Released: 2012, Forcefield Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Despite owning perhaps the least dastardly moniker in black metal – American or otherwise - Richmond, Va.'s Bastard Sapling do boast some serious chops and have studied well at the temple of the Norwegian old-school overlords. The band's four-song full-length debut is a smartly crafted 40 minutes of raw yet expansive black metal that blends its vintage sensibilities with a more modern, higher fidelity sonic approach instead of reveling in “necro” pretentiousness and atmosphere for atmosphere's sake.
Though titles like “Prophecy Born From Dismal Terrain” and “Cold Winds Howled Across The Desolation” do smack of said pretentiousness, that's about where it begins and ends. “Prophecy” opens the album in a howling fury of shrill, frantic riffing and Mike Paparo's phlegmy, Maniac-like caterwaul before things get decidedly more dense and drawn out. “Cold Winds” and the monumental closer “Beyond The Void Of Life” each stretch over 12-plus sprawling minutes.
But the fiendish grooves and sudden changes of pace that punctuate “Cold Winds,” as well as the comparatively tidy eight-minute “The Apex of Suffering,” add texture and dynamism, recalling In The Heart of Winter or earlier Immortal along the way. And the desolate intro passage to “Beyond The Void of Life” is effectively grim before things build to a more bombastic, agitated state and conclude in a black metal crescendo that is really quite stunning.
And while three members, including Paparo, divide their time with the doomier/crustier – and arguably better known – Inter Arma, who will issue their second album on Relapse in March, Bastard Sapling don't seem half-assed or contrived in the slightest. Dragged From Our Restless Trance is legit, inspired and at times rather awesome.