After the long beating suffered through An Archer in the Emptiness, the band rushes you right along into Transfiguration, one of my ties for favorite track on the album. Transfiguration opens with a driving drum beat and bass line, steadily winding you back into a sling that you know you’re inevitably going to be launched out of. When the song finally does erupt, it drags you along for a whopping nine minutes, bludgeoning the hell out of you the entire way. The arrangement and continual evolution of the song, however, made its length virtually unnoticeable to me upon first listening. It’s quite a trip. The lyrics close out this heady song with the declaration of, “Man has transfigured the Earth, now we must transfigure ourselves.”
From here, the album cools off some, offering a nice refresher after such an intense first 20 minutes (spread between three tracks, no less). This is where more risks start to be taken regarding the style of the music. The album develops a bigger atmosphere from the beginning of track four, Primordial Wound, which is very slow and more sludge-like compared to the earlier tracks, straying from a path that we may have thought was already set. It flows well into track five, appropriately named The Summer Drones, now incorporating a significant drone quality. Around the half-way mark of the album, another instrumental track, Potomac, brings more surprises. (This is my other tie for favorite track on the album.) Potomac begins with those wonderful guitar harmonies we heard at the very beginning of the album, but a piano quickly takes the lead of the track. The song swells into an intricate and emotional composition, complete with obligatory sexy guitar solos, that I could barely even believe was produced by the same band I was listening to 15 minutes prior. But you don’t just subtle upon this song all of a sudden; Inter Arma guided the album to this point with such skill and finesse that it felt totally natural to be listening to something like Potomac. The fact that this track fit so well into the album even though it was wildly different from where we started at—it’s tied with Transfiguration for my favorite track, a song that really is nothing like it—is quite noteworthy. Potomac is certainly a grand flex of musicianship muscle.
Finally, as we near the end of the album, the enormous title track, Paradise Gallows, sweeps us away with prominent post-metal elements. This nearly twelve minute long track seems to summarize everything that we’ve experienced since we started listening to the album. Paradise Gallows (the track) revisits all kinds of sounds and emotions that we felt earlier on and seems to weave them all together into an epilogue of sorts, giving us something profound to reflect on. There is more ahead of us still on the album, but this title track was where the surprises seemed to finally end. It feels a lot like saying goodbye. Maybe not so ironically, the last words that we hear on the title track are a clean whisper of, “Laughing all the way to my grave”. The song left me in such a comfortable haze that it was hard to get shaken back up for the next track, Violent Constellations, which picks up and seems to be trying to give us back some of the aggressive energy that we first heard on the album. The closing track, Where the Earth Meets the Sky, was a gentle and appropriate end track (with all clean vocals), but the arrangement of these last three tracks always leaves me feeling a bit perplexed. I appreciate Violent Constellations and Where the Earth Meets the Sky individually, but I find when I’m listening to the entire album through that it’s hard for me to really get my stamina back after something like the title track. It almost makes me wish that Paradise Gallows would have been the closing track, even though Where the Earth Meets the Sky did such a good job closing the album. Regardless, it's a very small criticism and not something that substantially influences my opinion of the album. Maybe I’ll get to see them end a set sometime (soon?!) with Paradise Gallows, and I’ll feel satisfied.