Inter Arma – Garbers Days Revisited (Album Review)

Richmond harbingers of doom and gloom Inter Arma has returned to the studio with Garbers Days Revisited, a collection of covers and influences due out Friday, July 10th through Relapse Records.

Giving a nod both to their former rehearsal space, the Garbers building in Richmond, as well as the Metallica covers EP, Garage Days Revisited features eight tracks that span the expected (Ministry, Venom), the surprising (Tom Petty, Prince), and some solid material to bridge the two (Cro-Mags, Hüsker Dü).

Looking back, Inter Arma well over a decade ago and the band used space at Garbers to rehearse and record for the better part of that time. That in mind, the breadth of influences and examples on Garbers Days Revisisted reflects the vast canvas. Recorded in-between tour legs in support of 2019’s Sulphur English, the tracks here may be familiar to some fans; a track like “Southern Man,” originally by Neil Young, has been part of the band’s live quiver for years, and their bleak, USBM-influenced version is a fresh (if decaying) take on a classic song.

Other tracks, like the closing rendition of “Purple Rain” by the late Prince, can be as effective as they are surprising. Recorded during a moment of inebriated logic, and with the Garbers Days Revisited track list already largely assembled, the band was reluctant to include the Prince gem, especially in its raw, unpolished form, but fan and label support eventually changed their minds. Perhaps befitting the source material, the cover of “In League with Satan” by Venom is one of the tamer tracks on the album.

It may be a futile, overzealous task to listen to each song on Garbers Days Revisited and try to pick out a specific guitar lick, or drum progression, or galloping bass line, eager to determine which elements were then Frankenstein’ed into the overall Inter Arma sound… but that work can be fun and fruitful nonetheless. There are some tracks, like the industrial pairing of “March of the Pigs” by Nine Inch Nails, and “Scarecrow” by Ministry, that are almost note-for-note covers, but this is where the dissection is most fruitful. The almost-sloppy percussion of “March,” as well as the varied vocal patterns across a single song, give some indication of where Inter Arma found their sound, while the grinding monotony of “Scarecrow” gives equal indication of the band’s proclivity toward ploddingly methodic songs that sneakily break into a dense, soul-crushing denouement

Drummer, T.J. Childers opines, “Actually learning the songs can lead to inspirational, new musical ideas.” He then goes on to explain, “Covers have been an integral part of Inter Arma since the beginning of the band and some of these songs have a direct lineage while others are a little more… obscure.” As such, “Hard Times” marks the arrival of Hardcode legends The Cro-Mags, and “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” is a nod toward multi-genre Rock band Hüsker Dü.

Despite creeping over thirty-seven minutes, Garbers Days Revisited seems to end far too quickly; the crooning guitar opening of “Purple Rain,” which runs for the last eight of those minutes, triggers a last-dance high school vibe, and as quickly as the album arrived with the thick cover of “Scarecrow”, the album disappears into memory. The renditions here are a mixture of faithful efforts and wild interpretations, and the broad influences here will no doubt allow fans to interpret the Inter Arma catalog with fresh ears and ideas. That is why Cryptic Rock gives the fresh sounding  album of covers 4 out of 5 stars. 

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