Bastard Sapling - Instinct Is Forever [Gilead Media/Forcefield Records - 0000]Bastard Sapling’s a name I’ve heard thrown around but never gotten around to investigating. Back when Dragged from Our Restless Trance was released in 2012 I made a mental note to check it out based on the band’s name but never actually got to it. As luck would have it, these Americans have placed themselves in my sight once again with the release of a new album Instinct Is Forever.
Musically, Instinct Is Forever has a decent amount of similarities between a number of USBM bands when they break into their out-and-out tremolo picked riffs and blasts like on much of “My Spine Will Be My Noose” and “Splintering Ouroboros.” These parts, while not entirely original, have a certain cavernous quality to them that’s lacking in many bands that play in a similar vein. If that was all Bastard Sapling had going for them, Instinct Is Forever wouldn’t be very interesting. Fortunately, Goldi and Russell are pretty versatile guitarists, and while their tremolo riffs are solid if unremarkable, they really shine during the groovy work on “The Opal Chamber” and “The Killer in Us All”’s crushing, mid-paced march.
Another tool in these Virginians’ arsenal is their willingness to add some of their own flair when necessary. The tracks “Elder” and “Lantern at the End of Time” are excellent showcases of the band’s ability to shrug off the mantel of second-wave inspired black metal and go for something fresh. “Elder” is the albums only instrumental track and utilizes clean guitar work and no percussion. This type of “break” isn’t unheard of but it succeeds at maintaining the darkened edge of the previous black metal tracks and actually brings to mind more sinister version of some of the calmer, progressive sections of Cormorant’s Metazoa. On “Lantern at the End of Time” Dorthia Cottrell (of the doom metal band Windhand) sings in tandem with Paparo that made me instantly think of Muse. Both parts were totally unexpected but welcomed surprises.
Though Instinct Is Forever is a reasonably long affair it has a good sense of pace, never lingering or burning out on extended periods of unrestrained fury, demonstrating a knack for songwriting uncommon in bands so young. The songs are strong enough in their own right but I recommend setting aside a full hour to listen to the album properly in its entirety. Instinct Is Forever is a damn fine album and proves that Bastard Sapling is a capable addition to the USBM rosters. Capable and sophisticated yet downright nasty and cruel, Instinct Is Forever is an album you don’t want to miss. Tyler L.