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German act Silent Leges Inter Arma formed in 2007, released a demo in 2008 and an EP, “Synästhesie”, in 2009. Remaining rather silent for the following three years, Silent Leges Inter Arma honed their particular brand of ambitious black metal, finally releasing their eponymously titled debut full length in 2012, “Silent Leges Inter Arma”. While firmly rooted in the realms of black metal, Silent Leges Inter Arma showcases slight progressive tendencies and a strong leaning towards the deathier side of black metal. Most striking of all is their ability to bring surprises to the listener, without careening into the realms of avantgarde wankery.
One of the most interesting aspects of Silent Leges Inter Arma's music is their atypical approach to standard black metal. Not afraid to throw in outside influences, Silent Leges Inter Arma throws in everything from serene acoustic pieces to prog-influenced soloing. That being said, Silent Leges Inter Arma's music is definitely black metal with a strong death metal leaning, they just add in some extra elements. Blastbeasts, trem picking and death chugging are in fruitful supply here.
The band members are excellent musicians, as every instrument is professionally played, and songwriting is top notch. The guitar lines are probably the biggest highlight. Every style of black metal guitar playing is here. The base is mostly speedy trem picking interlaced with chugging death metal riffs. The end result comes across as some amalgamate form of Belphegor and Marduk. While the foundation of the guitar work might sound like other acts, the extrapolations and lead work really make “Silent Leges Inter Arma” stand out from the crowd. Traditional and prog styled leads flow over the heavy black metal creating something more than just the standard delivery. The trem riffs are on the chaotic side, but they manage to hold some catchiness and melody mixed into the whirlwind.
The drums are fast, but their production isn't the greatest. The snare sounds muffled, the cymbals sound like trash can lids while the bass drum sounds surprisingly clear and full life. The drum patterns themselves are amazingly tight: controlled fills with weaving cymbal work in the vein of early Fenriz (Darkthrone). Better drum production would go a long way in helping the overall presentation. Blast beats are present through the entire album, but occasional slower rock beats are present, which help to break up the nearly endless chaos.
Vocally, the band borrows heavily from both black and death metal styles of delivery. What you end up hearing is a rather deep, raspy growl for most of the album, while occasional shrieks and even deeper death growls come and go. Some say that black and death vocals can sound anguished, hateful or seething, but these vocals don't really fit the bill for any of those. They sound gloomier than anything else, if that makes sense: like a better produced, deeper, less anguished depressive, bedroom band. The vocals get very samey, as the same approach is utilized the whole way through the album. The only change is the very, very, very forced sounding clean section on “For the Dead”, which comes across as out of place and embarrassingly strained .
Silent Leges Inter Arma is not afraid to steer you in the wrong direction at times. The albums starts off with a rolling, punk sounding bass intro on “We Are”. This last only mere seconds before the blastbeats and trem picked guitars blast away into a black death frenzy. “Falcon-Headed One” starts off with natural harmonics and a very rockish style lead on the guitar and a marching drum beat before firing into an extreme heavy chugging death metal riff. There are several other portions where Silent Leges Inter Arma bring surprises, but I won't spoil them all here. It should suffice to say that the band is not afraid to step outside of the proverbial box when it comes to black metal. It's very refreshing, as the album would become extremely overbearing and monotonous without these welcome wanderings. The greatest escape is the all acoustic folkish piece, “Shades”, which is just oozing with serene melancholy.
Silent Leges Inter Arma's greatest strengths can also be their greatest weaknesses. While the band is not afraid to step outside of the box and present a fresh take on black metal, purists will find that it too far reaching for their tastes. “Silent Leges Inter Arma” should cement the band into one of 2012's most exciting acts to watch. Even with all of the outside influence and surprising additions, this album is not a disoriented mess; rather, everything has a nice flow and extremely listenable. Recommended to those dabbling in the black and death realms who want more than the standard, run of the mill act. A great and exciting release from a band that I recommend you keep an eye on.