says a lot about the band’s motivations. However, while the inherent artistic freedom might well be beneficial, that doesn’t automatically make for a justification of the album’s existence.
Metal covers are curious objects. They can be used as idol worship (Trivium‘s ‘Master Of Puppets’), a statement of artistic ambition (The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s ‘Come To Daddy’), or simply to show off a band’s chops (Mastodon‘s ‘Stairway To Heaven’). ‘Garbers Days Revisited’ works as a blend of all three of these, which gives it both scope and a necessary variety.
Several songs are pretty direct simulacrums, with ‘Purple Rain’ being the most obviously similar to its original. Its slow, crawling tempo is oddly familiar territory for Inter Arma, however, there are no sudden explosions of blast beats, no demonic vocals, and just a precise replication of Prince‘s silky textures and outrageous guitar solo. The solo actually bears a resemblance to ‘The Long Road Home’ from the band’s 2013 LP ‘Sky Burial’, with its canyon-like tone and crying bends.
‘March Of The Pigs’ successfully apes Nine Inch Nails‘ sleazy, amphetamine-driven original, right down to the desperate vocals and airy piano breaks. ‘Runnin Down A Dream’ raises the volume, but follows Tom Petty‘s clean vocal lines and signature air of open-road kineticism. The band are clearly having great fun with these tracks, and that entertainment value mostly trickles down to the listener.
Elsewhere, Husker Du‘s ‘The Little Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’ becomes a black metal/grindcore abomination. Cro-Mags‘ ‘Hard Times’ gets a familiar enough run-out, but with a blast beat section thrown in. ‘In League With Satan’ maintains Venom‘s sense of hellish eeriness, though isn’t a huge stretch for the band, given that out of all the covered artists, Venom are the most in line with Inter Arma‘s regular aesthetic.
Most impressive are the opening two tracks; Ministry‘s ‘Scarecrow’ and Neil Young‘s ‘Southern Man’. Ministry‘s pounding doominess is a great fit for Inter Arma, and the band really turn on the taps for ‘Scarecrow’. It grinds and wails, incorporating flashes of electronica and diving guitars, little touches that make for an engaging and satisfying cover. ‘Southern Man’ is easily the album’s best track. A six-minute epic that moves from acoustic guitars to signature blasts and shrieks, it’s the album’s most successfully distinct track, turning Neil Young‘s classic original into something genuinely different but still respectful.
Whether or not ‘Garbers Days Revisited’ works to bolster Inter Arma‘s creativity remains to be seen. However, it works as a fun (if unessential) dedication to a well-selected collection of iconic artists.