Inter Arma

support ORM
author AP date 07/11/19 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

Unfortunately, we were unable to muster up the manpower required to cover the entirety of this year’s Sorte Firkant Musikfestival, but there was nonetheless some wiggle room for attending some of the individual concerts. And out of these, it was the gig featuring Inter Arma and ORM that enticed me the most, having been thoroughly impressed by the former band when they supported Deafheaven in Copenhagen last year, and having missed out on the release show for the latter’s new masterpiece “Ir” due to traveling abroad back in August. Although the show is not sold out, the two artists still seem to have generated plenty of interest from festival attendees and incarnate fans alike, meaning that there is enough of a crowd here for neither of the bands to feel like they are wasting their time.


ORM

It was previously announced by the festival, that ORM would be performing their new album “Ir” in full tonight, so no one is surprised when “Klippens lyse hal” when the melancholy chords that open this monolith of a track start resonating from the amps. And as cascades of blastbeats and tremolo guitars banish the initial calm, it feels like the Copenhagen-based quartet has found the perfect balance of melody and clang in the mix, rendering their music raw and authentic, but also crisp so that no detail is lost in the maelstrom. In fact, the clean chants by the two guitar-wielding frontmen, Simon Sonne Andersen & Theis Wilmer Poulsen, that arrive after the first salvo are far more prominent in the live setting than they are on record, and at the other extreme, the group’s foray into a more traditional style of black metal following a brief quietus, finds a new dimension of savagery here in these intimate confines.

ORM have always been an introspective bunch on stage, and there is no revolution in this regard tonight, either. With only backlight and the occasional flood of blinding white light illuminating the four musicians, their eyes remain fixed either on something elusive in the distance or on the floor beneath their feet throughout the set. None of them stand still, mind you, and bassist Troels Cort Nielsen in particular puts on a stormy performance on stage right, losing himself in the epic, folk-tinged composition. And in honesty, the fact that ORM come across as so reserved actually helps maintain a veil of mystery around the band, which, for me, is an important characteristic of black metal. There is no lack of passion here; all four have their eyes shut and strike their instruments as though every hit were an expression of a different emotion when the triumphant and uplifting passage of the first song arrives some 14 minutes in. This segment leads the way to a final, towering crescendo in which light and dark meet in a tug-of-war of extreme, yet entirely seamless tone shifts, that ultimately draw an enraptured reaction from the audience.

The second part of “Ir”, entitled “Bær solen ud”, begins with a beautiful clean guitar part played by Andersen, with his leg resting on Adam Schønemann’s bass drum, and it inspires in the room complete silence… except for a pair of nimbwits right behind me, who see this moment of peace as the perfect opportunity to engage in loud banter in rude disregard of the band on stage. I push my earplugs further in to suppress the fools, just in time for ORM to deliver their own silencing as the bass and drums fall in, distortion is cranked up, and a stunningly harmonised melody erupts from the two six-strings. “Bær solen ud” is an incredible exercise in build-up, traversing through a plethora of disparate sections ranging from classic Norwegian-style black metal to Mono-esque swells of shoegaze. It is the more progressive of the two tracks that comprise “Ir”, and as such, it provides the perfect finale to the album — one that sounds even more majestic live. Once again, the applause and cheering that follows is the testimony to the mastery underlying the album, and if the band had left it here, I am sure no one would have been disappointed. ORM do, however, decide to thank their fans by playing “Blood of My Blood” off their self-titled 2017 offering as their last song, but if you ask me — while that record is excellent in its own right, none of the tracks on it (this one included) can hold a candle to “Ir”. It thus serves only to take a little bit of steam out of an otherwise exultant performance by one of the most exciting metal bands in Denmark right now.

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Inter Arma

As the first time on this present tour, Inter Arma kick things off with “The Long Road Home” taken from their 2013 album “Sky Burial”, and as such, those unfamiliar with the band are lulled into a false sense of security by its long, post-rock-style intro and brief explosion of Deafheaven-esque blackgaze in the end. For while black metal certainly plays a role in Richmond, VA-based outfit’s sound, it would be reductionist to pigeonhole their eclectic sound into any one category. And the same people are thus given a rude awakening when the quintet lets loose “A Waxen Sea” off their latest album “Sulphur English”, which came out earlier this year. An abrasive and dissonant piece of music, it scares the s**t out of me every time I hear it, and its devastating nature is only amplified in the live setting, as vocalist Mike Paparo throws himself around and executes a series of perilous jumps, while bassist (and newest member) Andrew Lacour violently kicks into the air. The crowd’s reaction may be muted, except for a small handful of patrons trying to headbang to the oddly timed rhythm in both this track and the following “Citadel”, but Inter Arma’s certainly is not — they come across as hellbent, and bristling with vitriol like I remember from their previous appearance in Copenhagen last year.

But as the atavistic “Howling Lands” unleashes its tribal ritual of endlessly, hypnotically pounding tom-toms (courtesy of drummer T.J. Childers), psychedelic riffs and eerie whines of feedback, I change my mind to thinking this is their best concert in Denmark yet. Paparo is stomping across the stage with a caveman’s lumbering steps, making crouched jumps as he growls his sermon at us with an unheard savagery, sometimes letting out an ungodly shriek or switching to messianic baritone singing. The song finds a natural companion in “The Atavist’s Meridian”, which carries on the ritualistic style, albeit in a more jarring, syncopated format that leaves most of the crowd scratching their heads — how the hell does one headbang to this!? There is some respite to be had in “The Summer Drones” (taken from 2016’s “Paradise Gallows”), which enlists a slower and doomier approach than the rest of the material thus far, though it does not put a dampener on the group’s antics on stage. Paparo & Lacour are the central characters in this mayhem, but still both of the guitarists — Steven Russell & Trey Dalton — shoulder their fair share of the showmanship as well. The two musicians are less extroverted, but they nonetheless contribute an intense and imposing touch to the overall performance, and as such their role in rendering this a breathtaking show must not be understated.

Later on, “Transfiguration” tickles my soft spot for Oranssi Pazuzu’s brand of psychedelic black metal, before “An Archer in the Emptiness” brings everything to a conclusion in an appropriately crushing manner, leaving the 60-or-so people left inside the venue in a state of bewilderment. No one is prepared to let Inter Arma go just yet, so following a chant of “Seven more songs!”, the Virginians decide to make another exception (as the choice of opening track was) and play a cover song they will not name. It turns out to be a rather grinding take on Hüsker Dü’s classic “Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”, and since one of our former writers happens to guess it, he is rewarded with free pickings in the merch stand after. Hopefully, the dwindling audience and the lack of a truly maniacal response from the floor has not discouraged Inter Arma from making a return in the near future, as the show we have witnessed here easily becomes one of the most enthralling concerts I have seen this year.

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Setlist:

  • 01. The Long Road Home
  • 02. A Waxen Sea
  • 03. Citadel
  • 04. Howling Lands
  • 05. The Atavist’s Meridian
  • 06. The Summer Drones
  • 07. Transfiguration
  • 08. An Archer in the Emptiness

— Encore —

  • 09. The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill (Hüsker Dü cover)

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