Reviewed: [July 2020]
Released [2020 Relapse Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
As they wait like everyone else to see what the future might bring, Virginia’s Inter Arma offer a look to their past with an intriguing, and wide ranging, cover song collection that is named after their practice space – though with an obvious nod to Metallica, who ironically are not covered here.
Nevertheless. Garbers Days Revisited presents both “traditional” takes and reinterpretations of material from acts that have influenced the death/doom/black metal band, which has made quite a name for itself in the underground over the past decade. They include the obvious – Ministry, Cro-Mags, Venom – and the less expected – Tom Petty, Prince, Neil Young.
The heavier original tunes sound about like what you might expect here. Ministry’s “Scarecrow” is hulking and brooding, as is Venom’s martial “In League With Satan” – though with more genuinely black metal vocals from Mike Paparo. Cro-Mags’ “Hard Times” is dispatched with typical hardcore intensity and brevity – something the usually epic Inter Arma aren’t exactly known for. Nine Inch Nails’ industrial strength “March Of The Pigs” gets something of thrash metal going over, but still doesn’t stray very far sonically from the original.
Surprisingly, neither do a couple of the more adventurous covers, Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Though certainly heavier in their delivery, the band play it pretty straight for both of these tunes and adeptly capture the buoyancy of “Dream” – “woo hoos” and all – and the aching soul of “Purple Rain,” making for true tributes and not mere rehashes.
Paparo manages serviceable cleans for “Dream” – something that could argued of Petty as well, given his nasal twang – but knocks it out of the park on “Purple Rain,” which is a bit screamier in the first place as it builds and builds. Indeed, the whole band nail it on “Rain,” from the soaring solos to the epic sweep. It’s the perfect finale.
Neil Young’s “Southern Man” – an apt choice for the Richmond-based band given recent racially charged events here in the states, though it was recorded well before this episode occurred – seems destined for a similarly straight rendition at the outset, but quickly takes a black metal/industrial turn on Paparo’s shrieks, Steven Russell and Trey Dalton’s booming riffs and some full-on, d-beat sprints. All this gives the song’s righteous anger more urgency and oomph. “Southern change, Gonna come at last,” indeed. And about fucking time – speaking as a “northern” Virginian.
Hüsker Dü’s noise/punk classic “The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill” is transformed into a black metal anthem here, with the muscular hooks and catchy choruses retained, but blast beats, trem guitars and high-pitched caterwauling added for the verses. Amazingly, though drummer T.J. Childers’ flailing tempo is twice that – or more – of the original, the new version is roughly the same length as the other instruments stick to the script, making for an interesting contrast.
Garbers Days Revisited is the second release from Inter Arma since COVID-19 shut down the planet – the Live At Club Congress EP arrived in late April – so the band is doing what it can to maintain its profile despite being unable to tour. And at this rate, they may have a genuine follow-up to 2019’s masterful Sulphur English ready to roll before we can actually mix and mingle once again without worrying about ending up on a ventilator. In the meantime, Garbers Days Revisited makes the wait suck that much less.